The shorthanded Celtics visit the even more shorthanded Washington Wizards for the second of four games between them this season. The Celtics won the first meeting 140-133 on November 13 in a game that didn’t feature much defense. They play once more in Boston on March 23 and one more time in Washington on March 23.
The Celtics are still 2nd in the East, one half game ahead of the Miami Heat. The Wizards are 12th in the East. The Celtics are 11-6 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. The Wizards are 6-10 at home and 3-7 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are looking for their 4th straight win while the Wizards are looking for their 2nd straight win. The Celtics are 18-5 vs Eastern Conference teams while the Wizards are 6-13 vs the East.
Both of these teams are playing in their 3rd game in 4 days. Both the Celtics and the Wizards played back to back games on Friday and Saturday. The Celtics won both halves of their back to back set while the Wizards lost on Friday and won on Saturday. This is the second of 2 road games for the Celtics. This is the final game of a 6 game home stand for the Wizards.
Both teams come into this game short handed. Kemba Walker will miss his third game with the flu. Romeo Langford apparently caught the flu from Kemba and has been ruled out for this game. Robert Williams (hip) and Vincent Poirier (finger) both remain out. Tremont Waters was called up from the Red Claws for the Bulls game and Carsen Edwards was back with the team for that game also and as far as I know are both still with the team.
For the Wizards, things just seem to keep getting worse for them. Bradley Beal has missed 4 of the last 5 games with soreness in his leg. He is listed as questionable and will be a game time decision. Ian Mahinmi is questionable with a finger injury and will also be a game time decisicion. Thomas Bryant (foot) has practiced with the G-League team but isn’t expected back until at least 1/10. The Wizards have called up their two way players to fill in for some of the injured players.
Mo Wagner (ankle) and Rui Hachimura (groin) are both out for this game. John Wall is expected to miss the entire year with a torn Achilles. CJ Miles is out with a wrist injury and the Wizards applied for a disabled player exception for him on Monday, indicating that he is out for the rest of the season. Johnathan Williams,who started the last 5 games for the Wizards at Power Forward, and played well, was waived on Saturday as the hardship exception that he was signed with expired.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III (hip) out
Vincent Poirier (finger) out
Kemba Walker (illness) out
Romeo Langford (illness) out
Two Way Players
Probable Wizards Starters
Troy Brown, Jr
Ian Mahinmi (finger) questionable
Bradley Beal (leg) questionable
Davis Bertans (quad) out
Thomas Bryant (foot) out
CJ Miles (wrist) out
Mo Wagner (ankle) out
Rui Hachimura (groin) out
John Wall (achilles) out
Two Way Players
Marcus Smart vs Isaiah Thomas
Marcus Smart is expected to get the start in place of Kemba Walker once again and will be matched up with former Celtic Isaiah Thomas. Thomas is averaging 12.8 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. He is shooting 41.5% from the field and 41.6% from beyond the arc. Marcus will need to defend him well because we know he is capable of having a big game, especially when motivated by playing his former team.
Gordon Hayward vs Jordan McRae
McRae is averaging 12.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists for the season. But, over the last 6 games since returning from an injury, he is averaging 20.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists while shooting 50% from beyond the arc. He is shooting 45.1% from the field and 44.9% from beyond the arc for the seasong. Gordon will need to stay with him on the perimeter especially as he is shooting very well from the outside.
Brad Wanamaker vs Ish Smith
Smith is averaging 11 points, 2.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists on the season. He is shooting 46.1% from the field and 37.2% from beyond the arc. He is averaging 9.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists against the Celtics for his career.
Of course, if Bradley Beal can play, he will be the key matchup for the Celtics at shooting guard. He scored 44 points in the last game in November and is a threat to put up big numbers in every game.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics need to make defense a priority. Defense wins games. The Wizards are averaging 116.2 points per game while the Celtics are averaging 111.4 points per game. In their first meeting neither team played much defense but the Celtics can’t depend on winning a shoot out again in this game. They have to play tough defense to limit the Wizards scoring.
Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 46.0 rebounds per game while the Wizards are averaging 42.2 rebounds per game. However, the Wizards average just .2 fewer offensive rebounds than the Celtics and are 2nd in the league with 14.9 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.
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. The Celtics started their last two games allowing their opponents to be more aggressive and they found themselves down big in the first quarter and then had to be very aggressive to get back into the game. If the Celtics want to get a win in this game, they have to play harder than the Wizards from the start.
Move the Ball Carefully - The Celtics play best when they move the ball and find the open man. When they over dribble and when players try to play hero ball, it doesn’t usually end well. But, they have to be careful with their passes because the Wizards are 7th with 18.2 points off turnovers.
Next Man Up - Both teams are short handed and so the players that are healthy and on the court will have to step up and play harder. Granted that the Wizards have a lot more injuries than the Celtics do, but sometimes the more injured team is the more dangerous one. The Celtics have lost before to teams that had more than half their team on the injured list.
On the Road - The Celtics are on the road for the second game in a row while the Wizards are playing in their 6th straight home game. There will be the usual distractions of playing on the road along with playing in front of a hostile crowd. It’s tough to win on the road when the team is at full strength but missing their starting point guard, will make it even tougher.
Fatigue - Both teams are playing in their 3rd game in 4 nights. The Celtics, though have had to travel after each game and the travel itself can be tiring for a team. Even though the Wizards are playing 3 games in 4 nights also, all of those games have been home for them. The Celtics showed resilience on Saturday as they played back to back on the road and they will need to show the same resilience in this game to get the win.
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 and not let bad calls or no calls, or even too many calls, take away their focus on playing the game.