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Shorthanded Celtics host Washington Wizards

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NBA: Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics and Wizards meet for the third of 4 regular season games this season. They will meet once more in Washington on April 10. With this game, This is the 3rd season in a row that they have played 4 times in the regular season. They are 1-1 so far with the Wizards winning 111-103 on Christmas Day in Boston and the Celtics winning 110-104 in OT on February 8 in Washington.

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 there are just 4 Celtics left from that team and it hasn’t been near as heated as it was last season. There is the added wrinkle of the Morris twins playing against each other this season with Marcus on the Celtics and Markieff on the Wizards.

The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games and are looking to get back on track after losing their last game to the Pacers. The Celtics are 23-12 at home. The Wizards are 4-6 in their last 10 games and 19-15 on the road. They are playing in the second of back to back games having lost a tough game against the Wolves on Tuesday night. All their starters except Gortat played over 30 minutes in that game. They are 5-6 so far on the second night of back to back games.

The Celtics are in second place in the East and have fallen to 4 games behind the Toronto Raptors, who just keep winning. They are also 7 games ahead of the 3rd place Indiana Pacers. It would seem that they will remain in 2nd place when the playoffs roll around. The Wizards are 5th, just half a game behind the Cavaliers(4th). They are 1 game out of 3rd and 1 game ahead of Philly, who are in 6th.

The Wizards have just John Wall (knee) on the injured list. He participated in an extensive workout with the Wizards on Tuesday, but is expected to miss this game. The Celtics have been hard hit with injuries this week. Jaylen Brown (concussion), Gordon Hayward (ankle), Daniel Theis (knee), Kyrie Irving (knee), Al Horford (illness), and Marcus Smart (thumb) are all out. Wednesday morning Jayson Tatum was added to the list with lower back tightness but is listed as probable.

The Celtics have called up Guerschon Yabusele from the Red Claws along with Kadeem Allen, who is one of their 2 way players. Jabari Bird, the other two way player has been out with a back injury and is questionable for this game. I’m not sure at all who will start other than Tatum and Baynes with 3 of the Celtics regular starters either out or questionable.

I originally guessed that Rozier would start at point and opted to list Nader at shooting guard rather than Larkin because Nader is 6’6 while Larkin is 5’11 and the Wizards backcourt players are 6’5” and 6’7”. But thinking about it, Shane Larkin may start at the point and Rozier at shooting guard to cover Beal. I’m also guessing that Marcus Morris will start opposite his twin brother at power forward.

Possible Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Guerschon Yabusele
Semi Ojeleye
Greg Monroe
Kadeem Allen
Abdel Nader

Injuries
Al Horford (illness) out
Jaylen Brown (concussion) out
Marcus Smart (thumb) out
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Daniel Theis (knee) out
Kyrie Irving (knee) out
Shane Larkin (knee) limited minutes
Jabari Bird (back) questionable
Jayson Tatum (lower back tightness) probable

Two Way Players
Kadeem Allen
Jabari Bird

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Wizards Starters

Wizards Reserves
Tim Frazier
Ian Mahinmi
Jodie Meeks
Kelly Oubre, Jr
Mike Scott
Ramon Sessions
Jason Smith

Injuries
Chris McCullough (G-League) out
John Wall (knee) out

Two Way Players
Devin Robinson

Head Coach
Scott Brooks

Key Matchups

Jayson Tatum vs Otto Porter, Jr
Porter has had some big games against the Celtics and is averaging 15 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists. Jayson is going to need to step up his game with all of the injuries. He will not only need to slow down Porter on defense but will also need to add to his offense to help make up for the injuries.

Terry Rozier vs Bradley Beal

It’s just a guess that Rozier will start at shooting guard as he is the best suited to guard the high scoring Beal who is averaging 23.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.6 assists. He has picked up his game with Wall being out and is a tough player to cover.

Honorable Mention
Marcus Morris vs Markieff Morris
This will be a rare starting matchup of twin brothers. Markieff is averaging 11.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game this season. With all the injuries, it’s time for Morris to have a big game and who better to have it against but his twin brother.

Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics need to make defense a priority. Defense wins games. The Wizards are averaging 107.2 points per game (11th). The Celtics are averaging 104.4 points per game (20th). However, they will be find scoring hard to come by with all the injuries to key players. 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. But even then they will miss two of their better defenders in Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis.

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. If the Celtics want to get a win in this game, they have to be more aggressive than the Wizards. Their only hope is to play harder than their opponents.

Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 44.3 rebounds per game while the Wizards are averaging 43.0 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.

Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics need to move the ball to find the open man and to keep the Wizards running. However, they have to make careful passes. If they get careless and turn the ball over, the Wizards will make them pay as they average 17 points off turnovers. The Celtics can’t afford to give the Wizards extra points off of turnovers.

X-Factors
Next Man Up - The Celtics are missing a ridiculous number of players and so the player that are healthy and on the court will have to step up and give 120%. They need to make up for both key offensive and defensive players who are injured. The Celtics are going to need a lot from the vets playing Morris, Rozier, Monroe, Larkin and Baynes and also from the 5 rookies that make up the rest of the rotation.

Wizards Back to Back - About the only thing that the Celtics have going for them is that the Wizards played a tough game vs the Timberwolves on Tuesday night. Their starters, other than Marcin Gortat, played over 30 minutes. The Celtics have had off since Sunday and will need to run the Wizards from start to finish and maybe they can wear them down.

Underestimation - Going up against a team that is depleted by injuries may tend to make a team come in overconfident and expect an easy win. The Celtics have done it a number of times. But then the other team plays like a mama bear protecting her cubs and claws their way to a win. Hopefully the Wizards underestimate the short handed Celtics and the Celtics play like a mama bear.