This is the first preseason game for both of these teams. Celtics won the series 3-1 last season. These two teams have met 116 times in the regular season with Boston leading the series 71-45. The Celtics are 4-1 in their last 5 meetings. Charlotte won 43 games last season and finished 10th in the East while the Celtics won 51 games and finished 2nd in the East.
I’m guessing that the Celtics will start Grant Williams in place of Robert Williams, but they could go small or, if Blake Griffin is with the team, they may even start him at center while they are waiting for Timelord and Kornet to return to the lineup. The Hornets will likely start the same lineup they started last year with the exception of replacing Miles Bridges with PJ Washington. Of course, both teams could go in a completely different direction since this is the preseason and coaches often experiment with lineups.
Both of these teams had some chaos in the offseason. The Hornets released James Borrego after 4 years as their head coach. They agreed to terms with Kenny Atkinson to take over as head coach but Atkinson backed out of the deal after just a few days. The Hornets then brought back Steve Clifford, who coached the team from 2013 to 2018.
The Hornets restricted free agent Miles Bridges was given a qualifying offer by them. Bridges is a talented player who averaged 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists last season. However, he was arrested in June and charged with one felony count of injuring a child’s parent and two felony counts of child abuse. His NBA future remains in question as he awaits his court date.
The Hornets remain mostly the same as they were last year but without the above mentioned Bridges. They re-signed Cody Martin and they also signed Dennis Smith, Jr to a non-guaranteed camp contract. They are hoping to have a healthy Gordon Hayward, who has struggled to stay healthy over the past few years and played in only 49 games last season.
We know all too well the Celtics problems coming into camp. Head coach Ime Udoka was suspended for the entire season the week before camp began for violating several team rules. Although some details have leaked, the whole story is very much unknown. Taking over as interim head coach is Joe Mazzula who was an assistant under Udoka and was also a finalist for the head coaching job in Utah.
The Celtics also lost Danilo Gallinari for the season when he tore his ACL playing for the Italian national team. Robert Williams will miss 8-12 weeks after having surgery on the same knee that he had surgically repaired last season. Luke Kornet injured his ankle in practice and will miss 1-2 weeks. For the Hornets, Cody Martin is out after injuring his knee in practice and Miles Bridges is out as he awaits his court date.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Grant Williams
C: Al Horford
JD Davison (2 Way)
Mfiondu Kabengele (2 Way)
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Luke Kornet (ankle) out
Robert Williams III (knee) out
Probable Hornets Starters
PG: LaMelo Ball
SG: Terry Rozier
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: PJ Washington
C: Mason Plumlee
Bryce McGowens (two way)
Dennis Smith, Jr
Kelly Oubre, Jr.
Miles Bridges (personal) out
Cody Martin (knee) out
Jaylen Brown vs Terry Rozier
Former Celtic Terry Rozier always takes games against the Celtics very seriously and approaches them with a chip on his shoulder. Last season he averaged 19.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He shot 44.4% from the field and 37.4% from beyond the arc. We are expecting to see Jaylen Brown take another step forward in his development this season and that begins with this game.
Marcus Smart vs LaMelo Ball
Former Rookie of the Year, LaMelo Ball, played very well last season. He averaged 20.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He shot 42.9% from the field and 38.9% from beyond the arc. Defensive Player of the Year, Marcus Smart will do his best to slow Ball down in this one.
Jayson Tatum vs Gordon Hayward
Since breaking his ankle in his first season with the Celtics, Gordon Hayward has stuggled to stay healthy. He his coming into camp healthy and is hoping to be able to stay on the court this season. He played in just 49 games last season, averaging 15.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists. He shot 45.9% from the field and 39.1% from beyond the arc. If he can stay healthy, he can be a difference maker for the Hornets. The Celtics are expecting Jayson Tatum to be even more improved this season and that should make this a fun matchup to watch.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning games. The Celtics were first in defense last season and they have the players to be an elite defensive team this season as well. The Hornets were 28th in points allowed on drives in the paint last season but Steve Clifford has vowed to turn that around this season. The Celtics need to pick up where they left off and play tough team and individual defense.
Rebound - Second to defense is rebounding. Much of rebounding is effort and hustle. The Celtics need to crash the boards as a team and fight for every rebound. The Celtics must beat the Hornets to rebounds to give themselves extra possessions and to keep the Hornets from getting the same.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to work hard right from the tip and vow that teams will not out-work. The Celtics have a lot of talent, but talent without effort won’t win games. The Celtics must be more aggressive on the boards, on defense, on going for loose balls and they have to be aggressive in going to the basket. They can’t allow the Hornets to play harder than them.
Take Care of the Ball - In the preseason, we often see teams commit a lot of turnovers due to trying to work out the kinks and getting used to playing with each other. Last season the Celtics often turned the ball over way too much. They have to work to limit those turnovers this season. If the Celtics can take care of the ball and limit turnovers, they have a good chance to get a win in this game.
Preseason - It’s the first game of the preseason and both teams are still working on lineups and chemistry and conditioning. We may see limited minutes for the starters and also some creative lineups as both coaches look to evaluate the camp players. It may not be very pretty basketball.
Home Game - This is a home game and the fans are going to be excited to see their Celtics for the first time this season. The Celtics should get a boost from the home crowd and hopefully they will take protecting home court seriously right from the start.