The Celtics look to close out their preseason slate in the same way it began, with a win over the Charlotte Hornets. The Celtics got a 94-82 win at the TD Garden on opening night and now they look to close it out at the Spectrum Center. This is the Celtics final preseason game while the Hornets have one more on Friday the 13th against the Mavericks.
Marcus Morris has yet to suit up and play for the Celtics this preseason but he is expected to get his first playing time in this game. It has been reported that Morris is expected to be the starting power forward next to Horford for the regular season and it's possible Morris might join the starting five for this game. However, Marc D'Amico is reporting that Morris has not yet played alongside Horford in practice and so expects Jayson Tatum to once again start at the four.
Aron Baynes, who started 2 of the 3 games so far this preseason, left Monday's game against the Sixers with a hyperextended knee and will miss this game. Daniel Theis will also be out with a thigh injury. It's unfortunate that both of these players will miss this game since both played very well in the first game against the Hornets with Baynes scoring 10 points while defending Dwight Howard and Theis leading the team with 12 points and 7 rebounds.
The Hornets are dealing with several injuries, the most serious one is a torn ligament in Nicolas Batum's elbow. Batum is Charlotte's starting shooting guard and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. Jeremy Lamb left Monday's game with a sore groin and will miss this game. Julyan Stone is also day to day with a sore hamstring.
Treveon Graham is expected to miss this game with a hamstring injury. Michael Carter Williams has not been cleared for contact with soreness in both knees and will miss this game. Kemba Walker left Monday's game after being hit in the cheek but so far, is expected to play in this game. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is out due to a personal matter.
This is the final preseason game for the Celtics and, according to Brian Scalabrine on Twitter, it is expected to be a dress rehearsal of sorts for the team. The starters are expected to play at least 3 quarters. Marcus Morris is expected to play 10-12 minutes in his first action with the team. Hopefully they can build some more chemistry and avoid any more injuries.
Boston Celtics Probable Starters
Aron Baynes (knee) out
Daniel Theis (thigh) out
Michael Carter Williams (knees) out
Julyan Stone (hamstring) game time decision
Treveon Graham (hamstring) out
Jeremy Lamb (groin) out
Nicolas Batum (elbow) out
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (personal) out
Kyrie Irving vs Kemba Walker
Assuming that both Kemba and Kyrie play in this game, this should be a good matchup. The Celtics need to take this last opportunity to build chemistry and work on teamwork. In their first meeting, Kyrie finished with 9 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals while Kemba had 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Gordon Hayward vs Marvin Williams
Gordon Hayward hasn't seemed to be completely comfortable with his place in the Celtics offense. With Kidd-Gilchrist out, Hayward will likely be matched up with Williams who started the last game at small forward when Kidd-Gilchrist was out. Hayward needs to play well and get more comfortable with his role in the offense while developing chemistry with the other starters.
Al Horford vs Dwight Howard
With Aron Baynes sidelined with a knee injury, it will be up to Al to slow down Howard. In the first game between these two teams, Howard had 7 points, 10 rebounds 3 blocks and 6 turnovers. If Al can hound him on defense, he can possibly force him to turn the ball over and struggle in this game.
Keys to the Game:
Defense - Defense is the key to winning every game, whether the preseason or the regular season or the playoffs. The Celtics defense has been pretty good so far but there is also room for improvement. This is their final preseason chance to show that they will be a top defensive team this season.
Chemistry - The Celtics have built some chemistry in the 3 games so far this preseason but still have a ways to go. Their ball movement has been good and they have taken care of the ball. They are averaging just 14 turnovers, the 3rd fewest in the preseason. They are also averaging 21.7 assists on 36 made baskets. This is their final run through and hopefully their chemistry will continue to build in this one.
Rebound - The Celtics struggled with rebounding last season and hopefully this team will be better at crashing the boards. So far so good in the preseason. The Celtics are averaging 49.7 rebounds, good for 3rd most in the league. The Celtics can't score without the ball and so they need to continue to stress the need to rebound.
Avoid Injuries - This is pretty much self explanatory. We have seen some significant injuries to teams in the preseason. The Celtics need to finish the preseason without any major injuries. Just don't get hurt!!
Depth- With two centers out for this game, the Celtics' frontcourt depth will be tested in this game, especially against a physical center like Dwight Howard.