The Celtics look to avenge Sunday’s embarrassing loss to the Hornets as they take the fight to the TD Garden. The Celtics were healthy in Sunday’s game, other than Robert Williams but they still allowed the Hornets to outplay them in just about every sense of the word from start to finish. The Celtics are 1-1 this season against the Hornets after losing on Sunday and winning 116-86 back on April 4.
Both teams are playing on the second night of back to back games. The Celtics were at home against Oklahoma City Thunder while the Hornets hosted the Milwaukee Bucks and had to travel after the game. The Celtics are 5-7 on the second night of back to back games and 1-2 when the games are home/home. The Hornets are 6-6 on the second night of back to back games.
The Celtics remain in 6th place, tied with the 7th place Miami Heat. They are 2 games behind both New York (4th) and Atlanta (5th). They are 1.5 games ahead of Charlotte (8th). The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games and 19-12 at home. They have lost their last 3 games. The Hornets are in 8th place and 1 game ahead of Indiana (9th) and 3 games ahead of Washington (10th). They are 1.5 games behind both Boston (6th) and Miami (7th). They are 3-7 in their last 10 games and 14-18 on the road.
Jayson Tatum missed Tuesday’s game due to the ankle impingement that has been bothering him. Robert Williams has missed 7 straight games with a sore knee, including Tuesday’s game. Both are expected to play in this game. Kemba Walker missed Tuesday’s game and will miss at least this game due to a side strain. I’m going to guess that Fournier starts in place of Kemba as he did against the Thunder. I’m thinking that Robert Williams will come off the bench to ease his way back in after a 7 game absence.
The Hornets are missing Malik Monk with with an ankle injury. Gordon Hayward is also out with a foot injury. Nate Darling is out with an ankle injury. Eight days ago, the report was that LaMelo Ball would be ready to play in 7-10 days. He was out for Tuesday’s game against the Bucks and is also listed as out for this game.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Evan Fournier
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Tristan Thompson
Robert Williams III
Kemba Walker (side) out
Probable Hornets Starters
PG: Devonte Graham
SG: Terry Rozier
SF: Cody Martin
PF: Miles Bridges
C: PJ Washington
Vernon Carey, Jr
LaMelo Ball (wrist) out
Nate Darling (ankle) out
Gordon Hayward (foot) out
Malik Monk (ankle) out
Marcus Smart vs Terry Rozier
Rozier has had a chip on his shoulder against the Celtics since he was traded to Charlotte. He is leading the Hornets with 20.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. He is shooting 46.5% from the field and 40.3% from beyond the arc. Rozier had 22 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in their first game against the Celtics and 21 points, 5 rebounds, 11 assists in Sunday’s game. Even if Marcus starts at the point, I expect to see him guarding Rozier, at least part of the time.
Jayson Tatum vs Miles Bridges
Bridges is averaging 11.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists but since moving into the starting lineup, he is playing very well. He had a big game against the Celtics on Sunday with 20 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block. He is shooting 50.5% from the field and 40.7% from beyond the arc. Hopefully Jayson will return for this one.
Tristan Thompson vs PJ Washington
Washington has been starting at center for the Hornets, who have been going without a traditional center in their starting lineup. He is averaging 12.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game. He is shooting 44.7% from the field and 38.6% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics on Sunday, he put up 22 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 block. It’s possible that if Robert Williams can return that he may start but I’m listing Thompson here because I think they will try to ease Williams back into it rather than starting his first game back.
Keys to the Game
Defense Defense Defense!! - Defense is the key to winning every game. The Hornets average 109.9 points per game while the Celtics average 111.9 points per game. The Celtics are 12th with a defensive rating of 111.3 while the Hornets are 16th with a defensive rating of 111.7. In Sunday’s game, the Celtics played no defense, allowing the Hornets to shoot 50% from the field and 48.8% on three pointers. The same thing happened on Tuesday when they allowed a tanking Thunder team break their 14 game losing streak by shooting 48% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc. They must make defense a priority if they want to win this game.
Rebound - Rebounding takes effort and desire and when the Celtics have both of those on the boards, that carries through to the other parts of their game. The Hornets average 43.6 rebounds per game while the Celtics average 44.3 rebounds per game. The Celtics were out-rebounded 46-41 on Sunday. The Celtics must commit to give effort to get rebounds. They can’t score without the ball and they can’t give up extra possessions to the opponent by failing to rebound and expect to win.
Play Team Ball - The Celtics play best when they move the ball and find the open man. They have to play TEAM ball and share the ball and no player should try to do too much or play hero ball. They also need to commit to play team defense. The Celtics play the best when the scoring is spread out and no one player has to do too much. The Celtics best games this season have been games in which they have had 26 or more assists per game. The Hornets are averaging 26.9 assists per game and had 39 assists on Sunday while the Celtics average 23.2 assists per game and had just 18 assists on Sunday. The Celtics must commit to moving the ball and to playing together.
Focus - The Celtics don’t seem to be focused in recent games. They turn the ball over way too much. They also have been struggling to score the ball, shooting just 38% from the field and 34% from beyond the arc against Charlotte on Sunday and 42% from the field and 22% from beyond the arc against the Thunder on Tuesday. They shot an incredible 49 threes and made only 11 of them. If they continue to struggle from the perimeter, they need to go inside instead of continuing to shoot 3 point bricks. They need to focus and make their shots, and they need to take care of the ball.
Urgency - The Celtics have been passive in their past 3 losses. They have allowed teams to play harder than them resulting in losing games they should have won. They have shown absolutely no urgency in these games in spite of being on the verge of landing in the play-in games. Even bad teams that play hard can beat good teams that don’t and that is what is happening to the Celtics. They need to take every game seriously and realize that if they don’t, they may end up in the play-in tournament and out of the playoffs altogether. They have shown flashes of playing well but then go right back to being lethargic. Somehow, they have to get back to being the more aggressive team.
Back to Back at Home - Both teams are playing on the second night of back to back games. The Celtics are at home while the Hornets had to travel after Tuesday’s game. The Celtics need to take advantage of being at home and having their fans there to cheer them on. They also should be a bit fresher because they didn’t have to travel.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. Sometimes you don’t even notice the refs but other times, they very clearly make their presence known. Every crew calls the game differently and players never know what to expect. Sometimes they call it tight with a foul for every little bit of contact. Sometimes they let the teams play and allow them to be physical. Players need to adjust to how the game is being called and not allow the officiating to take their focus off of playing their game. And they definitely don’t need to complain after every play.