Spurs at Celtics Give and Go Preview

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The Spurs head to Boston and James Anderson returns to the silver and black. Some interesting things on the eve of Thanksgiving. I invited Brian Robb of Celtics Hub to chat about the game to get you, the fans, ready.

Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: Let’s talk Spurs-Celtics

Brian Robb, Celtics Hub: Cool.

AM: People were expecting the Celtics to be the 2-seed this year in the East behind the Heat, are they playing up to or building up to that level right now?

BR: Definitely building up to that level. There has been a bit of a learning curve so far with so many new pieces added to the C’s rotation. The talent is there, but it’s taken Doc Rivers awhile to find the right combinations on the court as well as new additions to find their roles. There have been signs of progress but there is definitely a long way to go, especially on the defensive end.

AM: How have the new pieces fit in? I think a lot of people were really excited by the depth that Boston added this summer.

BR: Yeah, it was hard not to be after the lack of talent the team had coming off the bench for the last couple seasons. There have been flashes of progress from the new pieces, but it’s been incredibly inconsistent production from the majority of the new parts. Surprisingly, it’s been under-the-radar guys like Leandro Barbosa and Chris Wilcox helping the most early on, while Courtney Lee and Jeff Green have struggled more often than not with their offensive production. All the new pieces have taken their lumps on the defensive end and that’s where they need the most work right now.

AM: What do you want for Brandon Bass? I have a shiny Tiago Splitter or DeJuan Blair to offer you. Or Matt Bonner. He’s big and has red hair, you Celtics fans are familiar with the type.

BR: Haha, just in time for the holidays how kind of you! Matt Bonner would fit right in Boston, given his New Hampshire roots, filling the Brian Scalabrine void, except adding some real production. You know what though, the Cs desperately need another rebounder so DeJuan Blair would be a nice fit, although not at the cost of Mr. Bass, who was just signed to a manageable three-year extension this offseason. The team is incredibly reliant on his mid-range stroke in its offense, however if the team is still inconsistent in a month or two, Bass could become one of the assets this team has to deal to bring in an upgrade in both defense and rebounding. Perhaps we can revisit this down the road?

AM: I love Bass’ aggressiveness when defending the pick-and-roll and he’s a strong rebounder.

BR: What would the Spurs be looking for in trading Blair? Are they just showchasing him now more than anything else?

AM: The Spurs want at least a late first round pick for Blair, but I don’t think they’re going to get it. They couldn’t get Golden State to give up the 30th pick in the draft (that the Spurs traded in the Stephen Jackson deal) for Blair. I think there’s a good bet that the Spurs are showcasing Blair right now to drum up some trade interest.

And I don’t think Blair minds all that much, he’ll make more money getting traded and signing with another team than he would simply re-signing with the Spurs this summer.

BR: Very good points. Popovich seemed to really rip into his guys after the Clippers loss, should we expect an extra feisty effort on Wednesday night as a response? And despite bringing back nearly the entire roster, what changes (both good and bad) stand out the most for this crew this year?

AM: It might have been a calculated rip into the team by Pop. The Spurs will be without Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson for at least this six game road trip. As a result, they’ll be missing a lot of toughness, especially on the perimeter. Usually teams respond to strong criticism in the media, and if the Spurs can come out physical without Jack and Kawhi, it could mask some of those deficiencies a bit, by sheer effort if nothing else.

It’s hard to really point what the Spurs are doing differently this year. Well, it’s not hard, it’s just tough to say what exactly they’re doing. Zach Lowe had a really good piece on Monday at Grantland about how the Spurs are spending a lot of time tinkering right now. Different lineups, different combos, different styles.

So it’s hard to say what to expect tonight from the Spurs. They’re going to go small, but who knows what exactly that means? We may see more Matt Bonner in some spread-the-floor lineups.

BR: It should be fun. I feel like these two teams always play a tight one in Boston. It’s a nice little rivalry for two squads that see each other only twice a year

AM: Definitely. And we haven’t even gotten into the Tim Duncan-Kevin Garnett matchup. How is KG looking this season?

BR: He’s been the same old KG by and large. He’s doing the majority of the rebounding work for this team as always, and while the team has struggled defensively early on, it’s tough to put too much of the blame on him for that, it’s more the new pieces. Plus, Doc is playing it more cautious with his minutes than ever, following the Popovich blueprint wisely. Offensively, the same game is there and the team has become better at taking advantage of him when he’s on the floor, with the cut in minutes.

AM: So how do the Celtics score points now? Is it all based on creation from Rajon Rondo?

BR: That’s when they are at their best, without a doubt. His shooting has got a lot better this year from the perimeter, which has helped too. Jason Terry is in the starting five now and will provide a spark when called upon, although he’s had his ups and downs. It’s an above-average offensive team now thanks, mainly due to the fact they’ve cut their turnovers and are getting to the free throw line more from last year. It still isn’t always meshing well yet with the newbies, but when Doc figures it out, it should be a top-10 group

BR: What about the continuity factor you guys have going? The C’s had it for awhile but are experiencing growing pains now with so many new faces. Do you like the team’s moves and how they match up with the West now or would you have preferred outside help?

AM: As much as bringing in new blood is fun, especially for someone covering the team, they didn’t have a lot of options for outside help. Based on their cap numbers, San Antonio’s best option was to bring back the same group as last season. That said, they have a lot of good players with affordable contracts, so I fully expect some sort of trade to shake up the rotation at some point this season.

Okay, I need one random prediction for Spurs-Celtics that has nothing to do with the final score. Last preview, Charlie Widdoes predicted that 10 players in the game would score in double-figures, with none scoring over 25 points. He came really close, nine players scored in double figures (none over 25) and two players finished with nine points.

BR: The Spurs have a field-day from 3-point range. Boston’s defense has been incredibly shaky against strong offensive teams this year and SA’s ball movement should allow them countless open looks from beyond the arc tonight.

AM: Any specific # of 3s or percentage?

BR: Let’s say 40 percent and 10 3’s.