Spurs Slight Home Favorites to Give Celtics Rare Loss ... and Will

Jay Pryce

Friday, December 8, 2017 2:01 PM UTC

Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 2:01 PM UTC

Boston puts its NBA-best 22-4 record to test as it travels to AT&T Center to take on the San Antonio Spurs on Friday (9:30 p.m. ET). Need a pick? We got ya covered.

Free NBA Pick: Spurs -2Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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San Antonio Spurs (17-8 SU, 13-11 ATS)

Leonard Return Imminent, AT&T Center A Fortress

Spurs fans have waited patiently for their star player Kawhi Leonard to suit up for the first time this season after injuring his right quad in last year’s Western Conference finals. His return is imminent. News reports suggest the Spurs are targeting Saturday night at Phoenix for his debut, but no firm date is in place. Leonard worked out with the team on Thursday, and the Spurs will decide his status following Friday morning’s practice. It’s all but assured the two-time Defensive Player of the Year will sit tonight vs. the Celtics.

It’s not like head coach Gregg Popovich needs Leonard at AT&T Center. Once again, the building is proving a fortress for the Spurs. They are 12-2 SU and 10-4 ATS at home. One has to go back to 2009 to find the last time Popovich suffered 10 losses or more in the building during the regular season. They are an amazing 107-14 SU and 69-47-5 ATS (59.5 percent) hosting Eastern Conference opponents in this span.

The Spurs are just 5-5 SU (5-6 ATS) vs. teams sporting a winning record on the year. The Celtics enter with an NBA-best .846 percentage. You guessed it, the home/away split favors San Antonio. It is 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS at AT&T Center in these games, 1-4 SU and ATS on the road.

Boston Celtics (22-4 SU, 19-6 ATS)

Defense To Offense Shift, Trouble Out West

The Celtics' hot start is predicated on strong team defense. During the course of their 16-game win streak earlier this season, they surrendered 93.6 points per game, allowing just three opponents to reach 100 points. Since the run was snapped in Miami, Boston is yielding 102.6 points per game, five of eight foes scoring over the century mark.

The Celtics are still winning, but with offense moving to the forefront. Over its last five games, Boston ranks as the seventh-most efficient, scoring 113.9 points per 100 possessions. Marcus Smart is hitting 47.8 percent from the floor, after ranking last in the NBA in shooting percentage, and big men Al Horford and Jayson Tatum are 12-for-21 from behind the arc. The difference has been a more inside-out approach to free up better looks from deep.

Head coach Brad Stevens is 0-4 SU all-time at San Antonio, yet 2-1-1 ATS. The Spurs have put up 101 points or more in every contest, going 'over' their projected team total in all but one. Boston, in fact, is just 9-25 SU, but 22-11-1 ATS on the road against winning Western Conference teams under Stevens. It has tipped off six times either favorites or catching less than 5 points on the NBA oddsboard, going 1-5 SU and 2-4 ATS.

The Pick

The Celtics topped the Spurs 108-94 in Boston on Oct. 30. San Antonio’s starters could not have played any worse. Combined, the bunch tallied a -97 +/- rating, scoring just 45 points. Pop learned a lot and the players thoroughly embarrassed. Expect a strong avenge angle at play tonight. San Antonio is 26-2 SU and 16-11-1 ATS in since January 2014 when hosting a regular-season opponent following a road matchup loss earlier in the year. It’s close, but Spurs win 101-97 and cover.

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