David Butler II/US Presswire
Tim Duncan and the Spurs visit Boston for a pre-Thanksgiving battle.Rested and recovered from their busiest stretch of the season, the Boston Celtics (6-5, 3-2 home) welcome a Western Conference power in the San Antonio Spurs (8-3, 4-1 away) on Wednesday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
* TIME TO ELEVATE THEIR GAME: The busiest portion of Boston's regular-season schedule is in the rear-view mirror, but a reduced workload only gives way to increased competition as both the Spurs and Thunder visit the Garden this week. Boston's 6-5 record shows just how inconsistent this team has been so far and the Celtics need to shift to the next gear. Coming off a 20-point shellacking at the hands of a one-win Detroit team, the Spurs ought to ensure Boston is focused. "Clearly, it's fun playing teams like this," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "It really is. I hope every night's a litmus test. We've got to get better. We're 6-5 and you are what your record says you are. So, we want to just get better."
* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: There are no surprises with the Spurs. Offensively, they are one of the best halfcourt teams in the league (third overall, 0.937 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data), thriving in the pick-and-roll and knocking down open looks. The Spurs rank 28th in the league in transition -- a welcome sight for a Boston team still tightening up its transition defense -- but Boston's stout halfcourt defense will be tested. As rookie Jared Sullinger noted, "Their ball movement and their ability to share the ball [stands out], and they execute on offense very, very well. So, you've just got to be prepared to play defense for the whole 24-second shot clock." Defensively, the Spurs rank in the top third of the league overall (seventh, 0.884 points per play), but are susceptible in transition if Boston can force misses and run the other way.
* KG vs. DUNCAN: Nothing more needs to be said, right? Just one of the league's best big-man rivalries. We only get a chance to see it twice per year now, but it rarely disappoints. Last year the buzz was whether the final Boston-San Antonio meeting could have been the last between Garnett and Duncan. Then both went out and signed three-year contract extensions (so much for the retirement chatter) and there's plenty more to see if they both stick around for the duration of their deals.