Which team has the best defense in the NBA? Many teams have an argument. Two of the stingiest defenses in the NBA meet today, though, as the 22-4 Boston Celtics visit the 17-8 San Antonio Spurs (9:30pm ET Friday on ESPN).
Both of these potential title contenders pride themselves on stopping the other team from scoring. Boston and San Antonio rank first and third, respectively, in defensive rating. The Spurs’ rating is especially impressive, since two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard hasn’t even suited up yet this season.
The Spurs will be without Leonard and fellow forward Kyle Anderson, while the Celtics also have a couple of forwards whose statuses could be affected by injury.
How will these defensive juggernauts fare against each other tonight? It should be entertaining contest. Let’s break down some storylines central to the game and then give the predictions and picks for this preview, in an attempt to profit from the betting lines of the best American sportsbooks.
Can the Spurs Point Guards Produce Enough to Compete With Kyrie Irving?
Finding the biggest matchup advantage for the Celtics in this game isn’t hard. The Celtics’ Irving is a full-fledged star who will slice and dice his way to a bunch of points and assists every night. Against the Spurs in October, he had an efficient 24 points and six assists in just 30 minutes. His defense has also picked up this season.
San Antonio, meanwhile, has nice depth at the position in Tony Parker, Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray. However, none of them are nearly as effective as Irving. If Parker’s pick-and-roll game is working, Mills’ outside shot is falling and Murray can be a pest on defense in limited minutes, then the Spurs’ point guards do have a chance of outplaying Irving collectively.
Also, don’t be surprised if the Spurs use someone like Danny Green or Brandon Paul to guard Irving. A little bit of extra length and strength could be helpful on the tricky floor general.
How Healthy Will Two Key Celtics Forwards Be?
San Antonio isn’t the only team with injured forwards. The Celtics are, of course, without Gordon Hayward for the season. However, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris are both questionable for Friday’s tilt due to eye and knee issues, respectively.
Both Brown and Morris are athletic, versatile players who could cause trouble for the Spurs if they play. San Antonio has Rudy Gay, but most of its other healthy forwards are not nearly as athletic or versatile as Brown and Morris.
Those two could really help Boston’s effort in both defending the Spurs and finding diverse ways to score on them.
Will San Antonio’s Hot Three-Point Shooting at Home Continue?
The Spurs are 12-2 at home and just 5-6 on the road. The top reason for that is three-point shooting. San Antonio drains 10.8 long balls at a 41.5 percent clip at home, but it makes just 7.3 threes at a 30.7 percent rate on the road.
At home on Friday, the Spurs will need their long-distance shots to continue falling to score efficiently against a very stingy Celtics defense. Without Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Anderson, San Antonio doesn’t put much pressure on the defense driving to the rim, which means they’ll need to get creative on offense.
If the likes of Danny Green, Patty Mills, Davis Bertans, Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol can drop in 12 or more threes, San Antonio should have the upper hand in this matchup.
Our Preview’s Boston Celtics vs. San Antonio Spurs Betting Picks & Predictions
The Celtics’ forwards being questionable makes this one tricky, but I expect both of them to play in this high-profile matchup. San Antonio is also playing Saturday, so Gregg Popovich may be conservative with his best players’ minutes. Boston has a bit more star power with Kyrie Irving and Al Horford.
In my estimation, this Spurs home game is equally likely to be a win for San Antonio and Boston.
- Every main betting outlet gives San Antonio a two-point edge here. The best odds of Celtics +2pts @ -110 are available with Bovada, 5Dimes, Bookmaker & BetOnline.
- I think Boston will push the pace on San Antonio, and the Spurs’ threes have been going in recently. A slightly higher scoring game than expected could be on the horizon. Go with Bookmaker for the best bet of over 197pts @ -110.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.