The Washington Wizards have started off the season looking like a different team than the last few years, both with the players on the floor and with their style of play. Out have gone the ball-dominant guards (outside of Bradley Beal) and in are a bunch of better-fitting role players, along with a new head coach. That’s helped to get Washington off to a better than expected start this season.
Here are three things to watch for when the Boston Celtics take on the Wizards:
1. The defenses: Over the last several years, we’ve been able to count on Washington being a terrible defensive team. They had seemingly embraced the idea of the best defense being an offense that could score 120 points. This year, in a very (VERY!) small sample size, the Wizards are getting after it on defense.
Assuming Boston is relatively healthy, it will be fun to track how Washington guards Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will draw one of them. The other will probably see a collection of defenders, primarily based on who else the Celtics have on the floor.
On the other end, look for Marcus Smart to primarily check Bradley Beal. After that, who guards Spencer Dinwiddie and Kyle Kuzma become the priority. Beal will get his. Holding the other two in check is a key to beating Washington.
2. The benches: The Wizards bench has been solid to start the season. Montrezl Harrell is doing his thing as a scorer. Davis Bertans remains an elite floor-spacer. Raul Neto is always pesky. And Aaron Holiday can be disruptive at times too.
The Celtics bench has been a little more hit or miss. Some of that has to do with rotating personnel due to injuries in the starting group. Boston should be able to keep this one relatively even, assuming Dennis Schroder and Grant Williams maintain their solid play. If the Celtics reserves can outplay their counterparts, that will go a long way towards a win.
3. Fouling: Washington has been getting to the line at a pretty good rate through their first three games. In part because of a double-overtime game and an overtime game, Boston has put opponents on the line the most in the NBA through four games.
The Wizards shoot it great when they get freebies. Keeping Beal and company from stealing free points is huge for the Celtics. Boston has to defend aggressively against this talented scoring bunch, but they have to do so without fouling. That might be easier said than done.
On the flip side, Washington has fouled at about a league-average rate. Despite the improved team-defense, they don’t have the defenders to hold Tatum or Brown in check. This is a good spot for both of the Celtics stars to deliver on their promise of getting to the line more often.