Advanced Scouting: San Antonio Spurs at Boston Celtics


San Antonio Spurs at Boston Celtics 6:30 CST January 5, 2011

SRS ranks:

Boston: 7.24 (3rd)
San Antonio: 8.79 (2nd)

Key Player Statistics (courtesy of (effective December 27, 2010) and (effective January 1, 2011):

PlayerFraction of teams minutesPER minus Counterpart PEROn court +/-per 48 minutesOff court +/-per 48 minutes2 Year Adjusted +/-

Most valuable/utilized lineups:

Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Davis, Garnett +52 in 197 minutes (+12.7 per 48 MP)
Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, Shaq +21.9 in 191 minutes (+21.9 per 48 MP)
Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Davis, Shaq +7 in 17 minutes (+19.8 per 48 MP)

The Spurs will not face a lineup with more than 17 minutes experience together.

Preferred method to create shots: Rajon Rondo distributing the ball

The aged Celtics score an impressive 17 PPG on the fast break, good for 6th in the NBA. Rondo accounts for more than 10 of those points all by himself, 7.2 per game by way of passing. Although the Celtics are a team stacked with players used to creating for themselves, they also rank 3rd in points off cuts (14.5), thanks in no small part to Rondo. In total, Rondo is averaging an incredible 13.6 assists per game.

Rondo may be awesome, but he has an abundance of options. Ray Allen is still an absolutely elite shooter, second in the NBA in scoring off screens (behind Durant). Shaq is shooting above 65% from the field. Before he was injured, KG was a great inside/outside option. Paul Pierce is an excellent bailout option and the Celtics have quality scorers off the bench. (Isn’t it odd that few elite teams have a clear cut “best player” this season?)

Appropriate Spurs counter: Make Rondo score

Rajon Rondo’s effective field goal percentage on jump shots has improved from 37% last year to 46% this season. However, Rondo has also attempted far fewer shots, meaning that the 46% rate he has enjoyed this season might not be a reliable expectation going forward. Additionally, Rondo’s continued struggles in limited attempts from the line (16 of 39) don’t suggest that he is truly an improved shooter.

The optimal strategy is still to make Rondo shoot. One problem teams encounter when backing off Rondo too much is defending the pick and roll. Rondo feels much more comfortable shooting with any opening when the screener sets up around 15 feet from the basket.

The most noticeable change in Rondos game this season is that he looks to pass no matter how close to the rim he gets. The Spurs should probably make him try to finish himself. Of course, Rondo is a smart player who is very capable of adjusting to almost anything you throw at him. Perhaps a more useful strategy is to focus on the players who are the most efficient scorers off Rondo passes: Allen and Shaq.

Ginobili is very good at defending an opponent running off a screen, allowing 0.74 PPP over the last two seasons. He should be a good defensive match against Ray Allen (although chasing Allen could tire Manu, especially on a back-to-back). Ginobili and other Spurs should obviously pay constant attention to Allen.

Duncan was the primary defender of O’Neal when Shaq played in the Western Conference. Shaq can’t create scores as frequently as those days and he doesn’t play as many minutes, but he is still very efficient once he gets the ball in scoring position. His field goal percentage and true shooting percentage are both at a career highs. As previously mentioned, Rondo still looks to pass as he drives to the basket and Duncan should, in turn, be more reserved to leave Shaq when Rondo goes at the hoop.

Spurs offensive game plan: Attack Nate Robinson on the pick and roll

The Spurs could find it difficult running the pick and roll against the Celtics elite defense. The absence of KG figures to make things easier, but the Celtics have allowed 0.73, 0.83 and 0.74 over the past few seasons. Allen, Pierce and Rondo are all excellent at defending the pick and roll, but Nate Robinson has struggled to fit in to the Celtics defensive scheme. Opponents have averaged 0.97 PPP in 158 pick and roll possessions against Robinson since he joined the Celtics. Parker and Hill figure to face Robinson most frequently.

There are a few other players the Spurs can attempt to exploit. Over the past three years, Shaq has allowed 1.12 PPP in 120 possessions when defending the roll man in the pick and roll, in spite of playing on a couple of very good defensive teams. Since Manu is the Spurs best distributor out of the pick and roll, he should look to run the play with Shaq’s counterpart.

Finally, since the start of last season, Ray Allen has allowed 0.91 PPP on against 215 isolations and Nate Robinson 1.00 in 103 possessions (league average is 0.84). Parker and Ginobili once again figure to be favorable matchups against these players.


