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Celtics look to bounce back as they visit the talented but struggling Wizards

The Celtics pay a visit to the struggling Wizards with both teams looking to get back on track.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics (3-3) at Wizards (1-5)
Regular Season Game #7, Road Game #4
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
7:00 PM ET
TV: CSN-NE, Comcast Sportsnet, NBA-LP 750(DTV)/751(Xfinity)
Radio: Sports Hub 98.5, WFED 1500 AM
Verizon Center

Referees: Zach Zarba, Brian Forte, Justin VanDuyne

The Celtics visit the Wizards for the first of 4 matches between these two teams this season. The Celtics have swept the Wizards in 3 of the last 5 seasons, including a 4-0 sweep last season, winning 3 of the games by more than 20 points. They will meet next at the TD Garden on January 11.

Neither team has gotten off to the start that they had hoped for. The Celtics were expected to have one of the best defenses in the league this season and have started out allowing 111.8 points per game. The Wizards have also struggled with their defense allowing at least 112 points in 4 of their 6 games this season so far.

The Celtics were embarrassed at home by the Nuggets on Sunday and Brad Stevens called them soft after that game. The players were not happy with their performance in that game and have vowed to play better defense and be tougher in this one. The Wizards starters have played well and they have gotten off to good starts but their bench has struggled and they have struggled to close out games.

Both coaches have mentioned that changing the rotation may be coming if their struggles continue. To the Celtics credit, they have not played even one game with the entire team on the court. Marcus Smart missed the first 3 games and when he came back, Al Horford and Jae Crowder went out. All 3 players have a key role in the Celtics defense.

Kelly Olynyk has also missed all 6 of the Celtics games so far. Word is that he is expected to play tonight, which should give the Celtics depleted frontcourt a boost. Al Horford is still struggling with symptoms from the concussion he suffered over a week ago. Jae Crowder is still working to rehab his sprained ankle. Neither player made the trip to Washington. For the Wizards, Ian Mahinmi is out with a knee injury.

Probable Starters

PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Amir Johnson
C: Tyler Zeller

Celtics Reserves
Marcus Smart
Gerald Green
Demetrius Jackson
Jordan Mickey
Terry Rozier
James Young
Jonas Jerebko

Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) questionable
Al Horford (concussion) out
Jae Crowder (ankle) out

Head Coach

Brad Stevens

Probable Starters

PG: John Wall
SG: Bradley Beal
SF: Otto Porter
PF: Jared Dudley
C: Marcin Gortat

Wizards Reserves
Trey Burke
Danuel House Jr
Sheldon McClellan
Andrew Nicholson
Daniel Ochafu
Thomas Satoransky
Jason Smith
Marcus Thornton

Ian Mahinmi (knee) out

Head Coach
Scott Brooks

Key Matchups
Isaiah Thomas vs John Wall
Wall is averaging 19.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 10.2 assists. The Celtics need Isaiah's offense, but he is going to struggle to keep Wall from having a big game. Expect to see Bradley or Smart on Wall if he starts to have a big game.

Avery Bradley vs Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal is averaging 17.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 0.6 steals per game. The Celtics need to find their defensive intensity, especially in keeping the Wizards talented back court from burying them.

Honorable Mention
Tyler Zeller vs Marcin Gortat
Gortat always seems to play well against the Celtics. He is averaging 13.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. He is strong and can alter shots around the basket. He can also get rebounds and putbacks if not boxed out.

Keys to the Game
Play Strong for 48 Minutes - In some games the Celtics start strong but then struggle to make shots and turn the ball over allowing the other team to get a lead. In other games they struggle out of the gate and then spend the rest of the game trying to catch up. They need to give a consistent effort for the entire game.

Defense - The Celtics need to make defense a priority. Defense wins games. They especially need to contain the Wizards' talented back court. They have struggled with their defense so far and some may have to do with the injuries to Smart and then Crowder and Horford. But, they have to come together as a team and figure it out because until they do, they will continue to struggle.

Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team from start to finish. They need to be aggressive in going to the hoop, in crashing the boards, in fighting for loose balls and in running the court. They also have to be more aggressive on defense. They have to be the team that wants it more. After the Denver loss, Brad Stevens called them soft. They made toughness their identity last season and they have to get back to that identity.

Play as a Team - The Celtics need to play team ball. They have to move the ball and find the open man. When they lapse into hero ball where each player tries to make the home run play, they usually struggle. They play the best when they are moving the ball and racking up assists and playing as a team.

Rebound - The Celtics have struggled on the boards so far this season and they have to solve that problem The Wizards are averaging 42.7 rebounds to 40.3 for the Celtics. With Gortat in the middle, the Wizards have an advantage on the boards. The Celtics have to put out the extra effort to grab rebounds if they want to get a win in this game.

Kelly's Debut - Can Kelly Olynyk's debut, after missing training camp and the first six games, be enough to give the Celtics a boost?

Underachievement - Both teams were expected to do better this season, especially on the defensive end and both teams have failed to meet expectations. .Both teams have also been embarrassed in their last game. Will this trend continue or will one or both teams stop underachieving and finally put it together to play like they are capable of playing?

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