Game Preview: Spurs at Celtics

Make your picks now in Celtics 3-Point Play

BOSTON – The world has been afforded the opportunity to watch Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan battle against each other for the past 15 seasons. They’ll make it 16 seasons and counting tonight.

The Boston Celtics (6-5) and San Antonio Spurs (8-3) will take the floor at 7:30 p.m. tonight in TD Garden for their first meeting of the season. Garnett and Duncan will be holding down the center positions for their teams as both look to jump back into the win column after disappointing losses.

Both players are stringing together their typical solid seasons despite being in the tail end of their careers. Garnett leads the Celtics in rebounding and is second on the team in scoring behind Paul Pierce. Duncan, meanwhile, is leading his team in both categories with 18.0 points per game and 10.0 rebounds per game.

Neither of those players, however, were able to help their respective teams avoid losses in their previous contest.

Boston dominated Toronto Saturday afternoon in Boston and then immediately flew out to Detroit for a Sunday showdown with the Pistons. Saturday’s afternoon game gave the C’s much more time to recover and prepare for Sunday’s game, but that didn’t seem to help. Detroit still ran circles around a winded Boston team and won 103-83 in the Palace of Auburn Hills.

It would be unfair not to mention the fact that the Celtics were playing their seventh game in 10 days when they took on the Pistons. There wasn’t a lack of effort; there was just a lack of energy remaining in the Celtics’ bodies.

Doc Rivers used the last two days to try to get his players back to normal for tonight’s contest against the Spurs. The Celtics did not practice on Monday and Tuesday’s practice was not much of a practice at all.

“It wasn’t much today,” Rivers said after Tuesday’s practice. “Hell, I think we’re still tired, honestly, so today’s practice was light. Didn’t do a lot. I just didn’t feel like we could work on a lot today. I just needed them in the gym together.”

It was probably a good decision by Rivers that he kept things light for his team yesterday. Playing seven games in 10 days is incredibly taxing on the body, and now the C’s are forced to take on one of the better teams in the league tonight.

Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan

Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan have been facing off against each other since 1997.
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images

The Spurs suffered a disappointing home 92-87 loss to the Clippers Monday night, but San Antonio is still tied for the second-best record in the Western Conference. The Spurs have already defeated title contenders like the Lakers and Thunder.

Duncan is one of the main reasons for that success. He is having his best statistical season since 2008-09. He, along with a consistent Tony Parker, again has the wheels turning for San Antonio.

The Spurs may have the upper hand in terms of wins but both teams know that they’re on a level playing field tonight. The same can be said for Duncan and Garnett, and we’ll be blessed with the opportunity to see them go at it once again.

San Antonio’s Injuries

The Spurs are really hurting at the small forward position. Kawhi Leonard, an impressive second-year player out of San Diego State, is out with tendinitis in his left knee and quadriceps. His replacement, Stephen Jackson, fractured his right pinky Monday night.

This probably means that a guard like Manu Ginobili or Gary Neal will pop into the starting lineup and Danny Green will slide over to small forward. Such a switch is likely to change San Antonio’s chemistry both in the starting lineup and with the bench.

Big Night for Pierce?

The two players on San Antonio’s roster who match up best with Pierce are Leonard and Jackson. Both are capable of being nuisances to Pierce on defense, but neither will be on the floor tonight.

No matter who winds up defending Pierce, Boston’s captain is going to have an advantage. He’ll either be taller than the man defending him or he’ll be quicker than the man defending him. In either case, Pierce should be able to get plenty of clean looks at the basket tonight.

Bring the Real Offense Back

Boston’s shooting percentage of 45.1 percent during the Detroit game doesn’t sound as terrible as it looked. However, the offense was completely out of whack on Sunday.

The C’s accumulated just 12 assists during the loss, which was a 25-assist drop off from their performance on Saturday. There was a lot of one-on-one play, and even when the ball moved the Celtics missed open shots.

Sunday’s offensive showing just didn’t look like the Celtics. They’re all about ball movement and helping each other score easily. Let’s hope that type of offense returns tonight against a strong San Antonio defense.