The Spurs should be very glad that they don’t have to face Kevin Garnett tonight (yet another instance of the Spurs fortunate timing this season). Garnett is not the elite offensive player he once was, but he could be the most valuable defensive player in the NBA. Facing the Celtics on a back-to-back is still a difficult task, but it becomes plausible to expect the Spurs to win when the Celtics are missing KG.

The Spurs SRS is 1.5 points higher than the Celtics. Of course, Boston has had more injury problems at this point in the season. Rondo, Jermaine O’Neal, and Shaq have all missed time in addition to KG. It would be reasonable to expect the Celtics would have a higher SRS if both teams enjoyed full health. Throw in the fact the Spurs will need to overcome a back-to-back road game and the Celtics might still have enough to be favored in this game.

There are a couple additional small factors that could potentially favor the Spurs. The Celtics could be rusty or hurt with several players recently coming off injury and there might be a slight bounce-back effect after an embarrassing loss such as the one the Spurs experienced against the Knicks. All things loosely accounted for, this game is practically a tossup. I might give the slight advantage to the Celtics in this one.

This game could be a significant test of the resolve of the Spurs. One game is a small measure of almost anything, but it will be interesting to see how the Spurs react to the Coach Pop’s benching at MSG with the game still within reach.

  • austinspur

    thinking dejuan blair and timmy will have a strong game

  • DorieStreet

    With our guards as our primary penetrators, there should not be too many opportunites for Glen Davis to pick up charges, but we must not let him get his offense going. We should go at Allen to make him work defensively. I am looking forward to Neal making Robinson ineffective. Theatrics aside, Pierce is a tough matchup- in some game 1st halves he’s almost invisible, but knows how to turn it up in 3rd qtrs. Celtics will probably sub often to test our stamina on a BTB.

  • Ruel

    Beat Boston Celtics Tonight with or without Kevin Garnett??? Win or Lose Keep Pounding The Rock San Antonio Spurs and give them the 48 minutes of Hell Team Defense!!!

  • lvmainman

    Screw ESPN!! For the 1st time in 3 yrs the Spurs in Boston isn’t a national televised game. No Roger Mason 3 pt winner to win in ’09, no Ginobili half-court 3 pt shot to end a 3rd qtr to win in ’10. I’ll miss the game unless I go inhale 2nd hand smoke at a casino to watch.

    Why?? The bowl of Middle Tenn and Miami, OH in Mobile, Ala is more important!!

    Then, the Lakers-Suns game will be on. NO doubleheader on Wed, like every other Wed has had!!

    ESPN is really starting suck.

  • austinspurs

    fox sports southwest savin the day!

  • rob

    These two teams are about as even as it gets.

    The Knick game I got the 115 for the Spurs correct. Who would have thought the Spurs would allow the Knicks to get 128!!!? I predicted the Knicks would score only 102.

    Spurs 106 / Celtics 106. Perhaps overtime? Spurs on the road and a b2b could easily favor the Celtics in this case though.

    Go Spurs Go…make it happen. This will be a game that tests the resolve, determination and resiliance of this team.

  • lvmainman

    @ rob,

    No way either team tops 95 pts. The Celtics defense is too good.

  • TD = Best EVER

    The 1st 2 possessions of this game summed up the season so far. Our guards not hitting the role man and Bostons guards will look for the roller.

    Pass the ball TP

  • TD = Best EVER

    Tell me that yall are watching TP kill off this game by dribbling the ball like he is LBJ or Kobe…… this is why many people wanted to trade him, including me. Pass the ball and let some other people get the ball and get looks…. Timmy is hot tonight and TP keeps calling his own number every time he can.

    3 assist and 4 To for TP – 3 min left in 3rd.

    Pass the ball

  • rob


    Man. Ease up on Parker. It’s not like he’s the only player making mistakes. Try taking your rose colored glasses off when Duncan isn’t playing well.

    If it wasn’t for Parker in the Knicks game…the Knicks win by 30. And Duncan in the Knicks game…a game where he should have been dominant…what happened there?

    By the way…the prediction of 106 to 106 with a possibility of OT wasn’t far off. Son of a Mother bleepin’ female dog. Being a B2B on the road…I kinda expected this outcome. Great game. Spurs showed some nads against a top team. Not as bad a loss as some might want to make it to be.

