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Celtics look to get back on track as they go for a sweep of the Hornets

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The Celtics will try to bounce back from 2 straight losses as they visit the Charlotte Hornets and look to get a series sweep against them.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

at
Boston Celtics (50-29) at Charlotte Hornets (36-43)
Saturday, April 8, 2017
6:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #80, Road Game #41
TV: CSN-NE, Fox Sports SE, NBA-LP (DTV750, xfinity751)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, WFNZ 610 AM
Spectrum Center

Referees: Scott Foster, Steve Anderson, Rodney Mott

The Celtics will try to bounce back from 2 straight losses as they visit the Charlotte Hornets for the 4th and final meeting this season. The Celtics are 3-0 this season against the Hornets, winning 108-98 on 1/16 in Boston, 96-88 on 12/16 in Boston, and 104-98 on 10/29 in Charlotte. The Celtics won the series 2-1 last season with the Celtics winning twice in Charlotte and the Hornets returning the favor and winning in Boston.

In the preseason, the Celtics won both meetings between these two teams. Charlotte was missing Frank Kaminsky for both preseason games but were pretty much at full strength for their home opener. Kemba Walker was out for the second regular season meeting. The Celtics were without both Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart for the first 3 meetings. Both teams were pretty much at full strength for the January game.

Both teams are looking to break a 2 game losing streak. Both teams are 6-4 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 22-18 on the road while the Hornets are 22-18 at home. The Hornets are 11th in the East and are 3 games out of playoff contention with just 2 games left to play. The Celtics played the Hornets in their home opener and now the Celtics are playing them in their final home game of the season.

Jae Crowder has been playing with a swollen and bruised elbow. He will probably continue to play through the injury. Tyler Zeller has missed the last two games for the birth of his child but will be back with the team for this game. Amir Johnson and James Young have caught the bug that has been going through the team and will be out for this game. Kelly Olynyk is expected to start in Amir's place. For the Hornets, Marco Belinelli (finger) is listed as questionable, Ramon Sessions (knee) is a game time decision, and Johnny O'Bryant (ankle) is listed as out.

Standings Reset
On Friday, the Hawks (with all 5 starters sitting) beat the Cavaliers in Cleveland. That keeps the Cavs 1 game up on the Celtics for the 1st seed. The Raptors (with Kyle Lowry back) beat Miami to pull within 1.5 games of the Celtics for 2nd place and for the Atlantic division crown. Washington is 2 games back in 4th. Atlanta is 9 games back in 5th. Miami has dropped to 9th, 1 game out of playoff contention. If the playoffs started today, the Celtics would face the Bulls.
Games to Watch - 4/8 Miami at Washington
4/9 Toronto at New York Knicks, Cleveland at Atlanta



Probable Starters

PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Jae Crowder
PF: Kelly Olynyk
C: Al Horford

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


Injuries

Jae Crowder (elbow) probable
Amir Johnson (illness) out
James Young (illness) out

Head Coach: Brad Stevens


Probable Starters

PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Nicolas Batum
SF: Michael Kidd Gilchrist
PF: Marvin Williams
C: Cody Zeller

Probable Reserves
Christian Wood
Treveon Graham
Frank Kaminsky
Brian Roberts
Miles Plumlee
Briante Weber

Injuries
Marco Belinelli (finger) questionable
Johnny O’Bryant (ankle) out
Ramon Sessions (knee) game time decision

Head Coach
Steve Clifford

Key Matchups
vs
Isaiah Thomas vs Kemba Walker
Walker is averaging 23.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 5.5 assists. In the first meeting between these two teams, Isaiah had 24 points and Walker had 29 points. Walker missed the second meeting and Isaiah scored 26. In the third meeting, Kemba led the Hornets with 24 points while Isaiah put up 35 points. This should be a fun matchup to watch.

vs
Avery Bradley vs Nicolas Batum
Batum is averaging 15.2points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists and is the Hornets second leading scorer behind Kemba Walker. In the 2nd meeting between these teams, Batum stepped up with 25 points and 10 rebounds. He is capable of putting up big numbers if not defended well.

Honorable Mention

Kelly Olynyk vs Frank Kaminsky
This is a fun matchup between two gangly 7 foot tall back up centers. Kaminsky is averaging 11.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists off the bench. Kelly is averaging 9.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists. Both players are capable of having a big game. Should be another fun matchup to watch.

Keys to the Game
Defense!!!
- Defense wins games but the Celtics haven't consistently played the in your face lock down defense that we saw from them last season. They have too many very good defensive players for them to allow teams to have high scoring games on them. They have to play better team defense and communicate better than they have been lately.

Rebound - You have to have the ball in order to score and you are going to struggle if you allow the opponent to beat you on the boards. The Hornets average 43.7 rebounds to 41.8 rebounds per game for the Celtics. In the last meeting between these two teams, the Celtics out rebounded the Hornets 44-42. The Celtics simply must fight harder to win the battle of the boards.

Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team. They have to play harder and fight for loose balls and rebounds and play harder on defense. They must be the team that wants it more! They are coming off of 2 games in which they allowed their opponents to play harder and give more effort than them. They need to get back to being that scrappy team that plays hard and scraps for every possession.

Play Hard for 48 Minutes - The Celtics can't let up and allow a big lead to disappear as they have so often this season. They also can't come out flat like they also have at times this season, especially against the Cavs and the Hawks in the past two games. They have to play hard from the opening tip to the final buzzer. They can't let the Hornets record or the fact that they have won the first 3 games to influence the fact that they must give it their best effort from start to finish.

Focus and Mindset - The Celtics have not been focused in the past two losses. They missed open shots and they missed free throws. They were careless in dribbling and made bad passes and turned the ball over. All of those things indicate that they just weren't focused. The Hornets have been playing better recently than their record might suggest. The Celtics must come out focused and play their best right from start to finish and not underestimate this team whatsoever.

X-Factors
Celtic Pride - The Celtics have lost two games due to a disappointing effort on their part. They finally started to play Celtics basketball at the end of the game vs the Hawks but the hole that they had dug was too deep. They are on the verge of losing the 2nd seed and the Atlantic Division if they don't right the ship and start playing with some effort.

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.