The Celtics complete their 2 game road trip against the New Orleans Pelicans. This is their second and final meeting this season. The Pelicans won 116-113 in OT on January 16 at the Garden. The Celtics were playing in the first game back after playing in London and the Pelicans ended the Celtics 7 game win streak.
The Pelicans are playing in the second of back to back games. They lost at home to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night. Anthony Davis played 36 minutes and Jrue Holiday played 37 minutes. Rondo sat out this game so he would be good and rested against his former team. New Orleans has won just 2 of the last 7 games against the Celtics.
The Celtics are looking to win their second straight game. They are 24-9 on the road and 17-7 against Western Conference teams. The Pelicans have lost their last 2 games. They are 18-15 at home and 19-8 vs Eastern Conference teams. The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games while the Pelicans are 6-4 in their last 10 games.
The Celtics are still 2nd in the East, 5 games behind the Toronto Raptors and 7 games in front of Cleveland, Washington, and Indiana. The Pelicans are currently in 8th half a game behind Utah, San Antonio and Minnesota who are. They are 1.5 games ahead of the Clippers who are in 9th place.
Kyrie traveled with the team and was possiblr to play in this game. He was ruled out pregame, however and will continue to rest his knee. Terry Rozier will likely get the start in his place once again. Hayward (ankle), Smart (thumb), Brown (concussion), and Theis (knee) are all out for this game. Jabari Bird (back) is day to day.
For the Pelicans, Cousins (Achilles), Ajinca (knee), and Jackson (foot) are all listed as out. Solomon Hill has missed all 68 games so far but Alvin Gentry has said that it is possible that he may play in this game in a very limited capacity.
Probable Celtics Starters
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Daniel Theis (knee) out
Marcus Smart (thumb) out
Jaylen Brown (concussion) out
Jabari Bird (back) day to day
Kyrie Irving (knee) out
Two Way Players
Probable Pelicans Starters
Larry Drew II
DeMarcus Cousins (Achilles) out
Alexis Ajinca (knee) out
Solomon Hill (hamstring) possible
Frank Jackson (foot) out
2 Way Players
Al Horford vs Anthony Davis
Davis is dominant and is averaging 28.0 points, 11.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 2.4 blocks per game. Against the Celtics in their first meeting, he had 45 points, 16 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. Needless to say, it will be important to try to slow him down in this one. Al will need to play tough defense to slow him down.
Jayson Tatum vs Jrue Holiday
With Cousins out, Holiday becomes the second best player behind Davis. He is averaging 19.3 points, 5.9 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals. In their first meeting he had 23 points and 7 assists. Tatum will have a height advantage and hopefully that will help him to limit Holiday’s production.
Kyrie Irving vs Rajon Rondo
Rondo is averaging 7.9 points, 3 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game. Rondo always gets up for playing his old teams and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have a big game in this one. Hopefully Terry is up to keeping him from doing so.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the key to winning. The Pelicans average 111.9 points per game (4th) while the Celtics average 104.6 points per game (18). The Celtics must play tough defense to slow down the Pelicans’ scoring if they want to win this game. The Celtics are first in the league with a defensive rating of 101.2. The Pelicans are 16th with a defensive rating of 106.5. The Celtics defense will be very important in this game. The Celtics have to especially defend the paint as the Pelicans are 2nd in the league with 51.8 points in the paint.
Rebound - The Celtics have to crash the boards as a team. Rebounding takes effort and the Celtics have to show that effort on the boards. When they put that extra effort out to dominate the boards, it often translates to all other areas of the game as well. The Celtics need to outwork the Pelicans on the boards.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have got to be aggressive in going to the basket, playing defense, diving for loose balls and just playing harder. Their effort and aggressiveness can make them very tough to beat. When they let other teams outwork them, however, they struggle. The Pelicans need this game to stay in the playoff picture and they will play hard. The Celtics need to play harder.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics need to move the ball to find the open man as when the ball slows down and players try to do too much, they struggle. But as they move the ball, they have to be careful with their passes and avoid turning it over as the Pelicans are 5th in fast break points and will make the Celtics pay if they get careless.
Injuries - The Pelicans have 3 and maybe 4 players out with injuries. The Celtics have 5 players out with injuries. Which team will have the depth that can carry them with so many injuries? Whose reserves will step up?
Pelicans Fatigue - The Pelicans are playing in the second of back to back games. Davis and Holiday played 36 and 37 minutes respectively. The Pelicans are also playing in the second of 5 games in 6 nights because of a game that was postponed and rescheduled for 3/21 and so it won’t get any easier for them. The Celtics were off on Saturday and so if they can run the Pelicans, they may be able to wear them out down the stretch.
Officiating - I’m not sure what is going on with the officials but there have been some very head scratching calls in several games lately. Alvin Gentry was complaining about the refs after last night’s game. Stan VanGundy was complaining about the refs after last night’s game. I just watched the Raptors/Thunder game where half the Raptors were thrown out and there were questionable calls going both ways. Hopefully the officials in this game call it fairly with no ego trips on their part.