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Celtics look for 7th straight playoff win as the series shifts to DC

The series shifts to Washington with the Celtics leading 2-0 and looking to be the first team between them to win a game on the road this season. .

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics (2-0) at Wizards (0-2)
Playoff Game #9, Road Game #4
Thursday May 4, 2017
8:00 PM ET
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, WFED 1500 AM
Verizon Center
Referees: Monty McCutchen, Tony Brown, James Capers

The series shifts to Washington with the Celtics leading 2-0. In the regular season, both teams won on their games on their home court, including the infamous funeral game by the Wizards in DC. The Wizards were 30-11 at home during the regular season. The Celtics were 23-18 on the road during the regular season. The Celtics won 3 games on the road in the first round against the Bulls. The Wizards won three games at home in the first round.

The Wizards are 5-2 in their last 7 home games against the Celtics, including 2-0 against the Celtics in this year's regular season. However, the Celtics were missing key players in each of their regular season games against the Wizards while the Wizards were pretty much at full strength. Both teams have a few bumps and bruises coming into this game but core players are all expected to play.

Things have gotten chippy in the series already and may be about to get even more so. Game 2 started with Markieff/Marcus Morris throwing Al Horford out of bounds with no call from the ref standing right there. He also threw a vicious elbow at Isaiah's head that didn't connect but would have caused damage if it had. Now, Morris is calling for the Wizards to be more physical with the Celtics which should add to the chippy nature of the game. They are also following in Fred Hoiberg's footsteps in complaining about IT committing lane violations on every free throw.

Avery Bradley left Game 2 with a hip pointer but returned to finish the game. He was limited in practice but is expected to play in game 3. Brad Stevens went back to Amir Johnson in the starting lineup for Game 2, however after another slow start, he quickly replaced him. With Stevens seeing the need to get off to a better start, he is once again turning to Gerald Green to join the starting lineup.

Markieff Morris started game 2 in spite of a badly sprained ankle in game 1. There has been much speculation that Markieff's identical (right down to identical tattoos)twin, Marcus, may have played in place of his injured brother but I'll just leave that there. Jason Smith has been dealing with a calf injury. Otto Porter landed on his elbow in game 2 and it was slightly swollen but all 3 are expected to play. John Wall missed practice with soreness in his wrist and ankle but is also expected to play. Ian Mahinmi is listed as out.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
Isaiah Thomas vs John Wall

Shooting Guard
Avery Bradley vs Bradley Beal

Small Forward
Gerald Green vs Otto Porter

Power Forward
Jae Crowder vs Markieff Morris

Al Horford vs Marcin Gortat

Celtics Reserves

Jaylen Brown
Terry Rozier
Jonas Jerebko
Kelly Olynyk
Demetrius Jackson
Jordan Mickey
James Young
Tyler Zeller
Marcus Smart
Amir Johnson

Avery Bradley (hip pointer) probable

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

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

Ian Mahinmi (calf) game time decision
Jason Smith (calf) probable
Markieff Morris (ankle) probable
Otto Porter (elbow) probable

Head Coach
Scott Brooks
Key Matchups
Isaiah Thomas vs John Wall
What a matchup this was in game 2 with Isaiah scoring 53 points and Wall adding 40 of his own. It was the first time in league history that that has happened in a playoff game. Expect Isaiah to cover Portis, who is the least threat of Wall, Beal and Portis. Avery, Marcus, Jae or Terry will more than likely cover Wall who is a threat to score on every possession. He will be comfortable at home and so the Celtics will need to stay on him defensively to keep him from going off again.

Avery Bradley vs Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal averaged 24.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 2.0 steals per game so far in this round. He scored 27 points in Game 1 but just 14 points in Game 2. The Celtics need to once again defend him well to keep him from having a big game in this one. Limiting Beal and Wall is key to winning this game.

Honorable Mention
Al Horford vs Markieff (or Marcus) Morris
Although Horford may be on Gortat rather than Morris, these two players are definitely key to the fortunes of their respective teams. After Morris came down on Horford's foot in game 1 and turned his ankle, Morris said he felt that Horford did it on purpose to injure him. Game 2 began with Morris throwing Horford out of bounds into the media with no foul call from the referee who stood right next to the play. With 5:24 left in the 4th quarter of Game 2 Morris also threw an elbow at Isaiah's head after IT hit a shot in the paint, again with no call from either referee watching the play. Morris has now called for his teammates to be more physical and play tougher and I can see him injuring a Celtic in order to get back at them for what he perceives to be dirty play by the Celtics.

Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics need to make defense a priority. Defense wins games. They especially need to contain the Wizards' talented back court. The Celtics can't depend on hitting 19 threes or having IT go for 53 points every game and so they have to limit the Wizards' scoring. The Wizards shot 50.6% from the field and 43.5% from beyond the arc in Game 1 and the Celtics did better in Game 2 holding them to 46.5% from the field and 29.4% from beyond the arc. The Celtics will need to do even better on defense to get a win on the road.

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 Wizards to jump on them out of the gate in both games so far, but they finished the games being more aggressive. They need to play harder at the start and be more aggressive until the final buzzer. Morris is calling for his teammates to be more aggressive and play tougher and so the Celtics may need to increase their effort even more.

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. In their 4th meeting, a Celtics win, the Celtics out-rebounded the Wizards 54-39. It isn't a coincidence that the team that won each game had the rebounding edge. In Game 1, the Celtics and Wizards both finished with 38 rebounds. In game 2, the Wizards out-rebounded the Celtics 44-41. The Celtics have to put out the extra effort to grab rebounds and match or exceed the Wizards efforts on the boards 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.
The Celtics must stay focused and play team basketball and not allow the Wizards, their crowd, or the Refs to take them out of their game.

Reserves - The Celtics have the stronger bench and so players like Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Jonas Jerebko must produce for the Celtics when they come into the game. They did a great job of outplaying their counterparts in the first two games and must do so again in this game. The Celtics' reserves must play good defense as well as hit their shots and give the Celtics an advantage when the starters go to the bench.


On the Road - The Celtics won't have the incredible Garden crowd behind them in this one. They will have to play through a hostile atmosphere and overcome the inconveniences and the distractions of playing on the road. The Celtics have played fairly well on the road this season and they have to continue that in this game. They won all 3 road games against the Bulls and they have to have that same mindset to go after this game as well.

The Little Guy
- The Celtics depend on Isaiah Thomas to lead the team. He led the team with 33 points in Game 1 after getting in at 4 am from his sister's funeral. He lost a tooth and kept on playing. After 11 hours of oral surgery on Monday, he came into Game 2 and scored 53 points on what would have been his sister Chyna's 23rd birthday. Hopefully he can keep up his superhuman exploits in this game as the Celtics need him.

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.
Monty McCutchen was voted one of the best refs in the league by coaches and players in a 2016 LA Times poll. He has been decent in most Celtics games. The Celtics are 9-1 in their last 10 games called by McCutchen while the Wizards are 7-3 in their last 10. McCutchen is a homer ref with a home W/L record this season of 47-24.

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