The Celtics host the Charlotte Hornets for their first meeting this season. They will play a second time on April 25 in Charlotte and a third time on April 28 once again in Boston. The April 28th meeting will be the second of back to back games for both teams. The Celtics have won their last 7 home games against the Hornets. They are 66-43 all time vs the Hornets and 35-19 all time in Boston.
The Celtics are 8th in the East and would have to play in the Play-in Tournament to make the playoffs if the season ended today. They are half a game behind the Knicks(7) and 1 game behind Atlanta(5). They are 1.5 games behind the Hornets(4) and the Heat(5). They are 1.5 games ahead of the 9th place Hornets. The Celtics are 4-6 in their last 10 games and 14-9 at home. They are looking for their 2nd straight win.
The Hornets are 4 spots ahead of the Celtics in 4th place in the East. They are 6.5 games behind the 3rd place Milwaukee Bucks. They are tied with Miami(5) and half a game ahead of Atlanta(6) and 1 game ahead of the Knicks(7). They are 1.5 games ahead of the Celtics. It goes without saying that this game is very important for playoff positioning. The Hornets are 5-5 in their last 10 games and 12-14 on the road. Like the Celtics, they are looking for their second straight win.
With the Hornets win in Indiana on Friday, they won their 4th road win in 5 games. In 3 of their last 5 road games, they have also held their opponents under 100 points. Their bench came up with 55 points, including 23 points by Miles Bridges, who filled in for the injured Gordon Hayward in the second half. They had 7 players in double figures including Bridges, Zeller and Wanamaker off the bench. The Celtics need to absolutely take this team seriously.
Jaylen Brown left Friday’s game against the Rockets after bumping knees with DJ Augustin. He is listed as questionable for this game. I’ve included him in the starting lineup but if he can’t play, Brad could once again go with Grant Williams to fill in or he may start Evan Fournier after his big game on Friday. Tristan Thompson (covid) and Semi Ojeleye (hip) are both listed as out. Romeo Langford was once again left off the injury report but I wouldn’t get too excited about his season debut as yet.
For the Hornets, Gordon Hayward left Friday’s game vs the Pacers with a sprained foot and didn’t return. He is expected to miss at least 4 weeks, which could rule him out for all 3 meetings between these two teams. Miles Bridges filled in for Hayward against Indiana and will likely get the start in this game. LaMelo Ball (wrist) and Malik Monk (ankle) are both also listed as out for this game.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Robert Williams III
Semi Ojeleye (hip) out
Tristan Thompson (covid) out
Jaylen Brown (knee) questionable
Probable Hornets Starters
PG: Devonte Graham
SG: Terry Rozier
SF: Miles Bridges
PF: PJ Washington
C: Bismack Biyombo
Vernon Carey, Jr
LaMelo Ball (wrist) out
Gordon Hayward (foot) out
Malik Monk (ankle) out
Marcus Smart vs Terry Rozier
Rozier will likely have a chip on his shoulder coming back to the team that drafted him but didn’t give him a starting role. He is leading the Hornets with 20.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. He is shooting 46.8% from the field and 41.3% from beyond the arc. Marcus will need to slow him down to give the Celtics a good chance to get a win.
Kemba Walker vs Devonte Graham
With Hayward out, the second key matchup will likely go to Walker vs Graham. Graham is averaging 13.9 points, 2.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists. He is shooting 37% from the field and 37.2% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need Kemba to play well and have a good game on both ends of the court.
Jayson Tatum vs PJ Washington
Washington is averaging 11.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. He is very capable of putting up big numbers and has had a 42 point game this season already. The Celtics need Tatum to play unselfishly and move the ball instead of looking to play hero ball.
Keys to the Game
Defense Defense Defense!! - Defense is the key to winning every game. The Hornets average 111.2 points per game while the Celtics average 112.3 points per game. The Celtics are 22nd with a defensive rating of 112.0 while the Hornets are 13th with a defensive rating of 111.2. The Celtics must make defense a priority and play tough individual and team defense if they want to get a win.
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 44.1 rebounds per game while the Celtics average 44.0 rebounds per game. 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 26.8 assists per game while the Celtics average 23.1 assists per game. The Celtics must commit to moving the ball and to playing together.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have started off slow in some games and then played hard in the second half to catch up. They have also gotten off to a good start and built a lead and then they would go away from what got them the lead and lose the game. They need to come out strong and play hard at the beginning, especially on the defensive end and not allow the Hornets to get off to a good start and build a lead. They also need to play hard right up to the final buzzer with no let up.
Home Game - The Celtics are playing in their third straight home game. The Hornets have not played as well on the road as well as they have at home with a 12-14 road record. The Celtics need to take advantage of being at home and having their fans there to cheer them on.
Former Team Factor - Kemba Walker, Terry Rozier, Brad Wanamaker and, even though he won’t be playing, Gordon Hayward are all facing their former team. Players (other than Kyrie) like to face their former teams and play their best game as a sort of revenge factor. Sometimes it works out and they have a big game but sometimes, like Terry’s first game against the Celtics last season, they struggle because they try to do too much. Either way, teams always try to play hard to get a win for their teammates against their former teams.
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 a lot. 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.