The Celtics are back at home after a 4 game road trip. They are hosting the Washington Wizards who are on the 4th game of their own 4 game road trip. The Wizards are also playing in the first of back to back games. They will play at home on Saturday vs the Miami Heat. The Celtics play again on Sunday against the Heat who will be playing in back to back games.
The Wizards won the series last season 2-1. They won their only game in the bubble against the Celtics in their final seeding game. The Celtics are 192-116 all time against the Wizards. These two teams will play once again in the first half of the season on February 28, once again in Boston.
The Celtics will be short handed in this game and for the next week. Robert Williams has tested positive for Covid but is asymptomatic. He will be out for at least the next week as will Robert Williams and Grant Williams due to contact tracing. Carsen Edwards was originally listed as questionable but should be available.
Kemba Walker is still out with for knee rehab. Romeo Langford is out for rehab from wrist surgery. Javonte Green has been out for awhile but is not on today’s injury list and will likely be available. Jeff Teague is questionable after missing the last two games with an ankle injury.
Russell Westbook left Wednesday’s game with a dislocated finger but is not on the injured list as of now. Seth Curry has tested positive for Covid and the 76ers are quarantined at the moment. The Wizards played in Philly on Wednesday and so there may be others who will be out due to contact tracing but none have been announced as of now.
It is hard to predict who will start for the Celtics because Brad doesn’t always do the obvious when it comes to his lineups. With Thompson out, I’m going to guess that Semi will start at the three and Tatum will move to the four. Or, it’s possible that Tremont Waters or Jeff Teague, if he is available, will start at the point and everyone moves up one position. I’ve listed the Wizards starters from their last game.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Semi Ojeleye
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Daniel Theis
Romeo Langford (wrist) out
Kemba Walker (knee) out
Jeff Teague (ankle) questionable
Grant Williams (covid) out
Robert Williams (covid) out
Tristan Thompson (covid) out
Probable Wizards Starters
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Bradley Beal
SF: Deni Avdija
PF: Rui Hachimura
C: Thomas Bryant
Troy Brown, Jr
Russell Westbrook (finger) game time decision
Jaylen Brown vs Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal is coming off a career game with 60 points. He is averaging 34.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. Beal played in just one game vs the Celtics last season and had 44 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists in that game. He is definitely a threat to score every minute he is in the game. The Celtics have to play tough defense on him.
Marcus Smart vs Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook is new to the Wizards but has picked up right where he left off with the Rockets. He is averaging a triple double of 20.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 11.8 assists. The is only the 2nd player in league history to have a triple double in each of his first 4 games. He has averaged 25.9 points over his career against the Celtics.
Daniel Theis vs Thomas Bryant
Bryant is averaging 17.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. The Celtics need to guard him closely as he is shooting 66.7% from the field and 45% from beyond the arc and also able to score inside.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the key to winning. The Celtics had a top 4 defense last season but for some reason, this season they have struggled on the defensive end although they have shown some flashes of playing tough defense. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 111.5 (21st) while the Wizards have a defensive rating of 115.2 (29th). The Wizards are averaging 120.8 points per game and so the Celtics should not try to outscore them. The Celtics must get back to making defense a priority and give a better effort on that end of the court consistently.
Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 44.8 rebounds per game while the Wizards are averaging 42.6 rebounds per game. If ever there was proof that much of rebounding is effort, it would be Payton Pritchard’s 6 rebounds against the Heat. All of 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. Especially if they are short handed, they will need to play with extra effort.
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 3rd with 20.1 points off turnovers per game and they will make the Celtics pay if they get careless.
Next Man Up - The Celtics may be very short handed. With 3 of the Celtics big men out, it will be up to the players that are healthy and on the court to step up and play harder. The Wizards could be at full strength if Westbrook plays, but they also could have players out due to contact tracing from their game on Wednesday against the Sixers. Regardless, the Celtics must step up and fill in the gaps.
Home Again - The Celtics are home again and so should get a boost from being back on their home court, even though there are no fans there. They have the benefit of sleeping in their own beds and having their family there. On the other hand, the Wizards are on their 4th straight road game, which could leave them somewhat fatigued.
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. With Scott Foster as the lead official, you never know what you will get. The Celtics need to adjust their game to the way the refs are calling it and not let bad calls affect their focus.