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Preview Game 79: Where Boston Will Try To Pretend To Care..But So Will Washington

Washington Wizards (21-57, 3-36 away) @ Boston Celtics (54-24, 31-8 home)
Time: 7:30 PM EST, April 8th, 2011
Venue: TD Garden, Boston
Officals: Tom Washington, Josh Tiven, Leon Wood (full ref report)
The Line: This is the 3rd of 4 matchups between the two teams this season,
both teams have won 1 game out of the previous 2.
The Countdowninator: 4 regular season thingys left.

Game Thread | Chat Room

Let's not mince words here. Nobody has any idea what is going to happen tonight. On paper this should be a lay-up for the Celtics. On paper the Celtics are more talented, more experience, and have more at stake tonight.

But games aren't played on paper. They're played on laquered hardwood floors, and in this case, floors sitting on ice. There are viables here, some of them relatively new, some old.

The biggest variable is what I would now hesitantly call an old friend (what else do you call something that is constantly around that you can't seem to get rid of? In laws?). Its the worry that the Celtics will be tired because it is a game that is the back have of a back to back series, with a plane ride in between. The Celtics have not fared well under these circumstances.

The another big variable is that the Celtics just *might* have given up on this regular season. Nobody is really saying anything positive after last night's loss. Its mostly just 'we played terrible, we gotta play better' stuff, and it rings of fatigue. These guys aren't rookies fresh out of college that wear wins and losses on their sleeves, and much as it might pain us to admit now, they probably understand that in the grand scheme of things (or in just over a week), tonight's game means diddly.The Wizards on the other hand are packed full of young athletic players who like to 'prove' that they belong in the league, so if the Celtics come out flat, be assured that the Wizards will not.

The last variable is the most unpredictable. Tonight's game ought to mean something to the Celtics. They need wins to stay ahead of Miami, and hopefully pass LA for home-court advantage in any possible playoff match-up. They need some fire heading into the playoffs. They should need to feel like they need to make amends for last night's atrocity. They need to call Stella, and get their groove back.

But that's a big reason why this is unpredictable, because I'm not in that lockerroom, and I have no idea what these guys are thinking. I'd like to think they can muster enough outrage to make the Wizards look like the bush league team they are, but I think as far as regular season games go, it might be 'half-empty' time. Save your optimism for games that matter.

Probable starting lineups, team connections, and key matchups courtesy of CelticsBlog record holder for "Most Belove-ed", FLCeltsFan

Probable Starters
Rajon Rondo...Ray Allen...Paul Pierce...Kevin Garnett... Jermaine O'Neal

Boston Bench Mob
Glen Davis
Jeff Green
Delonte West
Nenad Krstic
Sasha Pavlovic
Carlos Arroyo
Troy Murphy
Von Wafer
Avery Bradley

Shaquille O'Neal (calf/old age) out

Probable Starters
John Wall...Jordan Crawford...Maurice Evans...Andre Blatche...JaVale McGee

Wizards Bench

Kevin Seraphin
Yi Jianlian
Othyus Jeffers
Mustafa Shakur
Larry Owens

Josh Howard (knee) out
Hamady N'Diaye (knee) out
Nick Young (knee) out
Trevor Booker (foot) out
Rashard Lewis (knee) out

Team Connections
Wizards Assistant Coach Sam Cassell played for the Celtics during the 2007‐08 season and was a member of the 2008 NBA Championship team
Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen were teammates in Seattle from 2003‐07
Kevin Garnett played for Wizards Head Coach Flip Saunders in Minnesota from 1995‐2005
He also played for Wizards Assitant Coach Randy Wittman in
Minnesota in 2007
Garnett and Cassell were teammates in Minnesota from 2003‐05
John Wall and Rajon Rondo both attended the University of Kentucky
Avery Bradley and Maurice Evans both attended the University of Texas
Von Wafer and Cassell were teammates on the Clippers during the 2006‐07 season
Carlos Arroyo and Maurice Evans were teammates on two separate
occasions (Detroit 2005‐06 and Orlando 2007‐08)
Arroyo and Rashard Lewis were teammates in Orlando during the 2007‐08 season.

Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs John Wall
After being completely out-played by Derrick Rose in last night's game, Rondo should come into this game ready to have a much better game and ready to make a statement against Wall. In the last game, Wall banked a 3 off the glass to put the Wizards ahead for the win. Wall has been playing very well and has averaged 18.6 points, 7.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds since the all star game. Rondo needs to be aggressive and set the pace. As Rondo goes so go the Celtics.

