The Celtics host the Washington Wizards for the second game of a four game home stand that will take them into the break. The Wizards returned home on Saturday for one game after a 4 game road trip and are on the road once again for one game. They will close out the first half with 2 more games at home.
These two teams have played twice already with each team winning on their home court. The Celtics won the first game 116-107 on January 8 in Boston. The Celtics were missing 6 players, mostly due to covid in that game. They then lost to the Wizards 104-91 at Washington on February 14.
The Celtics are 7th in the East, 5.5 games behind the 1st place 76ers. They are half a game ahead of 8th place Indiana. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games and are looking for their second straight win. They are 9-5 at home. The Wizards are 12th, 2 games behind the Celtics. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and 7-9 on the road. They have won their last 2 games.
The Wizards have used 17 different starting lineups this season. Their current lineup has played together for 8 games and is 7-1 in those 7 games. The Celtics have used 16 different starting lineups. The lineup of Walker, Brown, Tatum, Theis, Thompson has played 6 games together and are 3-3 in those 6 games.
The Wizards are playing on the second night of back to back games. They played at home vs the Timberwolves on Saturday night, winning 128-112. They are 4-4 in games played on the second night of a back to back set. They are 2-0 when the games are home and then road. The Celtics last played on Friday night and had Saturday off.
For the Celtics, Marcus Smart (calf) and Romeo Langford (wrist) both remain out and will not return until after the All Star break. Jaylen Brown was added to the list on Saturday as questionable with knee soreness. It was then changed to out. I don’t have any idea who will start. It could be Semi or Javonte or Jeff Teague. Whoever it is will have their hands full guarding Bradley Beal.
For the Wizards, Thomas Bryant (knee) is out for the rest of the season. Ish Smith will miss the next 6-to-8 weeks after being diagnosed with an injury to his right quadriceps Wednesday. Davis Bertans had been out with knee soreness but played on Saturday but is listed as questionable for this game once again. Cassius Winston is with the Wizards’ G-League team.
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
Jaylen Brown (knee) out
Probable Wizards Starters
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Bradley Beal
SF: Garrison Matthews
PF: Rui Hachimura
C: Moritz Wagner
Troy Brown, Jr
Ish Smith (quad) out
Thomas Bryant (knee) out
Cassius Winston (NWT/G-League) out
Davis Bertans (knee) questionable
Jaylen Brown vs Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal is averaging 32.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game this season. He is shooting 48% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc. He put up 41 points in the January game and followed that with 35 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists in the February game. He is a threat to score every time down the court both in the paint and on the perimeter. It was just announced that Jaylen will be out. I’m not sure who will start but whoever it is will have his hands full with trying to slow down Beal.
Kemba Walker vs Russell Westbrook
Westbrook may have lost a step or two, but he is a threat to have a triple double in every game. He is averaging 19.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game. He is shooting 42% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc. Kemba is coming off a season high 32 points to go with 6 assists against Indiana. They could use another game like that from him in this one.
Daniel Theis vs Rui Hachimura
Hachimura is averaging 13.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. He is shooting 47% from the floor and 32% on 3 pointers. He averaged 16 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in the first two games. Tatum has been struggling in recent games and this would be a good time for him to get back on track.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the key to winning. The Wizards haven’t had a lot of trouble scoring as they are averaging 114.5 points a game (9th). The Celtics are averaging 110.9 points per game (20th). The Celtics have a defensive rating of 111.1 (16th) while the Wizards have a defensive rating of 114.3 (27th). The Celtics will not likely win a shoot out with the Wizards. They 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 44.6 rebounds per game. If ever there was proof that much of rebounding is effort, it would be Payton Pritchard’s ability to beat much bigger players to the boards. 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. They can win a lot of games by putting in more effort than the other team.
Play as a Team - The Celtics need to play as a team. Hero ball rarely wins games and lately, we have seen way too much of it from the Celtics. They are averaging just 22.1 assists per game. When they move the ball and find the open man, they are tough to beat, but we haven’t seen that enough this season. Too often players dribble out entire possessions to take a contested shot instead of moving the ball to get open shots. They have to play as a team and trust each other.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics need to move the ball, but they also have to take care of the ball. The Wizards are 5th in the league with 19.0 points off turnovers per game. If the Celtics get sloppy with with the ball and turn it over, the Wizards will make them pay.
Revenge - The Wizards beat the Celtics 104-91 the last time they met. The Celtics were expected to win that game since the Wizards were in last place at the time. They need to remember that loss and come into this game motivated to play hard and come away with a win. After that loss, they shouldn’t underestimate the Wizards because they have proved that they can win if you do underestimate them.
Officiating - The officiating can always be an X-Factor. Some crews call games tight and call every little thing so that 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. The Celtics need to adjust their game to the way the refs are calling it and not let bad calls or no calls affect their focus.