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Preview: Charlotte Hornets at Boston Celtics Game #51

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The Celtics complete their 5 game home stand with a visit from the Charlotte Hornets.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Hornets are in Boston for the third of four games between these two teams this season. The Celtics lost their first meeting 117-112 in Charlotte on November 19. They then avenged that loss with a 119-103 victory in Boston on December 23. They will meet once more in Charlotte on March 23.

The Celtics are 5th in the East, just 1.5 game behind Philadelphia and 5.5 games behind first place Milwaukee. They are 1.5 games behind the Pacers, who are in 3rd place. A good win streak could move the Celtics up in the standings. The Celtics are looking for their second straight win and are 6-4 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 10-6 at home.

The Charlotte Hornets are hanging on in the 8th spot in the East. They are 6.5 games behind the Celtics and just half a game behind 7th place Miami. A good win streak will also move Charlotte up in the standings. They are 2.5 games ahead of 9th place Detroit and will need to keep winning to avoid slipping out of playoff contention. They are 7-17 on the road.

The Celtics have won 6 of their last 7 games, losing only to the Warriors (who have won 11 in a row) over that span. This is the final game of a 5 game home stand. Charlotte has won 5 of their last 7 games and is coming off a win over the Knicks. They would love to get this win to get back to .500.

The Celtics have announced that Kyrie, who missed the game against the Nets, is out for this game with a hip injury. It isn’t considered serious but won’t rush him back either. Terry Rozier will likely start in his place once again. For the Hornets, Cody Zeller is out with a hand injury and is a couple of weeks away from returning.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Marcus Morris
C: Al Horford

Celtics Reserves
Daniel Theis
Jaylen Brown
Guerschon Yabusele
Semi Ojeleye
Brad Wanamaker
Robert Williams
Aron Baynes

Injuries
Jabari Bird (personal) out
Kyrie Irving (hip) out

Two Way Players
P. J. Dozier
RJ Hunter

Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Hornets Starters

PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Jeremy Lamb
SF: Nicolas Batum
PF: Marvin Williams
C: Bismack Biyombo

Hornets Reserves
Dwayne Bacon
Miles Bridges
Devonte Graham
Willy Hernangomez
Frank Kaminsky
Michael Kidd Gilchrist
Malik Monk
Tony Parker

Injuries
Cody Zeller (hand) out

Two Way Players
Joe Chealey
JP Macura

Head Coach
James Borrego

Key Matchups

Terry Rozier vs Kemba Walker
With Kyrie expected to miss his 2nd straight game, Terry Rozier should once again get the start in his place. Walker is averaging 24.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He scored 43 points in the first meeting between these two teams and 21 in the second meetin. Terry is going to need to play defense to slow Walker down because he is capable of taking over a game.

Marcus Smart vs Jeremy Lamb
Lamb is averaging 15.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. It is possible that Marcus Smart will guard Kemba, who is more of a scoring threat while Terry Rozier covers Lamb. Regardless the Hornets’ back court is their biggest asset and the Celtics need to try to limit them.

Honorable Mention
Celtics Bench vs Hornets Bench
The Hornets have some players coming off their bench that could give the Celtics trouble. Tony Parker, Willy Hernangomez, Frank Kaminsky, and Malik Monk have all given the Celtics problems in the past. Hernangomez had 19 points and 10 rebounds in their last meeting. The Celtics reserves have been up and down this season. They need to become a more cohesive unit and become the strong point they were expected to be coming into the season.

Keys to the Game:
Defense Defense Defense!! - Defense is the key to winning every game. The Hornets average 111.8 points per game while the Celtics average 112.2 points per game. The Celtics are 5th with a defensive rating of 104.9 while the Hornets are 18th with a defensive rating of 109.7. The Celtics must continue to make defense a priority and play tough individual and team defense if they want to win this one.

Rebound - Rebounding takes effort and desire and those things have been lacking in the Celtics at times this season. The Celtics must commit to give effort to get rebounds. They can’t score without the ball and giving up extra possessions to the opponent by getting out-rebounded will usually lead to a loss.

Be Aggressive - One of the strengths of the Celtics last season was their aggressiveness on the court. This year, we have only seen that aggressiveness in spurts. They need to be aggressive in going after rebounds, on defense, in attacking the basket and in going after loose balls. The more aggressive team will also usually get more calls from the officials. The Celtics must be the more aggressive team and play harder from start to finish.

Play Team Ball - The Celtics play best when they move the ball and find the open man. They have to play TEAM ball and share the ball and no player should try to do too much. They also need to commit to play team defense. The Celtics play the best when the scoring is spread out and no one player has to do too much.

X-Factors
Home Game - The Celtics are playing in their fifth home game in a row. The Hornets have struggled on the road this season with a 7-17 road record. The Celtics need to take advantage of being at home and should get a boost from the home crowd.

Focus - The Celtics have rumors swirling all around them about Anthony Davis and his desire to leave New Orleans and the Celtics’ desire to bring him to Boston. There have also been rumors about Kyrie wanting to join LeBron (and possibly Davis) in LA this summer. The Celtics have to shake all that off and concentrate on this team and playing as a team to win the games they are playing now and not worry about trades or what will happen next season.