Horford, and Celts, face a tough test
BOSTON -- Tonight will be another one of those games where Al Horford’s defensive versatility will be put to the test.
He will at times be matched up against San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge, one of the NBA’s better inside-outside scoring big men.
Dealing with Aldridge will be challenging, but it’s not like Horford hasn’t had practice lately dealing with elite, highly skilled big men.
Horford has already held his own defensively against the likes of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
But the 6-foot-11 Aldridge presents a different type of challenge because of his ability to score in the post, mid-range and from behind the 3-point arc.
And with injuries to a pair of key San Antonio players, the Spurs have placed a greater emphasis on Aldridge leading the way.
The five-time All-Star has responded by averaging a career-high 25.7 points per game while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range. In addition, he’s grabbing 9.0 rebounds per game which includes a career-best 3.5 on the offensive glass.
Here are five other under-the-radar storylines to keep an eye tonight as the Celtics look to extend their winning streak to five straight against the San Antonio Spurs.
Both of these teams rank among the league’s top defensive clubs, and a big reason for that has to do with how they handle their business on the defensive glass. In fact, San Antonio and Boston are both among the NBA’s top teams when it comes to defensive rebounding percentage. The Spurs lead the NBA with a defensive rebounding percentage of .842 while the Celtics are third (.817).
SHOOT 'EM UP
These two teams have quite a bit in common beyond having the same 4-2 record. Among those shared qualities? An identical shooting percentage. After six games, they are each shooting 43.1 percent from the field. How weird is that?
It’s not unusual for the Spurs to rest some of their core guys, regardless of the time of season. But the absences of Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker are legitimately related to injuries. Leonard has yet to play this season due to a quadriceps tendinopathy injury. Meanwhile, Parker has been assigned to San Antonio’s Gatorade League affiliate, the Austin Toros, on a rehab assignment as he works his way back to form following left quadriceps tendon surgery.
Rudy Gay is in a different role now than what he has been with other teams. Instead of being looked upon as a high-volume scorer, he’s now a reserve coming off the bench whose job is to provide a jolt offensively. A career 18.4 points per game scorer, Gay is averaging a near career-low 11.8 points per game with the Spurs. But the 31-year-old is at a point in his career where winning has to come above all else. And for Gay, winning has not been something he has enjoyed much of in the NBA. Now in his 12th NBA season, Gay has only been to the playoffs once (2012 with Memphis).
There’s a lot of talk about the Celtics and their talented rookie Jayson Tatum. But hey, the first-year kid from Germany, Daniel Theis, has been pretty good too. He has appeared in five games, and has averaged 5.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in 14 minutes per game. In addition, he has an offensive rating of 118.0 which is tops among all Celtics who average at least 10 minutes on the floor. Also, his offensive rebounding percentage (.132) and overall rebounding percentage (.167) both lead all Boston players.