March 19, 2015

No team is playing the kind of stifling defense the San Antonio Spurs are. The Boston Celtics are quite familiar with it, though their offense has come along nicely since the teams met last month.

Putting points on the board against the Spurs is difficult in any arena but particularly at the AT&T Center, where Boston is tasked with trying to prevent them from notching a 20th consecutive regular-season home victory Saturday night.

San Antonio (16-4) has won eight straight in this series, and no Celtics player has reached 20 points in the past six. Boston (11-8) has been held below 90 points in the last three matchups while shooting a combined 38.8 percent.

That stretch includes the Spurs' 95-87 win at TD Garden on Nov. 1, limiting the Celtics to 6 of 29 from 3-point range.

That's also been a strength during San Antonio's current run of seven wins in eight games, limiting the opposition to 27.0 percent on 3s. The Spurs have allowed 85 points only twice in that span while dropping their season average to 88.5, four better than any other team.

They've been especially dominant in the last two games. One night after a 95-70 home win over Milwaukee, San Antonio rolled to a 103-83 victory in Memphis on Thursday. The Spurs held the Bucks and Grizzlies to 5 of 29 from beyond the arc.

Kawhi Leonard hit a career-best seven 3-pointers in nine attempts Thursday en route to his 27 points. He leads the NBA in 3-point shooting at 50.0 percent (39 of 78).

''I've been confident in it,'' said Leonard, who entered the season a career 36.8 percent shooter from beyond the arc.

Taking a bigger role offensively with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker cutting back their shot attempts, Leonard is averaging a team-leading 21.9 points. His 16.5 average last season was a career high.

''He's been shooting the ball very well this year from the 3-point line,'' Parker said. ''I think his decision-making is improving and he's taking great shots.''

Good shots are hard to find for opponents in San Antonio, where the Spurs allow 83.7 points per game. No team has finished with a lower average at home since 2003-04. The next-lowest mark this season is Miami at 93.1.

The Spurs have won 19 straight at home in the regular season, their longest streak since a 22-game run in 2010-11. Their 10 home victories this season have been by an average of 15.4 points.

Boston's offense was impressive on the road in its last two games, averaging 109.5 points on 47.6 percent shooting in wins over Miami and Sacramento. The Celtics had four players score 20-plus points and tied a season high with 14 3-pointers in Thursday's 114-97 win over the Kings in Mexico City.

''It makes us very hard to guard when everybody's pitching in,'' said Isaiah Thomas, who had 21 points and nine assists.

Boston had 34 assists on its 40 field goals and hands out 24.8 per game, tied with San Antonio for third in the league.

"That's what we want to do. We want to move the ball and find open shots," coach Brad Stevens told the Celtics' official website.

Avery Bradley had 20 points - his average in seven games since rejoining the starting lineup - as Boston won for the fourth time in five games.

Kelly Olynyk scored a season-high 21 off the bench, but the 7-footer has averaged 5.2 points on 9-of-35 shooting in his last five games against the Spurs.

Thomas shot 4 of 18 in last month's matchup. Boston is 7-1 when he hits at least 44.0 percent from the field.

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