The Celtics are home for the second straight game as they host the New Orleans Pelicans. This is the second and final game between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first game 117-109 in New Orleans on November 18. This is the 3rd game of a 5 game road trip for the Pelicans. The 4th and 5th games will take them through Detroit and Cleveland.
This is the first of back to back games for the Celtics. They will travel to Brooklyn for the second game on Thursday. The Celtics are 5-1 so far on the first night of back to back games. They are 3-0 when the first game is in Boston. The Celtics are 22-21 overall all time against the Pelicans and they are 13-8 in games played in Boston.
The Celtics are first in the East. They are 1.5 games ahead of 2nd place Brooklyn, 2.5 games ahead of 3rd place Milwaukee, and 3 games ahead of 4th place Cleveland. They are 16-5 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They have won their last 3 games. They are 13-4 against Western Conference opponents.
The Pelicans are in 3rd place in the West. They are 2.5 games behind first place Denver and second place Memphis and they are 2 games ahead of 4th place Dallas. They are 8-11 on the road and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They won their last game but have lost 4 of their last 6 games. They are 9-6 against Eastern Conference opponents.
Robert Williams is listed as questionable on the injury list for the Celtics. Since the Celtics are playing in back to back games, he will likely sit out one of the two. His status for this game is a game time decision. Marcus Smart missed Monday’s game with a knee contusion and is questionable for this game. I have included Smart in with the starters, again as wishful thinking. If Timelord plays in this one, he may also get the start but I’m thinking he will sit this game and play on Thursday. Danilo Gallinari remains out.
For the Pelicans, Brandon Ingram is out with a toe injury. He has been out since November 25 and was expected to return at some time on this trip. He did not practice on Tuesday and will miss this game. Herbert Jones left Monday’s game with a back contusion and is listed as doubtful for this game. Zion Williamson is out with a hamstring injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) questionable
Marcus Smart (ankle) questionable
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
Kira Lewis, Jr
Larry Nance, Jr
2 Way Players
Brandon Ingram (toe) out
Zion Williamson (hamstring) out
Herbert Jones (back) doubtful
Marcus Smart vs CJ McCollum
McCollum is averaging 20.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 42.8% from the field and 40.2% from beyond the arc. Smart is questionable for this game and if he can’t play, Derrick White will likely get the start at the point in his place.
Al Horford vs Jonas Valanciunas
Valanciunas is averaging 14.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He is shooting 52.4% from the field and 34.2% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to keep him out of the paint and off the boards but they also need to stay with him on the perimeter since he is a good 3 point shooter. If Robert Williams plays he may start once at center and move Horford to power forward.
Grant Williams vs Larry Nance, Jr.
Nance is averaging 8.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.0 steals. He is shooting 62.1% from the field and 38.5% from beyond the arc. In the first game between these two teams, Nance finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals and 2 block. He always seems to have a big game against the Celtics. The Celtics need a big game from Grant off the bench also.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the key to winning. The Pelicans average 117.4 points per game (4th) while the Celtics average 118.5 points per game (2nd). The Celtics must play tough defense to slow down the Pelicans’ scoring if they want to win this game. The Celtics are 7th in the league with a defensive rating of 110.9. The Pelicans are 5th with a defensive rating of 110.7. The Celtics have to especially defend in the paint as the Pelicans are 3rd with 55.5 points in the paint per game. 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 45.5 rebounds (6th) and the Celtics are averaging 44.0 rebounds per game (11th). The Pelicans are 8th in the league with 15.6 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.
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 can’t relax because Ingram and Williamson are out.
Home Game - The Celtics are at home for the second straight game. The Pelicans are playing in their third straight road game. The Pelicans have struggled on the road this season with an 8-11 record away from home. Hopefully the Celtics will come out ready to play and get some motivation from the home crowd. Protect home court.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. Every crew calls the game differently. Some are tyrants with the whistle and some let the teams play. Some refs are very touchy and call quick fouls and techs. The Celtics have to adjust their game to however the refs are calling it. They can’t let missed calls and no calls get to them and make them lose their focus.