Surging Celtics Welcome Tim Duncan, Spurs to TD Garden

Surging Celtics Welcome Tim Duncan, Spurs to TD GardenThe Celtics knew they wanted to hit their stride in the final few weeks before the playoffs, and boy, are they ever. Friday night's victory over the Sacramento Kings, 94-86, was Boston's sixth win in seven games, and there's still four more games in this homestand yet.

The C's have plenty more time to find their rhythm. Next up is a San Antonio ballclub that's coming off a huge statement win over the Cavaliers on their home floor. The Spurs are building momentum as they prepare for playoff time, and this game will be another big test.

When & Where

Sunday, March 28, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.

Records

Celtics (47-25, 1st place in Atlantic Division)
Spurs (43-28, 2nd place in Southwest Division)

Head to Head

This is the Celtics' second meeting with the Spurs this season. They won the first, 90-83, in San Antonio on Dec. 3. That victory, the sixth in the Celtics' season-long 11-game winning streak, featured a 9-for-15 shooting night from Kevin Garnett and a strong team defensive effort from the C's in the fourth quarter. This matchup is all about KG vs. Tim Duncan, and while Duncan has historically owned that battle over the years, the Big Ticket is starting to figure things out in his old age.

Skinny

The Celtics might as well be looking in the mirror. They walk into the Garden on Sunday night to face an aging team with a championship season in the rear-view mirror and high hopes of reclaiming Finals glory before it's too late. The Celtics are worried about the aging of their Big Three, and the Spurs have the same problem. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are still going strong, but the window's starting to close for Tim Duncan, and every year he has left is precious. The Spurs will try to make the most of this one.

Starting Lineups

Celtics
Point guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting guard: Ray Allen
Small forward: Paul Pierce
Power forward: Kevin Garnett
Center: Rasheed Wallace

Spurs
Point guard: George Hill
Shooting guard: Manu Ginobili
Small forward: Richard Jefferson
Power forward: Tim Duncan
Center: Antonio McDyess

Stat Sheet

Celtics
The Celtics are now 17-10 against the Western Conference.

They are second in the NBA with 635 steals.

Rajon Rondo
has 170 steals this season, an all-time Celtics record.

Rondo had 18 assists against the Kings on Sunday night, a career high.

Paul Pierce has made 5,373 free throws in his career. He set the Celtics' franchise record on Friday night, eclipsing John Havlicek's career total of 5,369.

Ray Allen is shooting 42.1 percent from three-point range in March, his best full month of the season to date.

Kevin Garnett has averaged 20.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.6 steals against the Spurs in his career.

Spurs
The Spurs are 17-17 on the road this season, tied with the Phoenix Suns for the fewest road wins among Western playoff contenders.

They are sixth in the NBA with a 47.2 team field goal percentage, tied with the Golden State Warriors.

Tim Duncan leads the Spurs in scoring with 18.2 points per game. He has only finished one of the last four seasons as the team's leading scorer.

Richard Jefferson has 12.1 points per game in his first season in a Spurs uniform. It's his lowest output since his rookie season of 2001-02.

George Hill has made 69 of 175 attempts from three-point range this season (39.4 percent).

Manu Ginobili had 30 points on 10-of-19 shooting in the Spurs' win over the Cavaliers on Friday night.

Antonio McDyess has averaged 10.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in his career against the Celtics.

Black and Blue

Celtics
Kendrick Perkins missed Friday's game against Sacramento with a sore left knee. He is likely to sit out Sunday night as well.

Nate Robinson left Friday's game with a sprained left ankle. He practiced with the team Saturday and is likely to return.

Spurs

Tony Parker is out with a broken right hand.

This Date in Celtics History

In 1995, Dominique Wilkins scores 19 points in a 126-115 Celtics win over the Heat in Miami. Wilkins thus moves past Jerry West and into eighth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list, with 25,207 points; he will eventually retire with 26,668. It is Wilkins' only season in a Celtics uniform.

Overheard

"It may mean more to me once I retire or I am away from here. I am just focused on winning. It is a great accomplishment. This organization has won so many championships and has had some great players come through. So many All-Stars have set records here."
–Rajon Rondo, who set a new Celtics record on Friday night with his 170th steal of the season.

The Press Box

Celtics
Rajon Rondo stole the show as the C's beat the Kings.

The youngster gambles — and often wins.

Kendrick Perkins is hurting.

Spurs
Manu Ginobili carried the Spurs in the fourth quarter against Cleveland.

Tim Duncan was an observer.

Gregg Popovich
is a wine lover.

NBA
Carmelo Anthony had a game-winner for the Nuggets.

The Wizards are keeping Gilbert Arenas.

Without Agent Zero, the Wiz took a thrashing from the Jazz.

Outlook

Neither one of these teams is particularly fast or explosive, but they're smart, fundamentally sound teams that play together and win together. Whichever team executes better, plays alert defense and avoids careless mistakes will come out on top. The Celtics are a team built around veteran leaders, and they should lean on the vets to lead them against Duncan and the Spurs. If the Big Three can each step up, the Celtics should be well on their way to their seventh win in eight games.

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