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Boston Celtics at Charlotte Hornets Game #67 3/9/22

The Celtics look to win their 4th straight game as they visit the Charlotte Hornets.

Charlotte Hornets v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

The Celtics travel to Charlotte to take on the Hornets for the 4th and final game between them this season. The Celtics lead the series 2-1 so far this season. The Celtics won the first game 140-129 on October 25 at Charlotte. The Hornets won the second game 111-102 on January 19 at Boston. The Celtics then won the third game 113-107 on February 2 at Boston. The Celtics are 70-45 all time vs Charlotte and 32-25 when the games are played in Charlotte.

The Celtics have climbed to 5th in the East. They have won their last 3 games and are 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 16-16 on the road. They have won 14 of their last 16 games. They are 28-16 against other Eastern Conference teams. They are half a game behind 4th place Chicago, 3 games behind 3rd place Milwaukee, and 2.5 games behind 2nd place Philadelphia. They are half a game ahead of 6th place Cleveland and 4 games ahead of 7th place Toronto. Every game is important since the standings in the East are so close.

The Hornets are 9th in the East. They had won 2 games before losing to the Nets on Tuesday. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games and 16-16 at home. They are 21-21 against other Eastern Conference teams. With their loss to the Nets on Tuesday, they have fallen 1 game behind 8th place Brooklyn and 3 games behind 7th place Toronto. They are 7 games behind the Celtics. They are tied with 10th place Atlanta and 1.5 games ahead of 11th place Washington.

The Hornets are playing on the second night of back to back games. They hosted the Nets on Tuesday. They are just 1-11 when playing on the second night of back to back games. The Celtics have had 2 days off and are playing in just their 2nd game in 6 days. The Hornets had 2 days off before their Tuesday game against the Nets. They should be well rested while the Hornets may be fatigued after a tough game against the Nets on Tuesday.

The Celtics are coming off a 3 game home stand where they went 3-0. After this game in Charlotte, the Celtics will return home for games against Detroit and Dallas before heading out on a Western road trip through Golden State, Sacramento, Denver, and Oklahoma City. The Hornets are completing a 3 game home stand and will have 2 games on the road in New Orleans and then Oklahoma City before returning home for a 5 game home stand.

With Jaylen Brown returning to the Celtics on Sunday after missing just one game with an ankle sprain, the Celtics are again mostly healthy with just Aaron Nesmith on the injury list with an ankle sprain. For the Hornets, James Bouknight is questionable with a neck injury that has kept him out of 4 straight games. Gordon Hayward has been out since early February with an ankle injury and is expected to be out until at least March 21.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III

Celtics Reserves
Payton Pritchard
Grant Williams
Derrick White
Daniel Theis
Luke Kornet
Sam Hauser
Nick Stauskas
Malik Fitts (10 day)
Kelan Martin (10 day)

Injuries
Aaron Nesmith (ankle) out

Two-Way Players
Brodric Thomas
Matt Ryan

Head Coach
Ime Udoka

Probable Hornets Starters

PG: LaMelo Ball
SG: Terry Rozier
SF: Miles Bridges
PF: PJ Washington
C: Mason Plumlee

Hornets Reserves
Montrezl Harrell
Kai Jones
Cody Martin
Jalen McDaniels
Kelly Oubre, Jr
Nick Richards
JT Thor
Isaiah Thomas (10 day)

Injuries
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
James Bouknight (neck) questionable

Two-Way Players
Arnoldas Kulboka
Scottie Lewis

Head Coach
James Borrego

Key Matchups

Marcus Smart vs LaMelo Ball
Ball has been playing very well in his second season with the Hornets. He is averaging 19.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game. He is shooting 42.5% from the field and 36.3% from beyond the arc. He averaged 26 points, 7 rebounds and 9.3 assists in the 3 games against the Celtics this season. He put up 38 points in the February 2 game between these two teams. The Celtics need to slow him down if they want to get a win in this game.

Jayson Tatum vs Miles Bridges
Bridges is averaging 19.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game this season. He is shooting 48.0% from the field and 30.6% from beyond the arc. He averaged 17.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists in the 3 games against the Celtics this season. Jayson Tatum has been hitting his stride in recent games and the Celtics will need him to come up big on both ends of the court in this one.

