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Celtics look to spread the Christmas joy in showdown with Wizards

Kyrie and Co. look to start a new streak on Christmas night

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Merry Christmas everyone!

For the first time in Celtics history, the team is going to be hosting a Christmas day game. For those of you heading out to the game tonight with your family, have a great time, and don’t forget to be your usual maniac selves.

Anyway, this is kind of a big game, but not really at the same time. No one is going to clinch anything or go to the ECF based on this game like the last time these two played in the Garden. However, this is the only team the Celtics haven’t played that is currently in the Eastern Conference playoff race and with the Raptors and Cavaliers breathing down their necks, all conference games are important. Though their 18-15 record doesn’t necessarily scream scary, John Wall had missed 9 consecutive games, and in the 6 games since he’s been back, the Wizards have actually had a higher net rating than the Celtics. Let’s get into some of the things Boston needs to do to stop the Wizards.

Stopping Beal

Usually, when you talk about Pick and Roll and the Wizards, we’re talking about John Wall. But up to this point, Bradley Beal has become just as big of a threat. In terms of scoring, nobody has been better for the Wizards than Bradley Beal who ranks in the 78th percentile in the league in those situations. The absence of Wall has given Beal a chance to expand his game a bit, and in times when Wall isn’t on the court, Beal can be just as big of a threat as he is as an off-ball shooter.

Boston, up to this point, has had a hard time defending shooters like Beal because the constant movement of those players requires not just the man he’s defending to lock and trail him, but also other players to be aware and ready to switch in the event their man gets hung up by one of the many picks they will be running through. Brown and Smart will most likely get the starting nod on Beal, but this is going to take a team effort to truly make him uncomfortable.

The Transition Game

If this feels like a throwback to last year, that’s because it is. The Wizards rank 4th in the league in transition opportunities and John Wall is the lynchpin for that. What makes the Wizards different from other teams in transition is that Wall has this amazing ability to turn the most unlikely plays into transition opportunities, so it essentially turns into a battle of getting back all the time. On the bright side, the Celtics are 3rd in the league in stopping transition opportunities and have been among the best in the league at quickly getting back. This could be an interesting sub-plot to watch throughout the game.

The Second Unit

The Wizards still run all-bench lineups, but they’ve had some surprising success. The lineup of Jodie Meeks, Ian Mahinmi, Kelly Oubre Jr., Tomas Satoransky, and Mike Scott is the 4th most used lineup and has a 5.3 net rating. Mike Scott, in particular, has been great for the Wizards averaging a career high in points (10.0ppg), 3pt percentage (43.5%), and field goal percentage (58.8%). Celtics will have a little balancing test to deal with. The once dominant Wizards starting 5 from last year actually has a negative net rating (-1.8), doesn’t rebound well (73.1 DRR%), and hasn’t shot particularly well (56.4 TS%). Boston could gamble by matching up their starters and hoping a full 2nd unit lineup can hold their own, or mix and match their rosters to try and keep up consistent production. Recently, the team has had Irving running with the second unit, and with the Wizards either not having a traditional lead guard or playing Tim Frazier to lead the second unit, there could be some added value in continuing to stagger lineups.

Hit the open looks

And on the final note, the team has to hit shots. Since the Brad Stevens era, Boston has been great at generating open looks on the type of shots that you want, the three-ball. Role players usually play better at home, and the team’s ability to execute on the looks they will generate will directly correlate to how the evening goes. The kids have to execute.

With all that being said, Merry Christmas again! And don’t forget the game starts 5:30 pm Eastern Time on ABC and the usual NBC channel. I’m sure Tommy will be in rare form tonight!