The Celtics are coming off a blowout loss to the Toronto Raptors and look to get back on track as they face the Charlotte Hornets for the third and final time this season. Kemba Walker returns to the arena where he played for his first 8 seasons in the league for the second time this season. Kemba was a first-round pick of the Hornets, who were then the Bobcats, in 2011. He led that franchise in scoring over each of the past five seasons and is the career points leader there with 12,009 career points.
Last season, the Celtics and Hornets split the season series 2-2. In the last game of the season, on March 23, the Hornets beat the Celtics 124-117 in Charlotte. In that game, Kemba Walker, then a Hornet, finished with 36 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists against the Celtics. This season he is averaging 22.5 points per game for the Celtics.
The Celtics are 9-6 on the road while the Hornets are 7-10 at home. The Celtics won 5 straight before losing to the Raptors on Saturday. The Hornets have lost their last 5 games. The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games while the Hornets are 4-6 in their last 10. The loss to the Raptors dropped the Celtics from 2nd to 3rd in the East but a loss to the Wizards by the Heat on Monday, moved the Celtics back into 2nd place once again. The Hornets are 13th in the East.
Jaylen Brown did not make it through Monday’s practice and was sent to the hospital to get checked out. He has been ruled out for this game. Marcus Smart will likely start in his place. Robert Williams is pain free but is still out with the hip injury. Vincent Poirier is out with the finger injury. Carsen Edwards has been assigned to the Red Claws. The Hornets have no injuries listed.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Daniel Theis
Robert Williams III (hip) out
Vincent Poirier (finger) out
Jaylen Brown (illness) out
Carsen Edwards On Assignment with Red Claws
Two Way Players
Probable Hornets Starters
PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Devonte Graham
SF: Miles Bridges
PF: PJ Washington
C: Bismack Biyombo
Two Way Players
Kemba Walker vs Terry Rozier
These two point guards were basically traded for each other in the off season. Rozier is averaging 17.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists for the Hornets this season. He is shooting 41.5% from the field and 38.1% from beyond the arc. Even though it is his second time back there, it will still likely be an emotional game for Kemba.
Marcus Smart vs Devonte Graham
Devonte Graham is leading the Hornets in points and assists. He is averaging 19.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game. He is shooting 38.2% from the field and 39.8% from beyond the arc. He will have his work cut out for him in this one as he has to find a way to score against Marcus Smart, who will likely start in place of Jaylen Brown.
Jayson Tatum vs PJ Washington
Washington was the 12th pick in the 2019 draft and has been playing very well for the Hornets. He is averaging 12.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He led the Hornets in the preseason game against the Celtics with 16 points and 7 rebounds. He has struggled with minor injuries this season but is healthy for this one.
Keys to the Game
Defense Defense Defense!! - Defense is the key to winning every game. The Celtics have let their defense slip lately and Brad Stevens wasn’t happy about it. His goal for Monday’s practice was to tighten up the defense and get everyone on the same page on the defensive end. The Celtics defensive rating is 104.3(4th) while the Hornets defensive rating is 112.6 (27th) He even mentioned changing the lineups to get better defensively. The Celtics need to make defense a priority and every player has to play tough, in your face defense.
Rebound - Rebounding takes effort and desire and when the Celtics have both of those on the boards, that carries through to the other parts of their game. And, when the Celtics have neither of those things, as we saw on Saturday against the Raptors, they struggle mightily. The Raptors out-rebounded them 53-31 on Saturday, and the Celtics got blown out by 16 points. 15 offensive rebounds led to 23 second chance points for the Hornets. The Celtics must commit to give effort to get rebounds. They can’t score without the ball and they can’t continually give up extra possessions to the opponent by failing to rebound and expect to win.
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 or play hero ball. The Celtics had just 18 assists on Saturday, compared to 27 for the Raptors. The Celtics play the best when the scoring is spread out and no one player has to do too much.
Effort and Desire - The Celtics looked like a team that really didn’t care on Saturday. They didn’t have energy and they didn’t put effort into crashing the boards and they spent too much time dribbling and not moving the ball to find the open man. They were playing on the second night in a row and 3rd game in 4 nights and that may have had something to do with it. Hopefully that loss woke them up and they will come out with more effort and energy for this game.
On the Road - The Celtics are on the road again and they need to block out all of the distractions that come with playing on the road and in front of a hostile crowd and focus on playing their game. They have to focus on playing Celtics basketball and not on the crowd or being on the road.
Kemba and Terry - This may be an emotional game for both players. Kemba will be back in the arena where he spent is first 8 seasons while Terry is facing the team that drafted him and that he played for in his first 4 seasons. It’s the third game this season but it still will be a challenge for both players to block out their emotions and just play ball.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. Referees all have their own quirks in how they call the game and teams have to adjust to how it is being called. Hopefully they call it fairly and let both teams play without calling every little ticky tack bit of contact.