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Celtics host Wizards in a battle for the 2nd seed in the East

The Celtics being a home stand by hosting the Washington Wizards. This is a huge game for both teams who clearly don't like each other.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Wizards (42-27) at Boston Celtics (44-26)
Regular Season Game #71, Home Game #33
Monday, March 20, 2017
7:30 PM ET
TV: CSN-NE, Comcast Sportsnet, NBA-LP 757(DTV)/757(Xfinity)
Radio: Sports Hub 98.5, WFED 1500 AM
TD Garden

Referees: Bill Spooner, Nick Buchert, Michael Smith

The Celtics are back home to face the Washington Wizards for the 4th and final meeting this season. This is a huge game for both teams. These two teams are vying for the 2nd seed in the East and currently the Celtics are just 1.5 games ahead of the Wizards. Should the Wizards win this game, they will also win the season series 3-1.

If the Celtics win, chances are good that they would win the tie breaker, which is the record within the Eastern conference. The Celtics are currently 28-13 against Eastern Conference teams. The Wizards are 26-17 against the Eastern conference. So, should the Celtics win and tie the series, they have a very good chance of winning the tie breaker should these two teams finish tied at the end of the season. .

The Wizards won the first meeting 118-93 in the beginning of November in Washington. Kelly Olynyk, Al Horford and Jae Crowder all missed that game. The Celtics scored only 8 points in the first quarter and couldn't overcome that slow start. Otto Porter with 24 points and John Wall with 19 points led the way for the Wizards.

The Celtics won the second game 117-108 in Boston earlier in January. That was a very contentious match that ended in fines for both Jae Crowder and John Wall after a confrontation after the game and the police were stationed between the two locker rooms to fend off any other fights. Afterwards the Wizards also accused the Celtics of playing dirty.

The Wizards showed up for the January 24 meeting all wearing black to signify the Celtics funeral. They backed up their stunt with a 123-108 win at home. The Wizards out played the Celtics, who were without Avery Bradley and Gerald Green. The Celtics shot just 45% from the field and allowed the Wizards to shoot 57.1%. The Celtics also had 32 rebounds to 43 for the Wizards.

With all of that fresh for both teams, this should be an intense matchup. They are once again playing at TD Garden. The Celtics are 23-9 at home while the Wizards are 15-17 on the road and have won 11 of their last 15 games on the road. The Wizards have lost 3 of their last 4 games and are coming off a loss to the Hornets on Saturday. The Celtics are coming off a loss to the 76ers that there is no way they should have lost but they allowed the Sixers to play harder than them.

The Celtics are playing in the second of back to back games. They are 9-6 on the second night of back to back games and 3-3 when the games are road and then home. Isaiah Thomas missed the last two games with a bone bruise on his knee. Sean Grande is reporting that Isaiah will return for the Celtics tonight. Morris and Burke are both game time decisions for the Wizards.

Standings Reset

The Celtics remain in second place, 1.5 games in front of the idle Wizards after their loss to Philly.
They are 3 games in front of the 4th place Raptors after their win over the Pacers and the Celtics loss.
They are 6.5 games in front of idle Atlanta, who are in 5th place.

Games to Watch:
3/20 Atlanta at Charlotte

Probable Starters

Isaiah Thomas...Avery Bradley...Jae Crowder ...Al Horford...Amir Johnson

Celtics Reserves

Jaylen Brown
Gerald Green
Terry Rozier
Jonas Jerebko
Kelly Olynyk
Demetrius Jackson
Jordan Mickey
James Young
Tyler Zeller

Isaiah Thomas (knee) expected to play

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Starters

PG: John Wall
SG: Bradley Beal
SF: Otto Porter
PF: Markieff Morris
C: Marcin Gortat

Wizards Reserves
Bojan Bogdanovic
Brandon Jennings
Ian Mahinmi
Sheldon McClellan
Chris McCullough
Daniel Ochafu
Kelly Oubre Jr
Thomas Satoransky
Jason Smith

Trey Burke (illness) game time decision
Markieff Morris (illness) game time decision

Head Coach
Scott Brooks

Key Matchups
Isaiah Thomas vs John Wall
Wall is averaging 23.0 points, 4.3 rebounds 10.8 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. The Celtics need Isaiah's offense, but he is going to struggle to keep Wall from having a big game. Expect Smart, Bradley, and Brown to help defend Wall when necessary.

Avery Bradley vs Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal is averaging 23.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. Avery will need to play tough defense on Beal who scored 35 in their last meeting, a Wizards win. Limiting Beal and Wall is key to getting a win in this one.

Honorable Mention
Jae Crowder vs Otto Porter
Porter is averaging 14.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. However, in the first meeting between these two teams, which Jae missed, Porter scored a career high 34 points and
14 rebounds. It will be up to Jae to be sure he doesn't have another career game vs the Celtics.

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. Having a lead against the Wizards doesn't mean a lot because the Wizards have already won 14 games in which they trailed by double digits. In other games the Celtics struggle out of the gate and then spend the rest of the game trying to catch up. They need to play well for the entire game and give a consistent effort throughout.

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 at times this season. But, they have shown flashes of the tough gritty defense they played last season and after starting out in the bottom 5 they are now 12th in defensive rating. They need to especially play tough defense in this game as the Wizards average 106.8 ppg and the Celtics need concentrate on getting stops.

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. They allowed the Sixers to play harder than them down the stretch and they can't afford to do that in this game if they want to get a win.

Rebound - In the first meeting between these two teams, a Celtics loss, the Celtics were out-rebounded 54-31 by the Wizards. In the 2nd meeting, a Celtics win, the Celtics out-rebounded the Wizards 45-44. In the third game, a loss, the Celtics were again out-rebounded 43-32. The Celtics have to put out the extra effort to grab rebounds if they want to get a win in this game.

Focus - The Celtics at times can shoot the lights out and other times can't hit the broad side of a barn. Much of that has to be their focus on taking good shots and taking their time with their shots and not rushing them. They need to take care of the ball and focus on making good passes and not give the Wizards extra possessions and fast break points by turning the ball over. They also need to focus on playing the game the right way and taking good shots and crashing the boards.


Home Game and Fatigue - The Celtics are at home and have been playing well at the Garden recently. They should get a boost from the fans and hopefully being at home will help to alleviate any fatigue they feel from playing back to back and traveling from Philly for today's game.

Motivation - The Celtics should be motivated to avenge their last loss where the Wizards showed up all in black and then buried the Celtics with a big loss. They should be motivated by the accusations from the Wizards that the Celtics play dirty. They also have the motivation to hold onto the second seed and this game will go a long way toward keeping it or losing it, depending on how the Celtics play. These two teams may meet at some point in the playoffs and this game could also go a long ways to determine home court in that series.

The Little Guy
- It was good news to see that Isaiah was able to go through the shoot around and walk through and is expected to play in this one. Hopefully he is fully healthy and not suffering from the effects of the knee bruise that kept him out of the past two games.

Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. How the refs call the game has a big influence on how the teams play. Will they let them play or call every little bit of contact? Will they call it evenly or will they favor one team or the other. Will they be influenced by the home crowd? It all effects the outcome of the game and most importantly, the Celtics need to adjust to the way the officials call the game.

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