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Celtics visit Wizards in a possible first round preview

The Celtics and Wizards meet for the 4th and final game in the regular season, but it’s still possible that they may be matched up in the first round of the playoffs.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics and Wizards meet for the 4th and final regular season game this season. This is the 3rd season in a row that they have played 4 times in the regular season. The Celtics trail 1-2 in the series 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. The Wizards won 125-124 in double OT in Boston on March 14. The Wizards were without John Wall in that game but the Celtics were without Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis, Al Horford and Jaylen Brown. The Celtics are still without Kyrie, Smart and Theis, but they will have Al and Jaylen while the Wizards will also have Wall back.

The Celtics are coming off a loss to the Hawks and are 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 28-12 on the road, which is better than their 26-14 home record. The Wizards have lost their last 4 games and are 2-8 in their last 10 games. They are 22-18 at home. Both teams are playing in the first game of their final back to back set of the season.

The Celtics are locked into the second seed but the Wizards are still fighting for playoff positioning. They are currently in the 8th spot and 4.5 games ahead of 9th and so can’t fall out of the playoffs, but who they will face is still up in the air. Here is the current playoff picture:

Seed...... Team....... GB ...... Remaining Games
6 Bucks -- @PHI 4/11
7 Heat 1 vs TOR 4/11
8 Wizards 1.5 vs BOS 4/10, @ORL 4/11

John Wall has returned to the Wizards lineup after missing 2 months with a knee injury. He has played well, but the team is still working at getting their chemistry back, losing the 4 games since his return. Ian Mahinmi still has not passed the league’s concussion protocol and is listed as day to day.

For the Celtics, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Daniel Theis and Marcus Smart remain out. The good news is that Marcus Smart is hoping to return to the court by April 27. The bad news is that the other 3 will miss the playoffs. Guerschon Yabusele is out with knee soreness. Brad Stevens has said that the starters should play quite a few minutes in this one.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Abdel Nader
Semi Ojeleye
Shane Larkin
Jabari Bird
Kadeem Allen
Greg Monroe
Jonathon Gibson
Marcus Morris

Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Marcus Smart (Thumb) out
Daniel Theis (knee) out
Kyrie Irving (knee) out
Guerschon Yabusele (knee) out

Two Way Players
Jabari Bird
Kadeem Allen

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Wizards Starters

Wizards Reserves
Tim Frazier
Chris McCullough
Jodie Meeks
Kelly Oubre, Jr
Thomas Satoransky
Mike Scott
Ramon Sessions
Jason Smith

Ian Mahinmi (concussion) day to day

Two Way Players
Devin Robinson

Head Coach
Scott Brooks

Key Matchups

Jaylen Brown vs Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal is averaging 22.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. Beal is averaging 17.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.1 assists over his career against Boston. On 3/14, Beal put up 34 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists against the Celtics. Jaylen Brown has the tough task of covering Beal. Jaylen has the size to disrupt Beal and hopefully will be up to the task.

Terry Rozier vs John Wall
Wall missed the last two games against the Celtics with a knee injury. He is averaging 19.2 points, 9.5 assists, and 3.6 rebounds. Over his career vs Boston, he is averaging 18.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 9.0 assists. Since his return from the injury, he is averaging 17.3 points and 12.7 assists, but he has also averaged 6 turnovers. It will be up to Terry Rozier to be sure that he doesn’t regain chemistry with his teammates in this game.

Honorable Mention
Jayson Tatum vs Otto Porter, Jr
Porter has had some big games against the Celtics like the 2nd game between them this season where he had 27 points and 11 rebounds. He is averaging 11.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.3 assists over his career against the Celtics. He is averaging 14.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game this season. Jayson needs to continue his strong play in this game to keep him from having another big game in this one.

Marcus Morris vs Markieff Morris
Just because... Twins. Both brothers have said that they don’t want to face each other in the playoffs but depending on how things go on the last two days of the season, they may not be able to avoid it. Markieff is averaging 12.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.7 assists against the Celtics over his career.

Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics need to make defense a priority. Defense wins games. The Wizards are averaging 106.7 points per game. The Celtics are averaging 104.0 points per game. However, they may 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. With the Wizards close to full strength and the Celtics still short handed, their only hope is to play harder than their opponents.

Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 44.2 rebounds per game while the Wizards are averaging 42.9 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 (9th). The Celtics can’t afford to give the Wizards extra points off of turnovers.

Next Man Up - The Celtics are still short handed and so the players 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 rookies that make up the rest of the rotation.

On the Road - The Celtics are on the road again. Usually young teams play worse on the road but the Celtics have a better record on the road than they do at home. They have to continue to ignore the distractions of playing on the road and in front of a hostile crowd.

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