The Celtics face the Charlotte Hornets in their 5th, and final, preseason game. The Celtics have beat Philadelphia twice and the Knicks once. Their only loss was to the Knicks in a game that the Celtics top 6 players sat out. This is the Hornets 4th, and final, preseason game. The lost 113-109 to the Heat and 98-92 to the Wizards and they won a game 117-115 over the Thunder.
Joe Mazzulla has said that he expects to play his starters in this game as they ramp up toward the regular season. I’m expecting the same starting lineup of Jrue Holiday, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kristaps Porzingis as they used in Tuesday’s game with Al Horford once again coming off the bench. I also expect to see the young guys who are on the bubble to get some run as the Celtics decide who stays and who goes.
The Hornets have started the same 4 players in all 3 of their games so far. I expect LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, RJ Washington, and Mark Williams to once again start. The only question mark is at small forward. Gordon Hayward started the first game there and is expected to start there in the regular season. However, he injured his foot in the first game and Brandon Miller started their last 2 games. Hayward returned to practice on Monday and so could play in this game but is still listed as a game time decision.
Jay Scrubb (knee) remains the only Celtic on the injury list. The Hornets haven’t been so lucky. Leaky Black (ankle) has missed the first 3 games and is a game time decision. James Bouknight will have meniscus surgery and is out for this game. Bryce McGowens rolled his ankle on Sunday and is questionable. Theo Maledon (shoulder) missed the first 3 games but took part in a scrimmage on Wednesday and is a game time decision. Cody Martin (knee0 also missed the first 3 games and is a game time decision.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Kristaps Porzingis
JD Davison (2 Way)
Neemias Queta (2 Way
Jay Scrubb (torn ACL) out
Probable Hornets Starters
PG: LaMelo Ball
SG: Terry Rozier
SF: Brandon Miller
PF: PJ Washington
C: Mark Williams
Nick Smith, Jr
Amari Bailey 2 Way
Gordon Hayward (foot) game time decision
Cody Martin (knee) day to day
Theo Maledon (shoulder)game time decision
Bryce McGowens (ankle) questionable
James Bouknight (knee) out
Leaky Black (ankle) game time decision
Miles Bridges (suspended) out
Jayson Tatum vs PJ Washiington
Washington has averaged 17.3 points, 6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in the 3 games so far this preseason. He scored 31 points against OKC on Sunday. Jayson Tatum has played in just 2 of the Celtics 4 games so far and has looked good in them. This should be a fun matchup if both of these players do indeed start.
Jrue Holiday vs LaMelo Ball
Ball has averaged 15 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game so far in the 3 games this preseason. Holiday came off the bench in one game, sat out one game and started 2 games. I’m expecting him to once again start at the point in this game.
Derrick White vs Terry Rozier
Terry Rozier always seems to play extra hard against his former team. He is averaging 15 points, 2.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2 steals per game so far this preseason. Derrick will have his hands full trying to keep him from going off in this game since he loves playing the Celtics.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Whether it is the first game of preseason, or the final game of the NBA Finals, defense is always the key to winning. Both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have declared that they want to make the All Defensive team. Jrue Holiday brings a defensive mindset to the game as does Derrick White. Joe Mazzulla has said that he will emphasize defense this season. Let’s hope the Celtics follow through with this and reclaim their defensive identity this season.
Rebound - The Celtics can’t score if they don’t have the ball, and the best way to get the ball is the grab rebounds. They have lost some of their rebounding with Timelord playing in Portland but at 7’3”, Kristaps Porzingis should be able to grab rebounds and Jayson Tatum has showed that he is willing to fight for rebounds with 10 against the 76ers. The Celtics also need to rebound as a team with every Celtic battling on the boards. It will take a team effort to beat the Hornets on the boards. In Tuesday’s game against the Knicks, the Celtics gave up 14 offensive rebounds for 18 second chance points for the Knicks. They have to do better on the boards, especially on offensive rebounds.
Reserve Play - Joe Mazzulla has said that he expects the starters to play in this game but I also expect to see the reserves for quite a few minutes as it will be the last time to see them to know which players stay and which go. How will the new players like Banton, Brissett, Walsh, Mykhailiuk and Gabriel do as they get the minutes? How will returning players like Luke Kornet, Sam Hauser, and Payton Pritchard do as they want to show that they belong in the rotation?
Chemistry - Chemistry and continuity are both important to teams trying to win a championship. The Celtics have several new players to work into the team and to build chemistry with. They have the continuity of the same head coach and key players returning. The Hornets have many of their core players returning as well as their head coach from last season and so should have good chemistry although, they have been hit hard by injuries in the preseason so far.
Preseason - It’s the preseason and most of the time coaches don’t care if they win or lose but are looking for improvement in players, which rotations work, which players on the cusp will stick with the team and keeping their key players healthy. In the end, hopefully both teams stay healthy and we see some good things from starters and reserves alike.