Honorable Mention
Jaylen Brown vs Terry Rozier
Rozier is averaging 19.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. He is shooting 43.8% from the field and 37.5% from beyond the arc. He averaged 25.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 7 assists in the 2 games he played against the Celtics this season. He missed the first game with an injury. He always seems to take games against the Celtics personally and gives a little extra effort to try to beat his former team.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning games. The Celtics must continue to commit to playing tough team defense if they hope to win this game. Defense will be even more important in this game because the Hornets average 114.3 points per game, which is tops in the league while the Celtics average just 109.6 points per game. The Celtics are 2nd in the league with a defensive rating of 105.6 while the Hornets are 21st with a defensive rating of 111.9. The Celtics can’t slack off on defense if they hope to beat the Hornets in this game.

Rebound - Much of rebounding is effort and hustle. The Celtics need to crash the boards as a team and fight for every rebound. The Celtics are 3rd with 46.3 rebounds per game while the Hornets are 11th with 45.2 rebounds per game. 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 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. In the games that the Celtics have lost this over this stretch, it was because they weren’t aggressive and allowed their opponents to play harder than them. They can’t allow the Hornets to play harder than them. They have to be more aggressive and be the team that wants it more.

Stay Focused - The Hornets are 2nd in the league with 19.1 points off turnovers per game. They also are 2nd with 15.6 fast break points per game. The Celtics must stay focused and make crisp passes and focus on handling the ball without turning it over. If they get sloppy, the Hornets will make them pay. The Celtics have to focus on taking good shots and making them and they must focus on taking care of the ball.

X-Factors
Rest vs Fatigue - The Celtics have had 2 days off coming into this game while the Hornets are coming off a tough loss to the Nets the night before. Will the Celtics rest cause rust or will them come into this game energized and ready to play? Will the Hornets back to back games cause them to wear down by the end of the game or will they have the energy to match the Celtics down the stretch?

Former Player Factor - It always seems that former Celtics always work harder to have big games against their former team. The Hornets currently have 3 former Celtics on their roster. With Gordon Hayward out for this one, they have Terry Rozier and Isaiah Thomas who will likely be giving a little extra to show their former team that they made a mistake letting them go. Isaiah Thomas has especially tried to get back to the Celtics and will likely want to show them what they are missing.

Officiating - The officiating is always an x-factor. Some referees call the game tight and others let them play. Some favor the home team and others call it evenly. At times, it seems as though some of the Celtics focus more on the officiating than they do on playing the game. The Celtics have to play through whatever calls go against them and not allow bad calls or no calls to take away their focus on the game.

DraftKings

According to our friends at DraftKings, the Celtics are a -7 favorite against the Hornets on Wednesday. That certainly takes into account that Boston hasn’t played since Sunday’s matinee win over the Brooklyn and Charlotte is on the second night of a back-to-back against the same Nets team. Three Hornets starters (Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, and Terry Rozier) all logged over 36 minutes in the loss.

But if history serves as a reminder, the previous Celtics-Hornets have all been fairly competitive. After the double overtime thriller in Charlotte in the first week of the season, they split both games in The Garden, most recently a 113-107 Boston win where LaMelo Ball scored 38 points.

Tonight’s game would seemingly be a toss-up, but the teams are trending in opposite directions. Before January 31st, Charlotte had one of the league’s best offenses behind the Jazz, Hawks, and Suns, but over their last fifteen games, they’re 4-11 with the 25th ranked offense. During that same stretch, the Celtics are averaging 8.4 more points per 100 possessions and (say it with me, everybody) boast the best defense in the NBA.

There is a trap-ish quality to this one-game road trip. After a prove it week on the parquet that included wins over the Hawks, Grizzlies, and Nets, the Celtics are feeling themselves heading out of town. After practice on Tuesday, Grant Williams said, “you can’t ride highs or lows. Even now, we don’t view any team as higher as the other. So, we just have to do our best job of holding on to what we do well and understanding that no matter who we’re playing, we’re doing those things.”

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