Celtics-Spurs preview: Green 'D' turned up

Celtics-Spurs preview: Green 'D' turned up
February 12, 2014, 9:30 am
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BOSTON — Jeff Green catches a lot of flack for dominating games one night, disappearing the next only to re-appear to crush teams a couple weeks later.

But as much as the Celtics need him to score, they need him to step his game up defensively even more.

And while Green will be the first to tell you that he can improve on all phases of his game, he is playing some of his best defense of late for the Celtics. It's part of why they have won four of their last five games.

"It's us being on the same page," Green said in describing the team's defense. "Us knowing our rotations; us helping each other. In order for us to be in games, we have to be on the same page on the defensive end."

In the five games this month, Green has averaged a blocked shot per game in addition to doing a better job of contesting drives to the basket and jumpers. Green's defensive rating (team points allowed per 100 possessions) the month of February has been 99.9, the only month it has been below 100 this season.

The 6-foot-9 forward's play defensively will certainly be a factor against San Antonio. Here are some other keys to tonight's game:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: It's the last game before the All-Star break for both teams, so this game has the potential to get very ugly for both teams. Adding to the Spurs' degree of difficulty will be that they are playing without Tony Parker (back) and Tiago Splitter (calf) who join teammates Manu Ginobili (hamstring) and Kawhi Leonard (broken right finger) on the bench for tonight's game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger vs. Tim Duncan

Sullinger's string of six straight double-doubles will be put to the test against one of the best to ever play the game in Duncan who is one of 13 players in the NBA averaging a double-double scoring (15.4) and rebounding (10) this season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo is expected back in the lineup tonight and could be in for a big night with Parker (back) not playing. Patty Mills has done a nice job of filling that void for the Spurs, but knowing this could be one of the team's signature wins during this second half of the season, look for Rondo to put his imprint on the game early and often.

STAT TO TRACK: Points off turnovers will be important to keep an eye on for both teams. In the month of February, the Celtics are getting 18.6 points off turnovers, the 10th-best mark in the league. The Spurs are near the end of the line, averaging 13.7 points off turnovers this month which ranks 26th in the league. And to Boston's credit of late, they're not just capitalizing off opponent's mistakes but also making it hard for them to counter with their own scoring off Boston miscues. This month, opponents are only averaging 11.4 points off turnovers against the Celtics, the second-best mark in the league this month.