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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Boston Celtics

Derrick White returns as the Spurs face one of the NBA’s best teams.

San Antonio Spurs v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs split a double-header with the Portland Trail Blazers where they played an uneven two games. As they head back home, they’ll be tasked with the best team in the Eastern Conference. The Boston Celtics are coming to the Frost Bank Center for Victor Wembanyama’s first matchup with the historic franchise.

It will also mark the return of Derrick White, who has made his way into the All Star conversation. The Celtics are top-five in both offensive and defensive rating. They have one of the most stacked starting fives in the league, as well as shooting and size off the bench. This will be one of the Spurs toughest opponents yet.

San Antonio Spurs (5-26) at Boston Celtics (25-6)

December 31, 2023 | 6 PM CT

Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Charles Bassey – Out (left knee,) Dominick Barlow – Questionable (G League,) Zach Collins – Out (right ankle,) David Duke Jr. – Out (G League,) Devonte’ Graham – Probable (illness)

Celtics Injuries: JD Davison – Out (G League,) Jrue Holiday – Questionable (right elbow,) Drew Peterson – Out (G League,) Jordan Walsh – Out (G League)

What to watch for

Defending the perimeter

Boston has an embarrassment of riches on their roster. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday, Kristaps Porzingis and White are a murderers row of players who can hurt you inside and out. The Celtics are first in the league in three-pointers made per game. The Spurs allow the most threes per game. It’s an equation that is not in the Spurs favor. San Antonio will have to defend the three-point line to give themselves a shot at the upset.

San Antonio’s big man rotation

Zach Collins is out with a sprained right ankle, which means the Spurs only have three centers available. Wembanyama is on a minutes restriction, and Dominick Barlow is listed as questionable to play right now. There is a good chance we see Sandro Mamukelashvili play big minutes agains the Celtics. Boston has a number of bigs who can space the floor as well as play inside. Porzingis poses a tough matchup with his length, Al Horford is a solid veteran and Luke Kornet has been solid for the Celtics. San Antonio will need a big game from it’s rookie and solid performances from Mamu and Barlow if he plays.

A consistent game

San Antonio has not put together 48 minutes of consistent basketball this season. Every game is going to have it’s runs, but sustaining a level of quality for an entire game is an important step in the team’s development. That means they are avoiding stretches where the offense stagnates, where their defensive intensity or communications falters and sloppy turnovers for all four quarters. Especially in a game where the odds are stacked against them, it would be great to see a complete game, win or lose, from the young squad.