The Celtics open their preseason slate of games by hosting Terry Rozier and the Charlotte Hornets. It will be interesting to see what kind of reception Terry gets from the Garden fans. In some ways, Terry was part of the problem with last year’s team, but he also was a key member of the team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals the season before.
The last time these two teams met was on March 23, 2019. In that game, the Hornets beat the Celtics 124-117. Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists. Now he will be facing the team that he played his first 8 seasons with for the first time while Terry Rozier will be facing the team he payed his first 4 years with. I’m sure that Scary Terry will be looking to prove a point to the Celtics but I’m thinking that Marcus Smart will be doing his best to keep him from doing so.
Preseason games are always tough to figure out as far as the starting lineups. I’ve just guessed at possible starters for each team. The coaches could go with the players they plan to start in the regular season or they could experiment with lineups that may or may not play in the regular season. We will likely see some players get minutes that will be with the G-League this season also.
The biggest question for the Celtics will likely be whether Marcus Smart or Jaylen Brown starts at shooting guard. Walker, Hayward and Tatum are pretty much locks to start. I’m guessing that Kanter will start at center, although that’s not a lock. As I stated already, the Hornets starters are just a guess on my part.
Two starters for the Hornets last season, Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb, are no longer with the team. Those two players averaged 41 points last season, which was 37% of the Hornets’ scoring. Terry Rozier averaged just 13.1 points in 14 starts last season but is expected to shoulder much of the scoring load for the Hornets this season.
Marcus Smart missed Thursday’s practice with an illness but was back to full strength on Friday and should be ready to play in this game. Romeo Langford missed Summer League as he recovered from thumb surgery and was cleared to play but he tweaked his groin and has been held out of practice. He is considered to be day to day.
For the Hornets, Joe Chealey (ankle sprain) and Malik Monk (sore toe) are both expected to miss today’s game vs the Celtics. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is also listed as out with an illness. Devonte Graham is probable after missing practice with an illness. Cody Martin was able to practice and is probable after missing time with an ankle sprain.
Possible Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Robert Williams III
Romeo Langford (groin) day to day
Possible Hornets Starters
PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Dwayne Bacon
SF: Nicolas Batum
PF: Miles Bridges
C: Cody Zeller
Cody Martin (ankle) probable
Devonte Graham (illness) probable
Joe Chealey (ankle) out
Malik Monk (toe) out
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (illness) out
Kemba Walker vs Terry Rozier
This will be a fun matchup between players who were basically traded for each other. Each will want to make a good impression in their first game for their new teams. Terry will have his first chance to be the starting point guard and leader of the Hornets for the first time while Kemba will just need to develop chemistry with his new teammates.
Gordon Hayward vs Nicolas Batum
One of the keys for this season is for Gordon Hayward to be back to the All Star he was before his injury. Reports from practice are that he is 100% and will surprise people this season. He will be matched up against Nicolas Batum, who should be in regular season form after playing in the World Championship games this summer.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Both coaches have said that they plan to emphasize defense this season. But then, they all say that before the season starts. The key will be if they follow through with it and the players buy in. Defense wins championships and so the Celtics need to play tough team defense at every position.
Rebound - Teams can’t score unless they have the ball and they need to rebound to give themselves extra possessions. The Celtics have struggled to rebound in the past, especially on the offensive end. With the addition of Enes Kanter, who is one of the better offensive rebounders in the league, the Celtics should be a better rebounding team this season.
Chemistry - Both teams have lost key players and have added other players that they hope will fit in. We saw last season with the Celtics how important chemistry is to winning. They seem to be very close and enjoying playing with each other so far and we will see if that translates to wins in games.
Preseason - Both coaches will want to experiment with different lineups to see which ones work and which ones don’t. They will also want to take a look at the players on exhibit 10 contracts in order to evaluate them. Experimenting can be valuable for the long term picture, but may lead to inconsistency in the preseason.
Players to Watch
Tacko is fighting for the 15th spot on the roster. He has competition from Javonte Green, Kaiser Gates and Yante Maten for that spot. Tacko quickly became a fan favorite at the Vegas Summer League and his popularity with the fans has increased since that time. He has also become a favorite of his teammates, many of whom have been seen hanging out with him at various events and have posted on social media that they feel he can help the team. He will need to prove with his play that he deserves the spot, however.
Terry Rozier has been very vocal about his last season in Boston and also about not wanting to be compared to Kemba Walker. He will be coming into this game looking to show his old team that they made a mistake when they let him go. He will also want to show his new team that they made the right decision to sign him and that he can handle the pressure of being the Hornet’s leader.