Boston Celtics (15-13) at Charlotte Hornets (15-12)
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
7:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #29 Road Game #14
TV: CSN-NE, FSSE, NBA-LP 750(DTV)/751(XFinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, WFNZ 610 AM
Time Warner Cable Arena
Referees: Monty McCutchen, Courtney Kirkland, Eli Roe
The Celtics visit the Charlotte Hornets for the second of 3 games this season. The Celtics won their first meeting in Charlotte on December 12. Both teams were playing in back to back games, with the Celtics coming off a tough double overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors. They will meet one more time in Boston on April 11.
The Celtics are looking for their fourth straight victory over the Hornets. Both teams have struggled since their first meeting. The Celtics lost 3 in a row after their win over the Hornets before getting the win on Monday vs the Wolves. After losing to the Celtics, the Hornets lost 3 of 4 also.
Both teams are 5-5 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 7-6 on the road while the Hornets are 11-4 at home, with one of those 4 losses to the Celtics. The Celtics are looking for their second straight win after beating the Wolves on Monday. The Hornets are looking to get back on track after a road loss to the Rockets on Monday.
Amir Johnson (plantar fasciitis) and Jared Sullinger (back) both missed Monday's game against the Wolves. Amir is expected to miss this game as well and Sully is listed as probable as of now. If they can't go, David Lee and/or Kelly Olynyk will probably get the start once again. Marcus Smart traveled with the team to Charlotte but will once again be out with the leg injury that has sidelined him since November 20.
Former Celtic, Al Jefferson will miss the 5th game of his 5 game suspension for drug use in this game. He missed the first game between these two teams as the first game of his suspension. He is expected to return to the Hornets for Saturday's game vs the Grizzlies. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will also be out with a shoulder injury.
PG SG SF PF C
Isaiah Thomas.....Avery Bradley....Jae Crowder....David Lee....Kelly Olynyk
Marcus Smart (leg) out
Amir Johnson (plantar fasciitis) out
Jared Sullinger (back) probable
PG SG SF PF C
Kemba Walker....Nicolas Batum....PJ Hairston....Marvin Williams....Cody Zeller
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (shoulder) out
Al Jefferson (suspended) out
Isaiah Thomas vs Kemba Walker
Walker is averaging 18.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 1.7 steals per game and is playing as well as just about any point guard in the league. The Celtics may slide Avery Bradley over to defend Walker who may give Isaiah problems. In their first meeting Walker scored 16 points on 5-15 shooting to go with 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
Avery Bradley vs Nicolas Batum
Batum has also been playing very well and is averaging 16.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.2 steals a game. He scored 21 points on 9-21 shooting with 8 rebounds and 2 assists in the first game between these two teams. If Avery guards Walker then Jae Crowder may shift to cover Batum.
Tyler Zeller vs Cody Zeller
It's not every day that brothers square off in the NBA. Although Cody is starting and Tyler will probably come off the bench, it's worth watching the matchup between these two. Tyler has been getting more minutes recently and has also been making the most of them.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to getting a win. The Celtics have to get stops, especially down the stretch. The Hornets average 102.4 points per game and they allow just 99.1 points per game. The Celtics will need to work hard on defense if they want to get the win. They have to play as a team and trust each other on defense and have each others' backs.
Rebound - The Celtics can't run and they can't score if they don't have the ball. They must crash the boards as a team and put out the extra effort it takes to get the rebounds. Charlotte surrenders the fewest offensive rebounds per game at 8.5 per game. Much of rebounding is effort and the Celtics must put out more effort than the Hornets on the boards if they want to win this game.
Be Aggressive - When the Celtics are aggressive going after loose balls, crashing the boards, defending and taking the ball hard to the hoop, they are very tough to beat. They have to be the more aggressive team and they have to be the team that plays harder.
Move the Ball - The Celtics must move the ball and find the open man. They struggle to score when the ball stops moving. In the 3 losses before the win over the Wolves, the Celtics had 18,17, and 19 assists. In the win on Monday, they had 34 assists on 46 made baskets in the win on Monday. It's not a coincidence that they win when their assist total is higher.
Limit Turnovers - At the same time, they have to limit turnovers. They give away way too many points by making careless passes and by losing focus. The Celtics have to take care of the ball and limit their turnovers to keep the Hornets from getting fast break and easy points.
Revenge Factor - The Hornets will still have a fresh memory of their home loss to the Celtics earlier this month. Their desire to avenge that loss will give them extra motivation and the Celtics need to be ready for it.
Officiating - The officiating is always an x-factor in every game. Will the refs let them play or will they call every little bit of contact. Will they call it evenly or will they favor one team or the other. The Celtics need to adapt to the way the game is called and not let the refs take them out of the game.
