The Celtics look to break out of their 3 game losing streak as they host the New Orleans Pelicans. This is the first of 2 games between these two teams this season. They will meet one more time on January 26 in New Orleans. The Celtics won the series 2-0 last season.
The Pelicans are playing on the second night of back to back games. They have played well on the second night of back to back games, going 5-2 so far this season. The Celtics have slipped to third in the East, 1.5 games ahead of the Heat, as the Heat keeps winning and the Celtics have lost 3 in a row. The Pelicans are 14th in the West.
The Celtics are 14-3 at home while the Pelicans are 7-13 on the road. The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 and the Pelicans are 7-3 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 7-4 against Western Conference teams while the Pelicans are 4-9 against Eastern Conference teams. The Pelicans are coming off 2 wins while the Celtics are coming off 3 losses.
Kemba Walker sprained his thumb in the game on Thursday but it isn’t expected to keep him out of this game. Romeo Langford has missed 3 games with the flu and is questionable for this game. Vincent Poirier (finger) and Robert Williams (hip) are both listed as out for this game.
For the Pelicans, Jrue Holiday has missed the last 3 games with a strained muscle in his elbow and is listed as doubtful. Darius Miller is out with a torn Achilles. Kenrich Williams Is questionable with back spasms. Brandon Ingram has a finger injury but isn’t expected to miss this game because of it. Zion Williamson is close to returning to action but is still out for this game.
Derrick Favors left Friday’s game with a strained Hamstring and is out for this game. It’s my guess that Jaxon Hayes will get the start in place of Favors. JJ Redick also tweaked a hamstring in Friday’s game against the Knicks. He is also on the injured list as out for this game. Again, I am guessing that former Celtic E’Twaun Moore will fill in for him in the starting lineup.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III (hip) out
Romeo Langford (illness) game time decision
Vincent Poirier (finger) out
Kemba Walker (thumb) probable
Two Way Players
Probable Pelicans Starters
Jrue Holiday (elbow) doubtful
Darius Miller (Achilles) out
Kenrich Williams (back) questionable
Zion Williamson (knee) out
Brandon Ingram (finger) probable
Derrick Favors (hamstring) out
JJ Redick (hamstring) out
Two Way Players
Jayson Tatum vs Brandon Ingram
Brandon Ingram has been making a good case for Most Improved with 25.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 47.7% from the field and 40.2% from beyond the arc. Jayson Tatum has been in somewhat of a slump and hopefully he will snap out of it in this game because Ingram will give him a challenge and he needs to be up to the challenge.
Jaylen Brown vs E’Twaun Moore
With JJ Redick out with a hamstring injury, I’m guessing that former Celtic E’Twaun Moore will take his place in the starting lineup. Moore is averaging 10 points, 3 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He is shooting 42.6% from the field and 39.6% from beyond the arc. He is not as good a shooter as Redick, but is still a threat to put up big numbers if not defended well.
Kemba Walker vs Lonzo Ball
Lonzo Ball has started the past 3 games that Jrue Holiday has missed with a strained muscle in his elbow. Holiday is listed as questionable for this game but if he can play, I would imagine that he will be the starting point guard. Ball is averaging 12.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 40.7% from the field and 35.6% from beyond the arc. Either point guard will be a challenge for Kemba.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the key to winning. The Pelicans average 113.1points per game (8th) while the Celtics average 110.6 points per game (14th). The Celtics must play tough defense to slow down the Pelicans’ scoring if they want to win this game. The Celtics are 4th in the league with a defensive rating of 104.7. The Pelicans are 25th with a defensive rating of 112.4. The Pelicans offensive numbers are better than the Celtics and so the Celtics must play tough lock down defense if they want to get a win. One of the reasons they have struggled in recent games is because they are not being aggressive on the defensive end. They have to get back to making defense a priority.
Rebound - The Celtics have to crash the boards as a team. Rebounding takes effort and when they put that extra effort out to dominate the boards, it often translates to all other areas of the game as well. The Pelicans are averaging 45.7 rebounds and the Celtics are averaging 45.8 rebounds per game. The Celtics are 15-4 when they out-rebound their opponents. In their last two losses, the Celtics were outrebounded by 20 rebounds. They must work harder on the boards if they want to get back in the win column.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have got to be aggressive in going to the basket, playing defense, diving for loose balls and just playing harder. They let the Wizards, Spurs and Sixers play harder than them in their last 3 games. They were a little more aggressive in the first half against the Sixers, but then they faded in the second half. Their effort and aggressiveness can make them very tough to beat and their lack of it can make them vulnerable.
Don’t Underestimate the Opponent - It’s possible they underestimated their competition in the past 5 games and and that’s why they haven’t played as hard as they should have. This situation is like the one against the Wizards. The Pelicans are a sub-.500 team and are missing several of their key players. But the Pelicans still can be dangerous and have won their last 2 games. The Celtics needs to take them seriously and play them as they would a top team or they just might lose again. Sometimes when the younger guys get a chance to play they are more dangerous than the vets they replace.
Move the Ball - The Celtics need to keep the ball moving and not lapse into iso’s and hero ball. When the players move and they keep the ball moving, they get good shots and are tough to beat. Lately they have been doing too much standing around and too much dribbling and not enough team play. They had just 17 assists against the 76ers. They need to get back to playing team basketball.
Start Strong and Finish Strong- The Celtics had been coming out slow and falling into a double digit hole in the first quarter. They then struggled for the rest of the game trying to catch up. Against the Sixers they got off to a better start and played harder in the first half but then they slacked off and didn’t play well at the end. They have to play hard from the opening tip right up to the final buzzer with no let up.
Home Game and Fatigue - The Celtics are back at home and hopefully the crowd will be loud and will give the team a boost as they cheer them on. The Celtics had Friday off while the Pelicans are playing back to back and had to travel. Of course, the Celtics are just one day removed from 5 games in 7 nights and could have some fatigue themselves. Hopefully the Celtics will come out ready to play and get some motivation from the home crowd.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. Every crew calls the game differently. Some are tyrants with the whistle and some let the teams play. Some refs are very touchy and call quick fouls and techs (I’m looking at you Evan Scott). The Celtics have to adjust their game to however the refs are calling it. They can’t let missed calls and no calls get to them and make them lose their focus.