W2W4: C's vs. Spurs (Game 14 of 82)

The Boston Celtics (4-9, 2-6 home) host the San Antonio Spurs (11-4, 5-3 road) on Sunday afternoon at TD Garden (1 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

Learning from the champs: The Celtics and coach Brad Stevens spent much of Saturday's practice gushing about the Spurs and what they've accomplished throughout the Gregg Popovich/Tim Duncan era. Stevens was asked about the way if Popovich and the Spurs might have influenced this Boston team. "They’ve impacted some of what we do, offensively, certainly," said Stevens. "We don’t run the same stuff, but I want the same ideas: Great pace, great space, playing really unselfish, not holding onto the ball too long. And we’ve had times when we’ve been really good at that and times when where we need to get better. But I think it’s a fun way to play. It’s fun to watch. I don’t think you can ever try to be somebody else. You have to be your best you. But I think you can take tidbits from people."

Admirable in the Alamo: The Celtics dropped a 104-93 decision in San Antonio last season, then fell 104-92 in Boston a few months later. Reflecting on last season's meetings, Stevens noted, "I thought we played them really well [in San Antonio last season]. ... I watched it and I thought we played really well. [In Boston,] we played well, but they held half their guys back so, again, they just plug guys in and then you see all these guys that have gotten a ton of minutes in the regular season being great in the playoffs. I think that you can always learn a lot from watching and everyone of us has watched them a ton, probably as much as anybody else, because they are the ones that are on in June. But they are admirable to watch. As a basketball purist, my favorite thing to do is watch a team that plays like that."

Focused on 48 minutes: Stevens maintained that the Celtics played well in Friday's loss to the Chicago Bulls, even over the final 2 ½ minutes when Boston went scoreless. But he also knows the margin for error against a team like the Spurs is even thinner than the usual visit. The Celtics have started strong, but absolutely must maintain that early energy. It will be interesting to see if Stevens tweaks his lineup or rotations at all, particularly in the frontcourt. Kelly Olynyk is battling through a slump and Stevens must decide if it's more prudent to stick with the second-year 7-footer, or tweak the lineup and try a more traditional center like Tyler Zeller.

Loose Balls: The Celtics were expecting to be without rookie guard Marcus Smart as he works towards a return from an ankle injury. ... Rajon Rondo, after miss two late-game freebies on Friday, gets another chance to quiet the chatter around his free throw woes. ... Jared Sullinger wore sunglasses at practice Saturday after getting elbowed in the eye Friday and experiencing light sensitivity. He did not expect it to be an issue Sunday. ... Boston wraps up a brutal November schedule with the visit from San Antonio. ... The Celtics have lost five straight at home, their first Garden losing streak of that length since dropping 13 in a row from Dec. 20-Feb. 9, 2007.