The Celtics continue their 3 game road trip with a stop in New Orleans to take on the Pelicans. The Celtics are coming off a big win in Atlanta and will finish their road trip in Chicago on Monday. The Pelicans are playing in the 5th game of a 6 game home stand. They are 3-1 so far in this home stand. They will finish their home stand on Monday against the Warriors.
This is the first of 2 games between these two teams this season. They will meet again in Boston on January 11. The Celtics won the series 2-0 last season. The Celtics are first in the Eastern Conference while the Pelicans are 5th in the Western Conference. The Celtics are 22-21 all time overall against the Pelicans. They are 9-13 all time when the games are played in new Orleans.
The Celtics are 6-2 on the road while the Pelicans are 5-2 at home. The Celtics have won their last 8 games while the Pelicans are on a 3 game win streak. The Celtics are 9-1 in their last 10 games while the Pelicans are 6-4 in their last 10. The Celtics are 3-0 against Western Conference opponents while the Pelicans are 4-2 against Eastern Conference teams.
Malcolm Brogdon will return to the rotation after missing the last 4 games with a hamstring injury. Marcus Smart missed Wednesday’s game and will also miss this game with an ankle injury. I expect Derrick White to once again start in his place. Robert Williams III is reportedly getting close to a return after sitting out the season so far after off season knee surgery but is out for this game. Danilo Gallinari is out for the season with an ACL tear.
For the Pelicans, Kira Lewis, Jr has missed the season so far as he rehabs from a torn ACL that he suffered last December. He has been assigned to the Pelicans’ G-Leaque affiliate to continue his rehab. He is out for this game. EJ Liddell is out with a knee injury. Zion Williamson has missed 2 games with a foot injury. He is questionable for this game and will be a game time decision. If he can play, he will likely start at power forward.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) out
Marcus Smart (ankle) out
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Pelicans Starters
- CJ McCollum Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images
- Dyson Daniels Photo by KeShawn Ennis/NBAE via Getty Images
- Naji Marshall Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images
- Trey Murphy III Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images
- Jonas Valanciunas Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images
Larry Nance, Jr
2 Way Players
Kira Lewis (knee) out
Zion Williamson (foot) questionable
EJ Liddell (knee) out
Jayson Tatum vs Brandon Ingram
Ingram is averaging 20.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. He is shooting 46.3% from the field and 50.0% from beyond the arc. He is shooting very well and if not defended well, he is capable of putting up big numbers. Jayson Tatum struggled somewhat in his last game and so I expect a big game from him in this one.
Derrick White vs CJ McCollum
McCollum is averaging 19.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 6.6 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 40.4% from the field and 31.8% from beyond the arc. With Marcus Smart out, it will be up to Derrick White to run the Celtics’ offense as well as try to slow McCollum down.
Al Horford vs Jonas Valanciunas
Valanciunas is averaging 13.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists. He is shooting 50.7% from the field and 40.0% from beyond the arc. If Zion Williamson is able to play, Zion vs Grant will be a key matchup. Zion is averaging 23.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He is shooting 56.6% from the field and 50.0% from beyond the arc.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the key to winning. The Pelicans average 116.7 points per game (5th) while the Celtics average 120.4 points per game (1st). The Celtics must play tough defense to slow down the Pelicans’ scoring if they want to win this game. The Celtics are 16th in the league with a defensive rating of 111.5. The Pelicans are 8th with a defensive rating of 110.0. The Celtics must make defense a priority to get a win.
Rebound - The Celtics have to crash the boards as a team. Rebounding takes effort and when they put that extra effort out to dominate the boards, it often translates to all other areas of the game as well. The Pelicans are averaging 45.2 rebounds (7th) and the Celtics are averaging 42.5 rebounds per game (21st). The Pelicans are 11th in the league with 15.2 second chance points and so the Celtics are going to have to work hard to keep them off the boards to keep them from scoring second chance baskets.
Push the Pace and Move the Ball - Two things that have helped the Celtics offense to be dominant this season are the fact that they have picked up the pace and pushed the ball up the court. They also moved the ball and along with hitting from outside, they also get to the basket. The Celtics need to continue to do both of those things in order to keep winning. They can’t play hero ball and they can’t just walk up the court. They have to run and get into their offense before the Pelicans defense gets set.
Stay Focused - The Celtics have to stay focused on playing the right way. They have to focus on their ball handling and on their passes and not give their opponents free possessions by turning the ball over. They have to stay focused on taking good shots and on making them. If the outside shots stop falling, they need to get to the basket. They have to focus on playing team ball and on playing defense. The Pelicans are a good team and the Celtics can’t lose focus for any period of time or the Pelicans will make them pay.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have got to be aggressive in going to the basket, playing defense, diving for loose balls and just play harder. Their effort and aggressiveness can make them very tough to beat and their lack of it can make them vulnerable. They are once again facing a team that plays hard and are aggressive and they can’t afford to come out with less than 100% effort. They have to give every game their maximum effort as a team.
On the Road - The Celtics are playing in the second of a 3 game road trip.. Whether it is the travel, hotel living, or an unfamiliar arena and hostile fans, there are plenty of distractions to hinder a team playing on the road. The Celtics need to come in focused and not allow the distractions of playing away from home to keep them from playing their best.
Officiating - Officiating always has the possibility to be an x-factor. Every crew calls the game differently. Some call every bit of contact while some let them play. Some favor the home team and some call it evenly and some are just bad. Hopefully the Celtics get a crew that calls it even and lets both teams play. However the game is called, they need to focus on the game and not allow bad or no calls take that focus away. Refs have been very quick to call techs for complaining and the Celtics need to keep their emotions under control to avoid giving away points on technical fouls.