The Celtics and Wizards meet for the second of 4 regular season games this season. They will meet once more in Boston on March 14 and once more in Washington on April 10. With this game, Boston becomes the first team that Washington has played 300 times in the regular season. This is the 3rd season in a row that they have played 4 times in the regular season.
All 4 games this season are set for national TV coverage. I’m sure the reason for all the national TV appearances of these games is that they were hoping for a continuation of the heated rivalry that was brewing last season. However, even though the Wizards are mostly unchanged, there are just 4 Celtics left from that team and it hasn’t been near as heated as it was last season.
The Wizards won the first meeting between these two teams 111-103 on Christmas Day in Boston. These two teams have alternated wins over the last 5 games with Boston winning 1/11/17 and 3/20/17 while the Wizards won 11/9/16, 1/24/17 and 12/25/17. Boston is 187-112 all time against the Wizards in the regular season.
Both teams are coming off a loss and looking to start a new win streak. The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 games and they are 18-8 on the road. The Wizards are 6-4 in their last 10 games and 17-9 at home. The Celtics remain first in the East, but are clinging to just a one game lead over the Raptors after their loss on Monday. The Raptors are playing the Knicks without their star and so a win for the Celtics in this one is important to staying at the top of the East. The Wizards are 4th in the East and tied with Cleveland for the 3rd spot.
Marcus Smart (hand), Shane Larkin (knee) and Gordon Hayward (ankle) are all out for the Celtics. Greg Monroe has been signed by the Celtics and will reportedly make his debut for them in this game. He will wear #55 for the Celtics. Jaylen Brown is questionable with a sprained ankle. John Wall (knee) is out for the Wizards. Markieff Morris sprained his wrist in Tuesday’s game and is listed as game time decision but is expected to play. Sheldon Mac was traded by the Wizards at the deadline but was out with an Achilles injury so that won’t change their lineup for this game.
Probable Celtics Starters
Shane Larkin (knee) out
Marcus Smart (hand) out
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Jaylen Brown (ankle) questionable
Two Way Players
Probable Wizards Starters
Kelly Oubre, Jr
John Wall (knee) out
Markieff Morris (wrist) game time decision
Two Way Players
Jaylen Brown vs Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal is averaging 23.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game. Beal is averaging 16.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists over his career against Boston. Jaylen Brown has the tough task of covering Beal. He has the size to disrupt Beal and hopefully will be up to the task. However, with Jaylen questionable with a sprained ankle, if he can’t go, it will likely fall to Terry Rozier to handle the bulk of defending Beal.
Jayson Tatum vs Otto Porter, Jr
Porter has had some big games against the Celtics and is averaging 10.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.2 assists over his career against the Celtics. He is averaging 14.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game this season.
Al Horford vs Markieff Morris
Morris is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game this season. Over his career, he is averaging 12.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.5 assists against Boston. If Brad opts to start Morris in place of Baynes for this game, it’s possible that Markieff would be matched up with his twin brother to start at this position.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics need to make defense a priority. Defense wins games. The Wizards are averaging 107.4 points per game (9th). The Celtics are averaging 103.0 points per game (25th). The Celtics can’t depend on winning a shoot out with the Wizards and so they have to play tough defense to stop the Wizards from scoring.
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. The Raptors vowed to come out and be more aggressive than the Celtics on Monday and they made good on their vow. The Celtics seemed to back off and allow them to be the more aggressive team. If the Celtics want to get a win in this game, they have to be more aggressive than the Wizards.
Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 44.4 rebounds per game while the Wizards are averaging 42.7 rebounds per game. 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. The addition of Greg Monroe may help the Celtics rebounding efforts.
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 to take them out of their game.
Trade Deadline - The trade deadline has passed and the Celtics decided to stand pat. With the deadline passed, Greg Monroe will now be available to make his debut with the Celtics. As the Celtics watch the buy out market, the core of the Celtics will stay together and that is a good thing for chemistry and continuity. Now they need to play like a cohesive unit, not like the scattered team they played like against the Raptors.
Celtic Pride - The Celtics were embarrassed by the Raptors on Monday night. They were also embarrassed by the Wizards on Christmas Day on National TV. Will they show some pride and bounce back in this nationally televised game and get a big win over a possible playoff foe?
Road Game - They are playing their second straight game on the road. They need to ignore the distractions of playing on the road and in front of a hostile crowd. Can they dig deep and shake off travel fatigue in order to get a win?