The Celtics are in Charlotte to take on the Hornets for the second straight game. This is the third of 4 games between these two teams this season. In the first meeting, the Celtics beat the Hornets in Boston 140-105. The Celtics beat the Hornets 122-106 on Saturday and they will play the final game in Boston on February 10.
The Celtics are playing in the 3rd and final game of a 3 game road trip. They will have 2 days off before facing the Warriors at home and then they will head out for another 3 game road trip. The Hornets are playing the Celtics for the 2nd straight game at Charlotte. They will head out on 4 game road trip after this game.
The Celtics are 1st in the Eastern Conference. They are 4 games ahead of 2nd place Brooklyn, who lost at home to the Thunder on Sunday. They are 4.5 games ahead of 3rd place Milwaukee. They are 15-7 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 15-4 against Eastern Conference opponents. They have won their last 6 games.
The Hornets are last in the Eastern Conference and only the Houston Rockets have a worse record at 10-32. The Hornets are tied with 14th place Detroit and are 5.5 games behind 13th place Orlando. They are 5-15 at home and 2-8 in their last 10 games. They are 6-12 against Eastern Conference opponents. They have lost their last 4 games and 7 of their last 8.
Jaylen Brown will miss his third straight game due to right adductor tightness. Danilo Gallinari remains out as he rehabs a torn ACL. Derrick White left Saturday’s game with a neck sprain and is listed as probable for this game. I’m guessing that Robert Williams will start at center once again and Al Horford will return to play at the four.
For the Hornets, former Celtic Gordon Hayward is listed as doubtful. He has missed the last 6 games with a hamstring injury. Kelly Oubre, Jr injured his hand in the first week of the season and played through it for awhile but then he had surgery on the hand last week and will be out until at least February 8.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Jaylen Brown (adductor) out
Derrick White (neck) probable
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Hornets Starters
PG: LaMelo Ball
SG: Terry Rozier
SF: PJ Washington
PF: Jalen McDaniels
C: Mason Plumlee
Dennis Smith, Jr
Two Way Players
Gordon Hayward (hamstring) doubtful
Kelly Oubre, Jr (hand) out
Marcus Smart vs LaMelo Ball
Ball has been playing very well in his third season with the Hornets. He is averaging 24.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 8.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 41.9% from the field and 37.2% from beyond the arc. He missed the first game between these two teams and on Saturday he finished with 31 points, 7 rebounds 9 assists and 1 steal. He shot 40.7% from the field but just 12.5% (1-8) on threes. The Celtics need to do their best to limit him in this game.
Derrick White vs Terry Rozier
Rozier is averaging 21.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. He is shooting 41.3% from the field and 32.5% from beyond the arc. Rozier missed the first game between these two teams and on Saturday, he finished with 21 points, 4 rebounds 3 assists and 1 block. He shot 47.1% from the field and just 25% (2-8) from beyond the arc. He always tries a little harder to beat his former team and the Celtics need defend him well.
Robert Williams III vs Mason Plumlee
Plumlee is averaging 11.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists. He is shooting 65.3% from the field and has not taken any 3’s this season. On Saturday, he finished with 9 points, 16 rebounds, and 1 assist. He shot 40% from the field and once again didn’t take any 3’s. The Celtics need to keep him out of the paint and especially off of the boards.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning games. After getting down 16 points on Saturday, it was defense that helped the Celtics to climb back and get the win. The Celtics must commit to playing tough lock down defense for all 48 minutes and not just after they get down big. The Hornets have an offensive rating of 108.9 (29th) while the Celtics have an offensive rating of 117.4 (2nd). The Hornets are 27th with a defensive rating of 115.6 while the Celtics are 7th with a defensive rating of 110.8. The Celtics need to make defense a priority and work harder on that end of the court.
Rebound - Much of rebounding is effort and hustle as evidenced by Payton Pritchard beating everyone to 2 offensive rebounds. The Celtics need to crash the boards as a team and fight for every rebound. The Hornets are 5th with 45.5 rebounds per game while the Celtics are 9th with 44.3 rebounds per game. The Hornets average 15.7 2nd chance points (6th) and so the Celtics have to work harder to get rebounds to prevent those extra possessions and 2nd chance points for the Hornets.
No Overconfidence - The Celtics can’t come into this game and expect to win without playing their best. They beat the Hornets twice and may feel that they can just go through the motions, but that would be a mistake. The Celtics need to come out and play like they are the underdog and the Hornets are a contender. The Celtics have to expect a fight from the Hornets, who will be looking to avenge not 1, but 2 losses and they can’t underestimate them.
Next Man Up - The Celtics will once again be without Jaylen Brown. Derrick White should play be may be limited. The Celtics got good contributions from Luke Kornet, Payton Pritchard and Malcolm Brogdon in their last game and they will need them to once again play well in this game. Jayson Tatum has been struggling with injuries and may or may not be able to have a big game in this one. Every player has to step up their game.
On the Road - The Celtics are playing in their 3rd straight road game. The final game of a road trip often is a tough one for one reason or another. Fatigue from travel and staying in hotels along with playing in a hostile arena can take a toll on players, especially younger players. The Celtics need to play through the distractions of playing on the road and keep their focus on playing hard and playing the right way.
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. 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.