It’s finally game day!! The Celtics face the Charlotte Hornets for their first preseason game. They have had just two days of practice before this game and so we probably won’t be seeing them at their best, although quite a few of the Celtics have been in town since early September and also there are only 2 new players since last season, other than the training camp invitees.
I’ve taken a guess as to starting lineups for both teams. Nicolas Batum started at shooting guard much of last season for the Hornets, however after he was out with an injury, Jeremy Lamb came on strong at that position and Bleacher Report named Walker and Lamb the 13th best backcourt in the league. Their website suggested that Batum may play more small forward this season. Kemba Walker is the only one who is pretty much assured of a starting spot.
The Hornets are coming into the season with a new GM, former Lakers GM, Mitch Kupchak. They also have a new coach, former Spurs assistant, James Borrego. Their starters are all back from last season. They have 2 rookies, Miles Bridges and Devonte Graham. They also signed Tony Parker as a free agent in the off season. Dwight Howard is gone and the center spot will be manned by Willy Hernangomez, Frank Kaminsky and Cody Zeller.
I think everyone expects the Celtics starters to be Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford. This is the group that was supposed to start last season and the group that started the scrimmages in practices this season. However, this is the preseason and coaches experiment and look to play odd lineups to find which ones work the best so don’t be surprised if other players are given the start.
Marcus Smart did not make the trip with the Celtics and will miss the game for personal reasons. Devonte Graham is out for the Hornets with a knee injury. Michael Kidd Gilchrist is listed as probable with an ankle injury. Malik Monk aggravated a pelvic contusion in yesterday’s practice and is listed as day to day. Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are good to go with no reported minutes restrictions.
Probable Celtics Starters
BWA (Bench with Attitude)
Walt Lemon Jr
Marcus Morris Sr
Jabari Bird (not with team)
Marcus Smart (personal) out
Probable Hornets Starters
Devonte Graham (knee) out
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (ankle) probable
Malik Monk (pelvic contusion) day to day
Kyrie Irving vs Kemba Walker
This should definitely be the starting point guard matchup. It will be a good one too. This will be Kyrie’s first game since the two knee surgeries that took shut him down last season and kept him out of the playoffs. Hopefully he will be back to 100% as Walker is a tough matchup.
Gordon Hayward vs Nicolas Batum
Gordon Hayward should be the starting small forward. It will be his first game in almost a year. Batum may or may not start at small forward for the Hornets but this will be a good matchup if he does. Celtics fans are all excited to see Hayward back in action and I’m sure he won’t disappoint.
Keys to the Game
Chemistry - The Celtics have mostly the same roster as last season, but Gordon Hayward’s return will require some work for them to mesh fully. For the Hornets, they need to get used to a new coach and new system and that may require time for them to mesh with it.
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. Brad Stevens has stressed that the Celtics can’t skip steps, especially on the defensive end. They have very good individual defenders and they have to work to get the league best team defense that they had last season.
Offense - There were times last season when the Celtics would have offensive droughts. With Kyrie and Hayward back this season, that should help to fix this problem. Hopefully we will see their offense clicking right from this first game.
NO INJURIES - It’s just the preseason and although both teams will likely be anxious to get out there and play an opponent, hopefully there won’t be any injuries. They need to play smart and not go so hard that players get injured.