Monty McCutchen has officiated 1,310 regular season, 124 playoff, and 12 Finals games. He worked the 2007 NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas and was a member of the crews that officiated the 1996 and 1997 Mexico Challenges, as well as the 1998 Schick Rookie Game. Prior to joining the NBA, McCutchen spent four seasons in the CBA, where he worked the All
Star game his second year and the playoffs all four years. He also officiated the CBA Finals the last three years he was with the league. McCutchen missed the 1998-99 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
He is a former elementary and middle school teacher and is fondly remembered by his students as a really nice guy. In searching for information on him, I found a Cavs' blog that blamed a loss to the Celtics on the officiating of Monty McCutchen. That was the game where Mike Brown was ejected and the Cavs made a furious comeback but fell short. In game 2 of the WCF, McCutchen flipped out on someone and yelled "I'm running this game not you!" as Serge Ibaka went to the line for free throws.
Most of his games with the Celtics have been well officiated but there have been a few head scratching calls as well. He was the lead ref in one of the worst officiated games I've watched in a long time. In the LA Lakers vs Golden State Warriors a couple years back, the Lakers shot 50 free throws to 16 for the Warriors in a 2 point LA win. It was a key game for the Lakers playoff hopes and the referees literally gave them the game.
One play in particular stands out to me. In the final minutes with the game tied, Stephen Curry was called for an offensive foul on Dwight Howard, when it was clearly a foul on Howard. The worst part is that they put Steve Blake, a very good free throw shooter, on the line instead of Dwight, even though Blake wasn't involved in the play. It truly was a travesty and the announcers at the time were completely disgusted with it. It just proves that when they have an agenda, they will go to extreme lengths to accomplish it.
Maybe he felt like he owed the Warriors one because he called the Celtics game against the Warriors this season and it was definitely called in favor of the Warriors. They gave the Warriors break after break and had Tommy sputtering and yelling the entire game. Evan Turner said after the game that the officiating was a big reason the Celtics lost. Even Warriors fans were talking about all the calls going their way. When Draymond Green committed his 6th foul, they gave it to Stephen Curry, who wasn't even involved in the play. Green was able to play the 4th quarter and both OT's with 5 fouls. Avery Bradley, who was having considerable success guarding Curry fouled out on a couple of questionable calls. The Warriors shot 39 free throws to just 16 for the Celtics
So, I guess the bottom line is that McCutchen can be very good, but he also can be very bad. The Celtics are 0-1 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with McCutchen on the court. The Hornets are 1-0 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with McCutchen. He calls an average of 40.4 fouls per game with 50% called on the home team. He is a homer ref with a home W/L record this season of 18-4.
Over the past 15 seasons, Courtney Kirkland has officiated 911 regular season games and 7 playoff games. He also officiated two seasons in the WNBA, including the 2000 WNBA Finals and the 1999 Conference Finals. Kirkland also officiated the 2010 and 2011 Venezuelan LPB basketball championships. Prior to joining the NBA, Kirkland worked three seasons in the CBA where he officiated the 1999 and 2000 CBA Finals as well as the 2000 CBA All-Star Game. He was a high school official for four years as a member of the Baton Rouge (La.) Basketball Officials Association and was named Rookie Official of the Year in 1994.
Kirkland earned some measure of notoriety when he jumped in to block a Kris Humphries free throw in a Nets game two seasons ago. Last season in a game vs the Grizzlies, there were quite a few terrible calls. One of the worst was when the ball hit the rim and the Celtics tipped it in and they called a 24 second violation without checking on the monitors in spite of pleas by every Celtic to do so. There were a lot of head scratching calls and non-calls in that game. In the win over the Pacers last season the free throw differential wasn't bad with 18 for the Celtics and 23 for the Pacers, but there were quite a few head scratching calls prompting "That's terrible!!" from Tommy several times.
Then, in a game vs the Pistons last season, the Celtics shot 34 free throws to 10 for the Pistons and the Celtics got the benefit of many of the questionable calls. The Celtics are 0-2 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games that Kirkland officiated. He can be good or bad depending on the game. The Hornets are 1-1 this season and 8-2 in their last 10 games with Kirkland. Kirkland calls an average of 39.6 fouls per game and 54.1% are called on the road team. His home W/L record this season is 12-9.
Eli Roe has officiated 558 regular season games during his first 10 NBA seasons. Prior to joining the NBA staff, Roe officiated in the CBA, NBA Development League and WNBA. He officiated in the NBA D-League Finals for two years, the D-League playoffs for four years and the WNBA Playoffs for two years. At the collegiate level, Roe refereed in the SEC, ASUN and OVC conferences and numerous Division II and III, NAIA and Juco league games. He also worked in four Division I postseason conference tournaments.
Roe tends to be inconsistent in his calls and can make the calls favor one team over another on any given night. He is also inconsistent with block/charge calls. In Roe's final game with the Celtics 2 seasons ago, a win over the Clippers, Roe made so many bad calls that Tommy yelled "Eli! I hate Eli! I hate him!" He's been decent in the Celtics games he's called recently, however. The games with Roe last season were well officiated. In the games this season, they let both teams play and didn't favor either team. The Celtics are 3-0 this season and 9-1 in their last 10 games with Roe. The Hornets are 0-2 this season and 3-7 in their last 10 games with Roe. Roe's home W/L record this season is 12-7.