Jermaine O'Neal vs Javale McGee
In the last game between these two teams McGee had 16 points and 6 rebounds against Semih Erden. The Celtics will need more out of O'Neal than they got vs the Bulls where he scored 5 points and had ZERO rebounds and very little defense. The Celtics need JO to step up and be more of a force on both ends of the court.

Honorable Mention
Kevin Garnett vs Andray Blatche
Kevin Garnett has played well, even as the Celtics have struggled as a team. Blatche has averaged 27.5 points and 14 rebounds in his last 4 games and so KG is going to have to play him tough in this game to keep him from putting up big numbers.

Keys to the Game
Focus Focus seems to be the biggest problem for this team when they play sub-.500 teams (and maybe even when they play the top teams). They lose focus and allow teams that they should beat easily to stay in the game and gain confidence and that will sometimes come back to bite them. That happened in the last meeting between these two teams. They must come out focused and stay focused until the final buzzer.

Rebound The Celtics must crash the boards and keep the Wizards from getting second chance points, fast break opportunities and extra possessions. They were out rebounded by the Bulls last night and they were also out rebounded by the Wizards in their loss to them in their last meeting. As I have said before, when the Celtics put out the effort necessary to win the battle of the boards, that effort seems to pick up every area of their game as well.

Defense always wins games and it will win the championship as well. The Celtics have to make defense their priority and shut down the paint as well as staying on their outside shooters. Against the Bulls, we saw very little effort on defense and allowed way too many open and easy shots. When the Celtics clamp down on defense the rest of their game picks up.

Be Aggressive The Celtics need to play aggressively. They need to take the ball to the hoop and try to get to the line early and often. They also have to go for every loose ball and battle for all the rebounds. They can't afford to play passively like they did against the Bulls, even vs a lowly team like the Wizards.

Move the Ball When the Celtics move the ball and rack up assists they are very hard to beat. When the ball sticks and they try to do too much individually and forget the team game, that's when they are vulnerable. They had just 14 assists against the Bulls and that is not acceptable. They have to stick with what works and that is making the extra pass, finding the open man and not playing hero ball which we have seen all too much this season.

Official Report
Tom Washington
Washington has officiated over 855+ regular season games and 55+ play-off games. The Celtics are 6-0 this season and 9-1 over their last 10 games with Washington calling the game. At least 2 of the games were poorly officiated. In the home game vs the Suns the officiating was bad both ways which elicited a pretty strong rant from Tommy. In the Hornets game, the officiating was also very poor and Washington ignored the Hornets attempts to intentionally foul both Pierce and Allen at the end of the game. The Wizards 1-3 this season and are 4-6 in their last 10 with Washington as a ref. His home W/L record this season is 34-30.

Josh Tiven
This is Tiven's first full season as an NBA Referee. He was part of a group of NBDL refs last season who officiated several games as part of an initiative aimed at preparing top prospects to move up. He also spent time calling games in the WNBA and college before moving to the NBDL. The Celtics are 2-2 so far this seaaon with Tiven as an official. One loss was the Celtics 108-102 loss to the Rockets at the Garden. The second loss was in Houston where Tiven and crew were so bad that they actually caused Tommy to swear on the air over their falling for flops. The Celtics are also 3-3 in their 6 games with Tiven. The Wizards are 1-2 in their games with Tiven, all this season. His home W/L record this season is 35-21.

Leon Wood
Osie Leon Wood, III has officiated 600+ regular season games and 3 play-off games. Prior to becoming an NBA referee, Wood was a shooting guard in the NBA. He was chosen 10th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1st round of the 1984 draft. During his career, he played for the 76ers, Bullets, Nets, Spurs, Hawks and Kings. He played in 274 games in his career and won a gold medal as a member of the 1984 US Olympic basketball team. When not officiating, Wood helps train younger officials. You would think that being a former player, Wood would try to be fair but he has been a mediocre ref at best. The Celtics are 5-0 this season and 9-1 over their last 10 games with Wood officiating. One game with Wood was at Utah where the Jazz shot 12 more free throws than the Celtics. The officiating was terrible both ways though. Another game with Wood was against the Bucks where they let them play and showed no bias toward either team. The Wizards are 1-2 this season and 3-7 over their last 10 games called by Wood. His home W/L record this season is 33-34.

Back to Back and Effort
The Celtics are playing in yet another back to back set. The Celtics are 7-10 in the second of back to back games but they are 4-0 in the second of back to back games when they play the first on the road and the second at home. To continue that trend, the Celtics are going to have to put out more effort than they have in the past against sub .500 teams.

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