The Boston Celtics are looking to get back on track Sunday afternoon at the Washington Wizards. Boston beat Washington a little over a month ago. In that game, the Celtics rolled up a huge lead over the Wizards and then held off a rally in the end. Jayson Tatum (32) and Jaylen Brown (27) combined for 59 points, while Bradley Beal scored 41 for Washington.
Boston is looking to try to start a bit of winning streak with a victory in the matinee. This game comes smack in the middle of a five-games-in-seven-days stretch for the Celtics. So far, Boston is 1-1, with home game against the Nuggets and Hawks coming mid-week. This isn’t a “must win”, but it’s about as close as a midseason game can get.
1. Can the Celtics slow down Bradley Beal?
There’s no shame if the answer is a resounding “No”. Beal is playing great. He’s averaging 32.8 points per game on nearly 47% shooting from the field. Without Marcus Smart, the best the Celtics can probably hope for is to make Beal work for his points. They aren’t going to shut him down, but by making him work, they may tire him out. In addition, look for Boston to go at Beal when he’s on defense. It’s all about wearing him down.
The real key to beating the Wizards is not letting everyone else get going too. Beal is going to get his. If they can control Russell Westbrook and their shooters, the Celtics will be in good shape. Good news? Celtic-killer Ish Smith is out for Sunday’s game.
2. How many points can Boston roll up?
The Wizards don’t do anything well defensively. Almost every metric sees Washington near the bottom of the league. They foul a lot, don’t defend at any level and they don’t force turnovers. Oh, and they do it while playing at the fastest pace in the league! If Boston doesn’t score somewhere near 120 points today, it’s going to be a disappointment.
3. Who steps up in support of the Jays?
Kemba Walker played well against Toronto on Thursday, then sat out the second game of the back-to-back against Detroit. This is another good opportunity for Walker to find his rhythm. Westbrook is an indifferent defender at this point, and none of the bigs are a threat to step up on Walker. This could be Walker’s breakout game.
Inside, Robin Lopez gives a great effort, but he’s about all Washington has to offer near the rim as a defender. That should open things up for Daniel Theis, Tristan Thompson and Robert Williams, if the latter plays today. Expect a steady diet of pick-and-roll today, with the bigs open near the rim.
Mostly, the Celtics are looking for consistent contributors beyond Brown, Tatum, Theis and rookie guard Payton Pritchard. If they get it, they’re very hard to beat. Sunday is a great chance to get some people going and feeling today.