The Celtics are a wily veteran team that plays smart, efficient basketball. At the moment, that style has made them the best in the East. On Wednesday they’ll face the wily veterans of the West, whose same efficient brand of play has made them the best team in the NBA at 29-5 and a dominant force for the last decade.
The Spurs have two brilliant scorers on the perimeter in Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, backed by one of the greatest winners in history, big man Tim Duncan. The Celtics have two perimeter weapons of their own, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, and they’ve got one of the game’s all-time great champions in the middle in Shaquille O’Neal.
Both teams are built like title-winners, and in the past, both teams have earned the rings to prove it. And there’s a good chance that after Wednesday night, the winner of this showdown will have the bragging rights of an NBA championship favorite.
The winner Wednesday will be the team whose veteran perimeter scorers show up and perform. Simply put, Pierce and Allen need to outplay Ginobili and Parker.
The Spurs are the most efficient team in the NBA offensively. They don’t break plays, they don’t force bad shots and they don’t make mental mistakes. They turn the ball over on only 12.6 percent of possessions, a historically low figure. The Spurs aren’t going to play bad basketball, period. That means it’s up to the Celtics to elevate their play and match them.
Ginobili’s going to get his customary 6-for-12 shooting night and give the Spurs clutch buckets when needed. Parker’s going to get to the basket and wreak havoc. You can’t stop the Spurs’ well-oiled machine, but you can match it bucket for bucket.
Pierce will need to get to the basket when he can, and hit jump shots when he can’t. Allen will need to get hot at some point, giving the Celtics 3-point jolts when they fall behind. Point blank — this game will be won by the team that hits their shots.
Against a lesser team, the Celtics’ secret is to force mistakes on defense, get running in transition, and generate fast-break points with Rajon Rondo. But against the Spurs, that won’t work. The C’s need their shooters to step up and earn them a statement win.