This season, 14 of the Spurs’ 17 wins came against teams under the .500 mark. A win against the league leading Celtics on Friday would be a huge boost for their momentum a day before their star player Kawhi Leonard is reported to return. The Spurs’ are aiming to get Kawhi out there for Saturday’s game against the Suns for his season debut. With Kawhi in the lineup, the Spurs can compete with anybody but they have yet to prove that without him but a win on Friday night can stray away all negative thoughts about their competitive absence against the better teams in the NBA.
Wednesday night’s win over the Miami Heat was one of their better games as an entire team as eight of 11 players that played scored in double-digits and the team recorded 30 assists illustrating their marvelous ball movement throughout the night.
“The ball really moved and we made some shots,” Ginobili said. “(Aldridge) has been carrying a lot of the offensive load so it’s good that some others are able to contribute. It’s important for everyone to be involved.”
The amount of assists caught head coach Gregg Popovich’s attention in a positive way although didn’t impress him too much like it did some of the players on the team.
“Getting 30 assists is always wonderful,” Popovich said. “Then you sit down and start feeling good about it and you realize that Golden State does that every night. And you go ‘OK, we’ve got a ways to go, don’t get too excited.’ But it is great to see.”
The Celtics are scorching hot with a 22-2 record since their 0-2 start through a complete team effort led by Kyrie Irving. Irving is enduring one of the better years of his career. After Gordon Hayward’s injury left him to be the only superstar in Boston’s lineup, his wish to be the main guy came true and he’s living up to what he set out to accomplish the moment he made the decision to request a trade. His player efficiency rating is at a career-high 25.06 ranking him within the top-10 for the first time in his career. Once he got settled into Brad Steven’s system he’s been rolling ever since providing the offensive dominance that a defensively focused team like the Celtics need.
Irving definitely has not been the sole provider for the Celtic’s success as the team has been the best on defense in the league this year holding team’s to an average of 97.2 (1st) points per game on 43.8 (2nd) percent shooting.
Rookie Jayson Tatum has stepped up in a huge way providing assistance scoring and rebounding averaging 14ppg and 5.5rpg in Hayward’s absence while second-year guard Jaylen Brown adds 14.8ppg and 5.9rpg while picking up the defensive load on the perimeter that was left behind by Avery Bradley when he was traded to Detroit.
Boston played Wednesday night’s victory over the Mavs without Marcus Morris (knee) and Jaylen Brown (eye) but both are listed as questionable for Friday’s matchup with the Spurs. That was not a factor as the Celtics’ bench stepped it up to outscore the Mavs’ bench 36-23. They will need more than 36 points from the bench when they face the Spurs’ whose bench averages 39.4 per game regardless if Morris or Brown plays.
Boston is 10-2 on the road and 8-0 versus the Western Conference. The Spurs are 12-2 at home with a 9-4 record against the East. Both are 8-2 in their past 10 games.
The league’s top two defenses will battle throughout the night and the difference maker will be Kyrie’s clutch antics as he propels the Celtics over the Spurs 92-88.