Boston Celtics (25-6) at San Antonio Spurs (5-26) Game #32 12/31/23

Boston Celtics (25-6) at San Antonio Spurs (5-26) Game #32 12/31/23


The Celtics are back on the road to take on the San Antonio Spurs after 2 short handed wins at home. This is the first of 2 games between these two teams this season. They will meet again in Boston on January 17. The Celtics won the series last season 2-0, winning in Boston by 44 points. The Celtics are 45-56 overall all time against the Spurs and they are 22-28 in games played in San Antonio.

The Celtics remain 1st in the East. They are 1.5 games ahead of 2nd place Milwaukee, 3 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia, 6 ahead of 4th place Orlando and 6.5 games ahead of 5th place Miami. They are 9-6 on the road and 9-1 in their last 10 games. They are 4-2 against Western Conference opponents. They have won their last 5 games.

The San Antonio Spurs are 15th in the West. They are 4 behind 14th place Portland. They are 10.5 games behind 10th place Houston for the final Play In spot. They are 12.5 games behind 6th place Dallas for the final guaranteed playoff spot. They are 2-13 at home and 2-8 in their last 10 games. They are 0-8 against Eastern Conference teams. They are coming off a loss in their last game.

The Celtics are on the road again after 2 short handed wins in Boston. They will head to Oklahoma City to take on the hot Thunder on Wednesday. They will then head home for a game against the Jazz before playing 2 more on the road against the Pacers. The Spurs are coming off a 1-1 trip to Portland. They will play at Memphis on Wednesday before a trip East to take on the Cavs and Pistons.

The Celtics injury list has just one player on it before this game. Jrue Holiday is questionable due to a right elbow sprain. His status is a game time decision. If he is unable to play, I would expect Derrick White to move to the point with either Al Horford or one of the reserve wings moving into the starting lineup. For the Spurs, Zach Collins is questionable with an ankle sprain. Devonte Graham is probable due to an illness. Charles Bassey is out with a knee injury.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Jrue HolidaySG: Derrick WhiteSF: Jaylen BrownPF: Jayson TatumC: Kristaps Porzingis

Celtics ReservesDelano BantonOshae BrissettSam HauserAl HorfordSvi MykhailiukPayton PritchardLamar StevensJordan WalshLuke Kornet Al Horford

2 Way PlayersJD DavisonDrew PetersonNeemias Queta

Injuries/OutJrue Holiday (elbow) questionable

Head CoachJoe Mazzulla

Probable Spurs Starters

PG: Malaki BranhamSG: Devin VassellSF: Julian ChampagniePF: Jeremy SochanC: Victor Wembanyama

Spurs Reserves Sidy CissokoKeldon JohnsonTre JonesSandro Mamukelashvili Doug McDermottCedi OsmanBlake Wesley

Two Way Players Dominick Barlow David Duke, Jr

Injuries/Out Zach Collins (ankle) questionable Devonte Graham (illness) probable Charles Bassey (knee) out

Head CoachGregg Popovich

Key Matchups

Kristaps Porzingis vs Victor Wembanyama This should be a fun matchup of a couple of unicorns. Wembanyama is 7’4” tall while Porzingis is 7’2”tall. Wembanyama is averaging 18.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists 1.3 steals and 3.2 blocks. He is shooting 44% from the field and 28.5% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to be especially aware of Wemby when they are going to the basket as he is a threat to block shots every time. They also need to keep him out of the paint and off the glass.

Derrick White vs Devin VassellVassell is averaging 18.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 45.7% from the field and 36.2% from beyond the arc. If Jrue Holiday is out, it may be Jaylen Brown matched up with Vassell at shooting guard.

Honorable Mention Sam Hauser vs Keldon Johnson Johnson comes off the bench for the Spurs and is averaging 17.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game. He is shooting 46.4% from the field and 34.5% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need Hauser and the Celtics reserves to produce to match Johnson’s impact on the game.

Keys to the Game Defense – Defense is the most important key to winning games. The Celtics are 5th with a defensive rating of 110.9 while the Spurs are 25th with a defensive rating of 118.7. The Celtics have to especially defend in the paint since the Spurs average 49.2 points in the paint per game. The Celtics need to make defense a priority and play tough team defense in every game and not let up.

Rebound – The Celtics can’t score if they don’t have the ball, and they will struggle if they give up second chance points to the Spurs. The Celtics are averaging 47 rebounds per game while the Spurs are averaging 43.2 rebounds per game. Rebounding takes effort and when the Celtics put forth the extra effort on the boards, that tends to spread to other areas of the game as well.

Be Aggressive – The Celtics need to play hard and be the more aggressive team. They have to go after rebounds, loose balls, and 50/50 balls. They have to be aggressive on defense and in getting to the basket. They have to be the team that works harder and wants it more. Even the last team in the standings can beat the #1 team if they play harder and are more aggressive.

Play the Right Way – The Celtics need to move the ball to find the best shot. When they play hero ball and don’t keep the ball moving, the Celtics struggle. But, when they keep the ball moving and move without the ball, they are very tough to beat. They need to focus on playing defense and having each others backs. They need to crash the boards and box out. They need to focus on taking and making good shots. If the 3’s aren’t falling, take the ball to the basket. Play with focus and with energy.

X-Factors Road Game – The Celtics are playing on the road once again. Travel and staying in hotels can be a distraction and can also take a toll on players. Playing in front of a hostile crowd can also be a distraction, especially for younger players. The Celtics have to put all of those distractions aside and focus on playing their game.

Coaching – Gregg Popovich is considered by most to be one of the best coaches in the league. He has been the head coach of the Spurs since 1996 after 19 years as an assistant coach for various teams. He is a 5 time champion and 3 time Coach of the Year. Joe Mazzulla has been a college assistant coach for 7 years and spent 1 year as an assistant with the Red Claws and 3 years as an assistant with the Celtics. This is his second year as a head coach. Matchups and coaching strategy chould come into play in this game.

Officiating – Officiating is always an X-Factor. Every crew officiates differently and teams need to adjust to the way the game is called. Will they call the game evenly or favor the home team? Will they call it tight or let them play? Hopefully we get fair officiating and they let them play and the Celtics focus on playing the right way and not get distracted by the bad calls and no calls.

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