Celtics will be looking for their first win since the All Star break as they host the Washington Wizards. This is the second of three games between these two teams this season. The Celtics won 130-125 in overtime back on December 12. They will face each other one more time in the last game of the season on April 9 in Washington.
The Wizards have changed quite a bit since that first game in December. John Wall is out for the rest of the season. Markieff Morris, Kelly Oubre, Otto Porter, Jr., and Austin Rivers are no longer with the team. Bobby Portis and Trevor Ariza are now starting for their new team. The Celtics stood pat at the trade deadline for better or worse.
The Celtics remain 5th in the East, 2.5 games behind the 76ers. They are 3.5 games behind the Pacers. They are 5.5 games ahead of the 6th place Brooklyn Nets. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games and have lost their last 4 games. They are 23-9 at home. Washington is 11th, 3 games out of the playoffs. They are 3-7 in their last 10 games and are looking for their second straight win. They are just 8-24 on the road.
Aron Baynes is still out for the Celtics but he is close to a return and is targeting Sunday vs the Rockets for his return. Terry Rozier missed Thursday’s game with a sore knee and is probable for this game. Daniel Theis is a game time decision with knee soreness. For the Wizards, John Wall is out with an Achilles tear and Dwight Howard is out with a gluteal injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
Aron Baynes (foot) out
Terry Rozier (knee) probable
Daniel Theis (knee) game time decision
Two Way Players
P. J. Dozier
Probable Wizards Starters
Troy Brown Jr
Dwight Howard (gluteal) out
John Wall (Achilles) out
Two Way Players
Marcus Smart vs Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal has been playing very well in the absence of John Wall. He put up career numbers in February and is averaging 25.7 points and 5.4 assists for the season. Limiting Beal will go a long way toward getting a win for the Celtics. With Marcus Morris vowing to bring back the soul to the Celtics, I expect Marcus Smart to join him and give extra effort, especially on the defensive end.
Jayson Tatum vs Jeff Green
Former Celtic, Jeff Green will be looking to have a big game vs his former team. He is averaging 12.4 points and 4.4 rebounds for the season. Jayson will need to limit Green’s production and at the same time, try to get his own offense going. Jayson’s defense has been criticized and now would be a good time for him to prove the critics wrong.
Marcus Morris vs Trevor Ariza
Ariza has given the Celtics problems in the past and is always a player that you have to pay attention to. He is averaging 14.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Marcus has been struggling somewhat in recent games and this would be a good time for him to get back to early season form.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics need to make defense a priority. Defense wins games. The Wizards are averaging 114.0 points per game (7th). The Celtics are averaging 112.2 points per game (15th). The Celtics have been struggling to put the ball in the basket recently, and so they can’t depend on winning a shoot out with the Wizards. One of the areas the Celtics have been slacking is on the defensive end. Brad said they have been taking shortcuts and it is evident that the energy on that end just hasn’t been there. They have to play tough defense and work harder on that end of the court. Their defense will ignite their offense.
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 44.9 rebounds per game while the Wizards are averaging 41.0 rebounds per game. 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. They allowed the Trail Blazers to get way too many offensive rebounds in the last game and need to work harder on crashing the boards in this one.
Play the Right Way - The Celtics need to move the ball to find the open man and to get quality shots. However, they have to make careful passes. They also have to play team defense and be sure to have each others’ backs. They have to be focused and not rush their shots and play as a team. Most of all, they need to have fun out there and not freeze up.
The Marcuses - One of the the things the Celtics have been missing during their skid is attitude and swagger. That attitude and swagger are what made the Celtics a top defensive team and also what took them to the conference finals last season. Marcus Morris vowed after shoot around this morning that he was going to bring some of that swag back to the Celtics. Marcus Smart was already showing that in their last game and is one of the few players who could help the team get that attitude straightened out. If both can ignite some energy on the court, it may go a long way to getting the team back on track.
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 an 8-24 record away from home. They need to use their home court to help them get back on track.
Desperation - The Celtics have not won since the All Star break and have lost 4 games in a row for the first time this season. They have their backs against the wall and if they are going to turn things around, they need to start with this game.
Swagger - One thing that has been missing from the Celtics this season is the swagger and the fight that they showed last season. They always played hard and always gave themselves a chance to win because of that. Can they find that swagger and attitude in time to turn the season around before the playoffs?