Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Game 34: Celtics vs. Spurs
By Chris Forsberg
at TD Garden, 7:30 p.m. | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)
||(26-7, 14-2 home)
||-- vs. --
|| (29-5, 10-3 away)
GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)
Doc Rivers insisted Paul Pierce shoot more in Boston's most recent victory. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich didn't seem to have the same confidence in his stars down the stretch of a tough loss.
The NBA's two top teams, the Celtics and Spurs meet Wednesday night in a matchup that should present a contrast in styles.
Popovich has guided San Antonio to four NBA championships focusing mainly on defense. However, the Spurs (29-5) are scoring 105.6 points per game this season, good for fourth in the league. Their high-scoring offense sometimes causes opponents to play a more fast-paced game, which New York took advantage of Tuesday in a 129-115 home victory over San Antonio.
The 129 points allowed were a season high for the Spurs, who allowed New York to shoot 55 percent.
"If we score 115 points, I expect to win," Popovich sad. "Our defense was pathetic. It was our worst defense of the year. Nothing else tricky about it."
The coach yanked Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker from the game with the Knicks leading by 10 and three minutes remaining -- possibly still enough time for a comeback. Parker scored 26 points, Ginobili finished with 15 and Duncan had 14 while shooting 5 of 14 from the field.
"I asked them if they wouldn't mind maybe playing a little bit better (Wednesday). They said they'd think about it," Popovich said. "We'll see what happens."
Read the full preview HERE.
FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
- Top offense vs. top defense: Forget the fact that this is a matchup of the teams with the best record in their respective conferences, this is a battle of the team with the best offensive efficiency in the league (San Antonio, 110.5 points per 100 possessions) vs. the team with the best defensive efficiency (Boston, 97 points per 100 possessions). Not that these teams are one dimensional as both rank in the top 10 on the other side of the ball, but it's easy to see why both are successful. The key for Boston is going to be the ability to push the pace -- get the possession total up -- and keep that field goal percentage on the Boston side of 50 percent (the Celtics shoot a league-best 50 percent).
- Value the ball: One key for San Antonio: Limiting turnovers. The Spurs are tops in the league in turnover rate (12.58 percent of possessions) and that's part of what's fueling that league-best offensive efficiency. The Celtics were woeful with the ball in the latter stages of Rajon Rondo's absence, but committed a mere 11 turnovers against the Timberwolves, part of the reason they were able to escape with that win.
- Getting some charity: The Spurs also rank top in the league in opponent's free throw rate, allowing a mere 20.5 free throws per game. That's troublesome news for a Celtics team that doesn't get to the line much as it is. This is a night it might be key to get the ball to Shaquille O'Neal in the post and hope to get the opposition in foul trouble. Free throws are key against good teams (remember the Celtics only shot seven in a loss to the Mavericks earlier this year).