For the Boston Celtics to extend their winning streak to seven games, they’ll have to do something they’ve done only once over the past eight years: beat the San Antonio Spurs.
The task becomes even taller on the road as they travel to San Antonio to face LaMarcus Aldridge & Co. on Saturday night. The Celtics last won in San Antonio in March 2011 before proceeding to drop 14 of their next 15 to Gregg Popovich’s squad.
Boston enters Saturday atop the Eastern Conference standings at 6-1. The Celtics handily beat the Charlotte Hornets, 108-87, on Thursday night, but many on the team feel there’s still room for improvement.
“We’ve been winning, of course, but I don’t think we’ve really put together a full game yet,” guard Kemba Walker said. “We’re just playing in spurts right now. We just need to get better, and we will.”
Walker was the focus Thursday in his first game back to Charlotte following eight seasons with the franchise. He got off to a slow start, missing his first six shots, before heating up in the third to finish with 14 points.
“It’s really hard,” coach Brad Stevens said of the emotional night for Walker. “He had the right idea coming into the game but you knew right after they played that (pregame tribute) video, that probably was going to be a tough start.”
Jayson Tatum carried the offense with 23 points, while Gordon Hayward followed a career-high-tying 39 points Tuesday with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Aldridge scored 39 of his own Thursday, leading the Spurs to a 121-112 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The victory snapped a two-game skid for San Antonio, which has won five of its first eight to begin the season.
Aldridge went 19 of 23 from the floor after being held to single-digit scoring in two of his four previous games.
“I definitely put the work in,” he said. “Just waiting for my shot to come back. The first one felt good, after that I just tried to stay with it.”
Aldridge was further boosted by improved play from point guard Dejounte Murray, who had committed seven turnovers between the back-to-back losses. He limited it to two on Thursday while dishing out a career-high 10 assists.
“I’ve got to stop being sloppy,” Murray said.
The Spurs’ dominance over the Celtics extends beyond the decade: San Antonio is 44-13 in their matchups since 1990. Boston coach Stevens has bested Popovich only once, at home in a 108-94 win in October 2017.
The Celtics are getting closer to 100 percent after big man Enes Kanter (knee) was upgraded to questionable before ultimately sitting out the game against Charlotte. Kanter has missed the team’s past six games with the injury.
Meanwhile, Boston got swingman Jaylen Brown back against the Hornets, and he scored 12 in the win. Brown had missed three games with a leg infection that he said required five hospital trips.
“I’m glad it’s behind me now,” he said.
–Field Level Media