For the second time in four days, the Celtics will face the Washington Wizards. The Wizards came out on top on Wednesday at the TD Garden as the Celtics could not match the Wizards effort. The Wizards went on to beat the Atlanta Hawks 122-111 on Thursday without Gafford or Dinwiddie. The Celtics have not played since Wednesday’s loss to the Wizards at home.
This is the second of four games between these two teams this season. They will meet once more in Washington on January 23 and again in Boston on April 3. Four of the Celtics’ next five games are on the road. That may be a good thing because the Celtics are winless at home but 2-1 on the road. Much has been said by coach, players and fans about the Celtics lack of effort in Wednesday’s game. Hopefully we will see more energy and a better effort in this one.
Marcus Smart did not travel with the team to Washington and will miss this game due to illness. He has been battling migraines and an intestinal illness for at least the past week. I am guessing that Dennis Schroder will get the start in his place. Aaron Nesmith also is fighting an illness but traveled with the team and is questionable for this game. Romeo Langford has missed the last 3 games and with a calf injury and is also listed as questionable for this game.
Robert Williams was a late addition to the injury list on Saturday. He is listed as questionable with an illness, possibley the same intestinal bug that has Marcus Smart out and Aaron Nesmith questionable. Also on Saturday’s list is Josh Richardson, who is having back spasms and is probable for this game. Aaron Nesmith was not on Saturday’s list and so will likely be available for this game.
The Wizards will also be shorthanded for this game. Rui Hachimura remains out for conditioning after missing training camp due to a personal matter. Thomas Bryant will likely be out until at least December after tearing his ACL last season. Cassius Winston is out with a hamstring injury. Anthony Gill is out with a calf injury. Daniel Gafford injured his quad in Wednesday’s game against the Celtics and is doubtful for this game. Montrezl Harrell started at center in his place on Thursday and played very well so I imagine that he will once again get the start.
Probable Celtics Starters
Marcus Smart (illness) out
Romeo Langford (calf) questionable
Aaron Nesmith (illness) questionable
Robert Williams (illness) questionable
Josh Richardson (back) probable
Probable Wizards Starters
Thomas Bryant (knee) out
Anthony Gill (calf) out
Rui Hachimura (conditioning) out
Cassius Winston (hamstring) out
Daniel Gafford (quad) doubtful
Wes Unseld, Jr
Jaylen Brown vs Bradley Beal
This is a key matchup for both teams. Jaylen Brown has been experiencing after effects of the covid that kept him out of most of training camp. He has been very inconsistent so far, scoring 46 points in one game and then 9 in the next game. He scored 30 in one game and then 13 in the next. The Celtics need him to be more consistent and hopefully as the effects of the covid wear off, he will be. Bradley Beal is having problems of his own. He is averaging 21.5 points per game but is shooting 35.9% from the field and just 17.2% from beyond the arc. He is also turning the ball over almost 4 times per game.
Robert Williams III vs Montrezl Harrell
Harrell started for Daniel Gafford on Thursday and finished with 25 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. I’m guessing that he will once again get the start in this game. He had 25 points and 11 rebounds in Wednesday’s game against the Celtics and was able to get pretty much whatever he wanted inside. Robert needs to find a way to slow him down in this game.
Dennis Schroder vs Spencer Dinwiddie
I’m guessing that Schroder will get the start in place of Marcus Smart. He will be tasked with trying to slow down Dinwiddie who is averaging 19.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists. He is shooting 44.4% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. He put up 22 points against the Celtics on Wednesday and was held out on Thursday for rest so he should be nice and fresh for this game.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the key to winning. In spite of saying that they would make defense their identity, the Celtics have been rather mediocre on defense so far. They have a defensive rating of 110.6 which is 22nd in the league. The Wizards are 13th with a defensive rating of 104.7. The Celtics allowed the Wizards to shoot 51% on Wednesday. They have to do better in this game. The Celtics have allowed way too many open threes in each of their games. The Wizards are 3rd in the league with 52.4 points in the paint per game. The Celtics must play better defense both in the paint and on the perimeter.
Rebounding - Rebounding is also always a key to winning. Much of rebounding is effort and focus and the Celtics had neither in their first game against the Wizards, who out-rebounded the Celtics 47-37. Way too many times there were no Celtics in the paint for the rebounds. The Celtics opponents get 27.6 of their own misses, which is 26th in the league. The Celtics must put out more effort to crash the boards and when they do, it usually filters down to the rest of their game as well.
Focus and Effort - Much has been said by Ime Udoka, the players, the fans, and the media about the Celtics lack of effort in their two home games. The players all said they know they have to play harder and have more focus. Ime Udoka told them if they didn’t have more effort and focus in the game than they did in shoot around they would get beat. He was right. The Celtics must play with increased focus and effort if they expect to beat the Wizards, who are playing hard and winning.
Be Aggressive - Along with putting in more effort and having better focus, the team has to be the more aggressive team. They have to be more aggressive in going to the basket, in defending, in going for loose balls and just be more aggressive in general. Too many times in the last game we saw the Celtics standing around while Wizards ran for a rebound or for a loose ball. The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team and they can’t let the Wizards play harder than them.
Teamwork - The Celtics need to play as a team on both ends of the court. They need to move the ball and find the best shot on each possession. They have to trust each other to make the right play. They also have to play as a team on defense, not missing defensive assignments and backing each other up on defense. When the Celtics have fewer than 20 assists, they usually lose. They have to work as a team and play together on both offense and defense.
On the Road - The Celtics are on the road for this game and for four of their next five games. Young players usually play better at home but the Celtics have lost their only two home games so far. The Celtics need to keep their focus and not allow the distractions of playing on the road and in a hostile arena bother them.
Officiating - We have seen some questionable calls as always. The refs have also been calling the game a bit differently than players are used to. Jayson Tatum, Steph Curry, and James Harden have all complained about not getting to the line. The officials are not calling the fouls where the offensive player in any way initiates the fouls and it’s going to take time for players who are used to getting those calls to adjust. Jayson Tatum needs to adjust and not expect the calls and not lose focus in the game over calls he thinks he should get.
Short Handed - Both teams are missing key players. The Wizards beat the Hawks on Thursday on the second night of back to back games and even more short handed than they are in this one. The Celtics will definitely miss Marcus Smart in this one but everyone needs to up their game, especially on the defensive end where Marcus’ absence will be felt the most.