For the second game in a row, the Celtics are going to attempt to beat the last place team in the East. They lost to the last place Pistons on Friday and now face the Washington Wizards for the second of 3 games scheduled in the first half of the season. The Celtics beat the Wizards 116-107 on January 8 in Boston. They are scheduled to play again on February 28 in Boston.
The Celtics remain 4th in the league in spite of losing 4 of their last 6 games. They are 4 games behind first place Philadelphia and half a game ahead of 5th place Indiana. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games and are coming off a loss to the Detroit Pistons on Friday. They are 7-8 on the road.
The Wizards dropped to last place in the East, just percentage points behind the Detroit Pistons, who moved up a spot after beating the Celtics on Friday. The Wizards are 2-9 at home and 3-7 in their last 10 games. They have lost their last 2 games.
The Wizards are playing in the first of back to back games and host Houston on Monday. They are 0-6 on the first night of back to back games so far. The Celtics play next on Tuesday when they host the Nuggets for the first of back to back games with the Hawks coming to Boston on Wednesday.
Last season, the Celtics won the series between these two teams 2-1 with the Wizards win coming as their only win in the Orlando bubble on the last day of seeding games. Over the last 15 games between these two teams, the Celtics lead 8-7 with 3 games going into overtime and 11 of those games being won by single digits.
Robert Williams has missed the Celtics last two games with a sore hip but is listed as probable for this game. Semi Ojeleye left Friday’s game in the 3rd quarter with knee soreness and is also listed as probable for this game. Marcus Smart (calf) and Romeo Langford (wrist) both remain out. I’m guessing that Brad will go back to the usual starting 5, although he may go with Semi Ojeleye in place of Tristan Thompson once again.
For the Wizards, Thomas Bryant is out for the season with a knee injury. Ish Smith left Friday’s game with a quad injury and is also listed as out for this game. Bradley Beal missed Friday’s game for rest but is expected to be back in the starting lineup for this game. I’ve listed the starters from the Wizard’s game notes, but they may or may not start this game since they have had 16 different starting lineups this season so far and they are 0-1 with this lineup.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Daniel Theis
C: Tristan Thompson
Romeo Langford (wrist) out
Marcus Smart (calf) out
Robert Williams (hip) probable
Semi Ojeleye (knee) probable
Probable Wizards Starters
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Bradley Beal
SF: Davis Bertans
PF: Rui Hachimura
C: Alex Len
Troy Brown, Jr
Ish Smith (quad) out
Thomas Bryant (knee) out
Jaylen Brown vs Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal scored 40+ points in each of his last 2 games against the Celtics, including 41 points on January 8 when they met in Boston. He is averaging 32.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. He is shooting 47% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc. He is definitely a threat to score every minute he is in the game. The Celtics have to play tough defense on him.
Kemba Walker vs Russell Westbrook
Westbrook may have lost a step or two but is still a very good player and he is capable of putting up a triple double on any given night. He is averaging 19.9 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 8.9 assists. He is shooting 42% from the field and 32% on threes. He has averaged 25.3 points against the Celtics over his career.
Daniel Theis vs Rui Hachimura
Assuming that Theis starts at the four instead of Tatum, he will be tasked with guarding Rui Hachimura, who is averaging 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. He is shooting 45% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the key to winning. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 110.6 (14th) while the Wizards have a defensive rating of 115.5 (29th). The Wizards are averaging 112.9 points per game while the Celtics are averaging 110.8 points a game. 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 43.8 rebounds per game while the Wizards are averaging 43.9 rebounds per game. All of the Celtics have to put out 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 allowed the Pistons to out-work and out hustle them and it cost them the game. They have to be the team that wants it more or they may find themselves losing to last place teams twice in a row.
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. In their big win over the Raptors, they had 30 assists but in their loss to the Pistons they had just 15. Those two games are an example of both extremes. The Celtics have to look to pass the ball and not dribble into double and triple teams on every other play.
Matinee Game - The Celtics are once again playing at 1:00 in the afternoon. It seems that more often than not they come out sluggish in the early games. The Wizards are likely to be motivated to come out strong and play hard just to get back at the Celtics for the January loss and also to get out of last place. The Celtics have to come out strong and not let the early start affect them.
Officiating - The officiating can always be 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. It seems that lately the Celtics have been looking to draw fouls more than make the shot. They have to stop hoping the refs will bail them out and make their shots. The Celtics need to adjust their game to the way the refs are calling it and not let bad or no calls affect their focus.