Spurs in search of signature win vs. red-hot Celtics (Dec 08, 2017)

If there has been a knock on San Antonio’s early-season success as it plays without star forward Kawhi Leonard, it’s been that the Spurs have feasted on teams with a losing record, winning 14 of their 17 games against competition below the .500 mark.

The Spurs have an outlet to quiet the naysayers on Friday when they play host to the Boston Celtics, the team with the NBA’s best record, at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.

San Antonio (17-8) enjoyed one of its best overall games on Wednesday when it beat Miami 117-105. The Spurs got double-figure scoring from eight of the 11 players who took the court in the victory, which was their sixth in seven games.

LaMarcus Aldridge led the way for San Antonio in the win over Miami, tallying 18 points to lead the team in scoring for the 20th time this season.

But just about every other San Antonio player got in on the action in big way as well. Bryn Forbes hit for 17 points with five 3-pointers, while Rudy Gay scored 16, Patty Mills had 13 points, Pau Gasol and Danny Green tallied 12 apiece, and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili pumped in 10 each.

“The ball really moved and we made some shots,” Ginobili said. “(Aldridge) has been carrying a lot of the offensive load so it’s good that some others are able to contribute. It’s important for everyone to be involved.”

The Spurs had 30 assists in the game, a statistic San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was quick to point out but also as quick to put into perspective.

“Getting 30 assists is always wonderful,” Popovich said. “Then you sit down and start feeling good about it and you realize that Golden State does that every night. And you go ‘OK, we’ve got a ways to go, don’t get too excited.’ But it is great to see.”

The Celtics (22-4) have won 22 of their past 24 games after going 0-2 to start the season, and have captured four in a row, including a 97-90 home victory over Dallas on Wednesday.

Kyrie Irving scored seven of his 23 points in that win over a span of 3:05 of the fourth quarter to lift the short-handed Celtics. Irving scored five straight points and then added another basket as the Celtics clinched their latest win with a 12-2 run down the stretch.

Boston played without Jaylen Brown (swollen eye) and Marcus Morris (knee rehab), but still improved to 8-0 against the Western Conference and swept the two-game season series against the Mavericks.

Al Horford had 17 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, three blocks and two steals for the Celtics and rookie Jayson Tatum also scored 17 and grabbed 10 rebounds. Tatum is the first Boston rookie with four straight 15-point games since Paul Pierce in 1999.

“I’m very happy,” Horford said. “Going into the season you never have any expectations. This is good. We want to keep building on it.”

The Celtics recorded 25 assists on 36 baskets, racking almost Spurs-like numbers and prowess in sharing the basketball.

“We mentioned that at shootaround that everybody has to be ready, especially when we call to the bench,” Boston’s Terry Rozier said. “You’ve got to have that ‘next man up (mentality)’. Just covering for one another. We’re a team. We’re pros for a reason. You put all that hard work in and you have to be ready.”

Boston defeated the Spurs 108-94 on Oct. 30 at TD Garden in the only other game between the teams this season as Irving scored 24 points, all through three quarters. San Antonio has a five-game home win streak against the Celtics dating back to March 31, 2011.