Fresh off of an impressive win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, the San Antonio Spurs will look to stay hot as they host the Boston Celtics on Saturday.
After putting together one of their most complete games of the season the San Antonio Spurs will have to have a similarly impressive performance against the Boston Celtics on Saturday. The Spurs’ recent win over Oklahoma City was a nice blueprint for success for the future.
The 121-112 Spurs victory featured a strong performance from one of their stars, complimentary performances from their backcourt, and a high number of assists. That’s Spurs basketball and that’s the same formula that Gregg Popovich and his coaching staff should look to put into play on Saturday.
San Antonio had success against Boston last year, sweeping the season series. However, the Celtics underwent quite a few changes this summer and the Spurs will have to gameplan for this new team. The biggest change was at point guard. Gone is Kyrie Irving, in steps Kemba Walker. The two are no less dynamic and defending Walker will be no small task, but there are a few differences that San Antonio can look to take advantage of.
San Antonio will need another strong performance from LaMarcus Aldridge, an equally impressive outing from Dejounte Murray, and some improved three-point shooting from their role players wouldn’t hurt.
Boston has looked like one of the best teams in the league so far. The three-headed scoring monster of Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, and Jayson Tatum, along with a stifling defense, has helped lead the Celtics to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Here are the three areas that San Antonio will need to focus on if they want to come away with a win when they host the Celtics.
Next: Get LaMarcus Aldridge going early
Offensive Focus: The Spurs need back to back big games from LaMarcus
LaMarcus just put together his best game of the season against the Thunder. His 39 point effort was the driving force behind the Spurs win. He will be called upon to deliver a similar performance on Saturday. It’s not a small ask but Aldridge has had success against the Celtics in the past and another big game could be in order.
A lot was made about Kyrie Iriving’s exodus from Boston this summer but he might not have been the most impactful loss that the Celtics suffered. By bringing in Kemba Walker they were able to lessen the sting of losing Irving to Brooklyn. They had no such luck in finding an equal replacement for their star big man, Al Horford.
Horford is one of the best defensive big men in the NBA, equally capable of holding his own against players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Aldridge. Horford was unable to play when the Spurs visited Boston last spring and that freed Aldridge up to go off for his second-highest scoring total of the season. His 48 point effort that night came from all over the floor as the Celtics simply had no answer for him.
The Celtics group of big men isn’t bad by any means. Robert Williams shows promise as a rim protector and Enes Kanter brings constant energy on the offensive glass. But neither one of them can hope to lock up Aldridge in the way that Horford would have been able to.
It will be up to Dejounte Murray and the rest of the Spurs guards to get Aldridge going early and keep feeding him the ball. If he can establish a low post presence and consistently draw double teams it should free up the rest of the Spurs for easy cutting lanes or open looks out of kick-outs.
Aldridge has had an up and down start to the season but found his stride on Thursday. He will need to carry that momentum into this matchup for the Spurs to be successful.
Next: Slow down Gordon Hayward
Defensive Focus: Slowing down Gordon Hayward
After a brutal injury robbed him of his first season with the Celtics, Gordon Hayward spent much of his second season in Boston getting back into game shape and trying to find his place in chaotic Celtics rotation.
Now Hayward has been playing some of the best basketball of his career and has finally looked like the player that Boston had hoped they were getting when they signed him to that massive contract. Through seven games he’s averaging 20.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per contest. He’s been shooting well too, connecting on 56 percent of his field goals and 44 percent of his shots from behind the arc.
He’s coming into the game against the Spurs on a bit of a hot streak as well. Just earlier this week he decimated the Cleveland Cavaliers, putting up 39 easy points on a variety of looks. He simply couldn’t miss against the Cavs. No, seriously. He was a perfect 16 for 16 from inside the arc. That tied him with Wilt Chamberlain for the most two-pointers in a game without a miss.
Hayward is capable of impacting the game in any way he chooses. He can grab the defensive rebound and act as a facilitator in transition or comfortably create his shot. Containing him will be a difficult task.
It will likely come down to a combination of DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay to slow down Hayward. Whoever it is will have their hands full, that’s for sure. But if Hayward gets going against the Spurs as he did against Cleveland this Celtics team will be difficult to stop.
Next: Someone needs to start making three's
Someone needs to start hitting three’s
San Antonio’s struggles from deep are well documented and something that the team is very well aware of. But until someone starts hitting from behind the arc this is going to be a regular point of emphasis leading into every game.
The Spurs have gone cold from deep over their last few games. Players who we thought we would be seeing light it up have stopped connecting on attempts from deep altogether. Perhaps no player has been as cold, or been on the receiving end of the Spurs fans ire, quite as much as Marco Belinelli.
Belinelli has made a career out of being a great shooter from all areas of the floor but he’s been cold as ice to start the season. His one for ten performance from the field against the Thunder was just the latest in a string of unimpressive games. Coaches and players alike are getting asked about it. The reoccurring theme in their responses is that they’re content to let Marco simply shoot his way out of it.
“Honestly, I don’t think any of us have shot great so far,” Forbes said. “But as a shooter, yeah, you just keep shooting. You can’t stop shooting. I’m sure out of nowhere it will all change and he will hit every shot.”
Here’s to hoping you’re right Bryn. This Boston Celtics team is one of the best groups in the league on the defensive end of the floor, holding opponents to just over 102 points per game. If there were ever a time for Marco to get hot it would be Saturday afternoon.
There’s never a dull night in the NBA. The Spurs go from putting together one of their best outings of the season and are right back at it, taking on the best team in the East. If they can do the three things we just covered they should be able to come away with a win.