Celtics vs. Spurs: X-Factors in Saturday Night's Showdown in San Antonio

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Celtics vs. Spurs: X-Factors in Saturday Night's Showdown in San Antonio
USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics and the San Antonio Spurs are both renowned for building championship rosters around a core of three mighty superstars. 

In 2012-13, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett lead the Celtics, who have lost three straight road games. And Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan anchor the Spurs, who have dropped two in a row.

But on Saturday night inside the AT&T Center, where Doc Rivers' Celtics have won five straight regular season games over the Spurs, it will be a handful of X-factors that decide whether San Antonio or Boston comes away with a skid-ending victory.

Let's take a closer look at three X-factors that fans should be watching for on Saturday night.

 

Jason Terry, Boston Celtics, SG

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The Boston Celtics don't need veteran shooting guard Jason Terry to score a bunch of points in order to win on Saturday night in San Antonio, but they do need the Jet to shoot a high percentage against the Spurs.

In Boston's 12 wins this season, Terry has shot over 51 percent from the field and better than 41 percent from downtown. In the Celtics' 10 losses, Terry has connected on just 37 percent of his shots from the field and fewer than 33 percent of his three-point attempts.

Terry is averaging 11.4 points per game this season, which is the lowest since his rookie year with the Atlanta Hawks.

Still, his field goal percentage is better than last year with Dallas, and he still averages nearly two made three-pointers per night. 

If Terry can shoot somewhere in between 45 and 50 percent from the field on Saturday against the Spurs, then the Celtics could be on their way to a sixth straight win in San Antonio.

 

Gary Neal, San Antonio Spurs, SG

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Gary Neal is for the Spurs what Jason Terry is for the Celtics. When Neal is shooting well from the field, San Antonio is winning basketball games.

Neal is a 49 percent shooter from the field in Spurs' wins this season, but only a 28.6 percent shooter in their losses. His three-point percentage is also much better in San Antonio's victories. What's really interesting, though, is that Neal is just a 26 percent three-point shooter at home in 2012, compared to a 39.3 percent shooter from the beyond the arc on the road.

Much like Terry, however, Neal is averaging 11.6 points per game this season, making him a true X-factor. When Neal's game is firing on all cylinders and he's doing damage as a shooter, the Spurs are always dangerous. 

On Saturday night, fans should watch to see whether he can negate Terry's production on the other end for Boston. 

 

Brandon Bass, Boston Celtics, PF

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The Celtics are the NBA's worst rebounding team once again this season, and that's why power forward Brandon Bass will play a huge role for Boston on Saturday night in Texas. 

Bass may be scoring nine points per game this season, but it's his rebounding that will determine whether or not the C's come away with a much-needed road victory. In home games this year, Bass is averaging just 4.7 rebounds per game, compared to 6.6 per game on the road. 

Doc Rivers will need Bass to reel in at least seven rebounds on Saturday night—the same number he picked up in last Wednesday's win over the Dallas Mavericks—in Beantown if the Celtics are to end their four-game road losing skid. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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