The Celtics host the Washington Wizards as they look to even the season series. This is the 4th and final game between these two teams this season. The Celtics are 1-2 against the Wizards so far this season. The Wizards beat the Celtics 116-107 in Boston on October 27 and then 3 days later on October 30, they beat the Celtics for a second time 115-112 in double over time in Washington. The Celtics then beat the Wizards 116-87 on January 23 in Washington behind 51 points from Jayson Tatum.
The Wizards have been eliminated from play-in contention, but they aren’t taking and they aren’t giving up. They have won 4 of their last 5 games and are playing hard. On Friday, they beat Dallas 135-103 in a game that they could have easily tanked. The Celtics are 195-119 overall all time against the Wizards. They are 102-44 all time in Boston. The Wizards have won 5 of the last 8 games after being swept in the 2018-19 season. 9 of the last 15 games between them have been decided by 7 or fewer points.
The Celtics are 3rd in the East and are coming off a home win over the Pacers. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and 27-23 at home. They are 31-18 against Eastern Conference opponents. The Celtics are 2 games behind the first place Miami Heat and half a game behind 2nd place Milwaukee. They are half a game ahead of 4th place Philadelphia and 2.5 games ahead of 5th place Toronto and 3 games ahead of 6th place Chicago.
The Wizards are 11th in the East and have won their last 2 games and 4 of their last 5. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games and 13-24 on the road. They are 24-24 against other Eastern Conference teams. The Wizards are 5.5 games behind 10th place Charlotte and are are locked into the lottery. They are just half a game ahead of 12th place New York and 9.5 games ahead of 13th place Indiana and so there is little chance of them moving up very far in the lottery.
The Celtics are playing in the final game of a 3 game home stand. They are 1-1 so far, losing to Miami and beating Indiana. They will finish up the season on the road against Chicago and Milwaukee in a back to back set and then finally against Memphis. The Wizards have 4 games left after this one. This is the first game of a 3 game road trip for them. They just finished a 3-1 home stand They will finish the season at Minnesota and Atlanta, home vs New York and finally, at Charlotte.
Robert Williams III remains out for the Celtics after surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Jayson Tatum is listed as probable, dealing with right patella tendinopathy. He is dealing with knee soreness but is expected to play. For the Wizards, Kyle Kuzma is out with tendinitis and has missed the last 10 games. Vernon Carey, Jr is out with a hip injury and Bradley Beal is out with a wrist injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
Jayson Tatum (knee) probable
Robert Williams (knee) out
Probable Wizards Starters
Kyle Kuzma (knee) doubtful
Vernon Carey, Jr. (hip) out
Bradley Beal (wrist) out
Two Way Players
Wes Unseld, Jr
Daniel Theis vs Kristaps Porzingis
Porzingis is averaging 20.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. He is shooting 46.9% from the field and 31.7% from beyond the arc. He is coming off a 24 point game against Dallas on Friday. Daniel Theis started on Friday against the Pacers and I’m guessing that he will once again get the start in place of Robert Williams in this game.
Jayson Tatum vs Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Caldwell-Pope is averaging 13.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. He is shooting 43.4% from the field and 39.3% from beyond the arc. He is coming off a 35 point game with 6 3-pointers against Dallas on Friday. Over the past 4 games, he is averaging 25.5 points and shooting 67.8% from the field. The Celtics can use another big game from Jayson Tatum in this one.
Al Horford vs Rui Hachimura
Hachimura is averaging 10.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. He is shooting 50% from the field and 47% from beyond the arc and so the Celtics can’t leave him open or he will likely have a big game.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the key to winning. The Celtics have worked their way to first in the league with a defensive rating of 106.1 but they have slipped since Robert Williams went down with the knee injury. The Wizards are 27th in 3 point percentage (34.2%) but the Pacers were 25th , shooting 34.3% from the outside, and the Celtics allowed them to shoot 47.2% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to defend the paint well since the Wizards are 7th with 49 points per game in the paint. They must get back to making defense their priority.
Rebound - It’s important for teams to rebound to give themselves extra possessions and to limit their opponents’ possessions. In the Celtics losses, they are usually out-rebounded by their opponents and they usually have the rebounding advantage when they win. Much of rebounding is effort and hustle and when the Celtics give extra effort and hustle on the boards, it usually translates into the rest of their game.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have lost games that they should have won because they allowed teams to play harder and be more aggressive than them and that includes the two losses to the Wizards earlier this season. They seemed to lose their edge against the Heat and Pacers this week and they need to get that edge and swagger back. On the other hand, the Wizards have been winning by giving more effort than their opponents. The Celtics must be the more aggressive team on defense, in grabbing the rebounds, in going after loose balls, and in taking the ball to the basket. They can’t allow the Wizards to be the team that plays harder.
Stay Focused - The Celtics have to stay focused on playing the right way. They have to focus on making crisp passes and on handling the ball and not turning it over. They have turned the ball over way too much in their past two games and they have to stay focused on taking better care of the ball. They also have to focus on moving the ball and moving without the ball in order to get the best shots and they need to stay focused on making those shots.
Home Game - The Celtics are once again at home for their final home game of the regular season. They should have a sense of urgency to play well and get a win on their home court to close out the season here. The Celtics should get a boost from the home crowd as Celtics fans as I expect them to be loud for this one. Also the Wizards will have to deal with travel, staying in a hotel, and a hostile crowd and hopefully that will give the Celtics an advantage.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor in every game. Every crew officiates differently. Some call it tight, others let them play. Some favor the home team. Some favor the road team. Some just make bad, head scratching calls. The Celtics need to adjust to the way the refs call the game and not let bad calls and no calls take them out of the game or affect their focus. They have to stay focused on the game and not on complaining about the officiating