  • TD = Best EVER

    So where are all my TP for MVP fans now? Rondo severely outplayed him tonight and don’t give me that 2nd night of back to back non-sense. They were shorthanded and still won. This is why I have ALWAYS said that IndyG is a better fit for out team at the PG. Tony has the ball in his hand way too much and way too long. Did you see how Rondo passed the ball early and then chased it down if there wasn’t anything popping. Then TP just keep dribbling off picks and if there is nothing there he backs up and calls for another pick. Even when they switched and had a little guy on Tim, TP shoots the ball(he made it but that doesn’t matter).

    4th quarter and we need a basket and we run the same tired plays that we have been running the entire game. TP or Manu pick(Notice I didn’t say pick and roll, because no one looks for the roll man) that ends with either them getting a layup or possible a kick out for a three. We need to mix it up some and hopefully hit the roll man or at least look in his direction.

    Since when did Big Baby Davis become an ALL-STAR? When DJB and Bonner are playing Defense on you, that’s when.

    This is why we need another BIG…… Our Offense can be taken away because against good Defensive teams we don’t get EASY baskets anymore. So we need it harder for the other team to score.

    Small ball failed miserably again. They just posted up Marquis Daniels and got 2 easy baskets.

    Pop keeps trying to find different wrinkles to spark the Offense – no matter how much it hurts our already HORRIBLE Defense. I have a great idea of how we can accomplish that. Make TP pass the ball. Get everyone on the team involved EARLY and stop holding the ball until the clock is under 10 seconds and then it just a kick out and 3.

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ rob

    “Man. Ease up on Parker. It’s not like he’s the only player making mistakes. Try taking your rose colored glasses off when Duncan isn’t playing well.”

    I have and do… When TD was in his Prime and healthy he never got treated like this. 1st Felton went off last night and now Rondo gets a Triple Double. If Parker plays more like Rondo – we probably win this game because we get better looks all around. That’s the job of a PG, help run the offense and assist others at getting good looks. TP over dribbling kills it, and has for a few years now.

    And understand we are an Offensive team. Which generally means we will get our Defensive energy from how good or bad we feel on Offense. TP KILLS all of that by going up and down the court 2 and 3 trips in a row w/o passing the ball.

  • rob

    “Rondo severely outplayed him tonight and don’t give me that 2nd night of back to back non-sense.”

    Get back with me when Rondo has to go B2B against the top teams in the league on the road.

    However, I agree about another significant big. Tiago can’t buy playing time. Probably because he really isn’t that good. Blair is a “situational” player that can sporadically give you a good game but only in narrowed circumstances. No matter how he tries or is given a chance to be other than a 3 point specialist…Bonner is NOT an answer to playing post. McDyess is being saved because of age. And…I know you don’t want to hear this…but Duncan is dwindling to being an inconsistently, still good at times, but mainly servicable big.

    Question….where is a difference making big the Spurs can just call up and bring in to the team on short notice? If you answer truthfully…there isn’t one.

    So…Here’s to hoping the Spurs bigs can become better than their short comings.

  • TD = Best EVER

    “And…I know you don’t want to hear this…but Duncan is dwindling to being an inconsistently, still good at times, but mainly servicable big.”

    Offensively I agree 0 he has like 1 good night out of 3. With the other 2 either both being bad or one bad and one decent. But defensively he still gets it done against 99% of the leagues bigs. He still makes the right rotations and is having an excellent year in blocks. Now if we can only find another BIG to match him with.

    “Question….where is a difference making big the Spurs can just call up and bring in to the team on short notice? If you answer truthfully…there isn’t one.”

    I agree with our financial situation and the fact that we will not want to give up our young talent it will be hard to find that insurance policy for a night like tonight. But as long as we all agree that we need one and I hear that the SPURS are trying to correct an obvious HOLE in our team, them I’m good.

  • rob

    “Now if we can only find another BIG to match him with. ”

    Yeah…I think that is what they were hoping to get with Tiago this year. Perhaps he needs a couple of years before becoming a player that can be counted on in that sense. But that doesn’t do the Spurs (Duncan) any good being Duncan only has a year or two remaining being “significant” even with a sidekick in the post.

    “But as long as we all agree that we need one and I hear that the SPURS are trying to correct an obvious HOLE in our team, them I’m good.”

    I’m sure they will keep their eyes and ears open. Yet again…those types of players just aren’t readily available. At least not like perimeter players in this league.

    I think we have to hope that the staff and trainers can some how materialize such a post player with who they have now. Tough job.