The Celtics host the Wizards for the first of 3 games this season. They will play again in Boston on March 13 and they will play just one game in Washington on January 6. The Celtics are 4-0 at home while the Wizards are 1-3 on the road. The Celtics have won 8 straight while the Wizards have lost their last 2 games and 5 of their last 6.
Isaiah Thomas will return to the TD Garden as a starter for the first time since he was traded to the Cavaliers back in 2017 for Kyrie Irving. He has been back to the Garden with both the Cavaliers and the Nuggets, but he was either injured or was a role player for those teams. He should get a warm welcome from the Celtics fans in attendance.
The Celtics will be playing their second game without Gordon Hayward and I expect that they will start Smart in his place as they did against the Mavericks. Kemba Walker left that game with a neck injury but it isn’t expected to keep him out of this game. Daniel Theis injured his finger in that game and is doubtful for this game.
I expect Robert Williams to get the start at center if Theis can’t play as Enes Kanter is still working his way back to game shape after missing 7 games before playing limited minutes against the Mavericks. John Wall and Ian Mahinmi are both out for the Wizards with Achilles injuries.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III
Gordon Hayward (hand) out
Kemba Walker (neck) probable
Daniel Theis (hand) doubtful
Two Way Players
Probable Wizards Starters
John Wall (Achilles) out
Ian Mahinmi (Achilles) out
Two Way Players
Marcus Smart vs Bradley Beal
Beal is averaging 26.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game. He always seems to have a big game against the Celtics also. I think Kemba can defend Isaiah and so it will be up to Marcus Smart to slow down Bradley Beal. Hopefully he won’t struggle with defending him because he is not 7 feet tall.
Jayson Tatum vs Rui Hachimura
The Wizards rookie, Rui Hachimura is playing very well for them. He is averaging 13.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. Jayson Tatum is coming off a very rough game for him where he shot just 1-18 from the field. The Celtics will be looking for a bounce back game from him on the offensive end and some solid defense from him on Hachimura.
Kemba Walker vs Isaiah Thomas
Even though Isaiah says that he has nothing but love for the Celtics, he is going to want to have a big game and beat them, if for nothing else than to show that they made a mistake in trading him. He is averaging 13.2 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists.
Robert Williams vs Thomas Bryant
Bryant is averaging 14.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Time Lord, or Kanter if he starts, needs to keep Bryant off the boards, especially. The Wizards have good front court depth while the Celtics are not so deep there with Theis doubtful and Kanter still not back to full strength.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics need to make defense a priority. Defense wins games. Both teams are averaging 113.4 points per game. The Celtics can’t depend on winning a shoot out with the Wizards. They have to play tough defense to limit the Wizards scoring.
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 play harder than the Wizards.
Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 46.4rebounds per game while the Wizards are averaging 43.8 rebounds per game. However, the Wizards average 2.2 more offensive rebounds than the Celtics and are 5th in the league with 15.1 second chance points. 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.
Next Man Up - The Celtics will have to play without 2 key starters with Hayward out and Theis likely to miss this game as well. Enes Kanter is still not back to 100% and so every player on the team needs to step up and help to fill those voids. The Celtics will need more from Wanamaker, Green and Grant Williams. They will also need Tatum to snap out of his slump and have a big game.
Home Game - The Celtics are playing at home and should get a boost from playing in front of their home crowd and on their home court. The Wizards have struggled on the road with just a 1-3 record away from home. The Celtics need to make the Garden a place that other teams fear.
Officiating - The officiating is always an X-Factor. Some crews call games tight and call every little thing and so the game has no flow. Some crews let teams play and allow a lot of contact. Some refs favor the home team and some favor the road team. The Celtics need to adjust their game to the way the refs are calling it.