After one game at home, the Celtics are on the road again to take on the Washington Wizards. This is the 3rd game for both teams. The Celtics beat the Knicks on opening night and then beat the Heat in their home opener. The Wizards lost 143-120 to the Pacers on the road in their first game, and then beat the Memphis Grizzlies 113-106 in their home opener on Saturday.
This is the first of 4 games between these two teams. They will meet one more time in Washington on March 17. They will meet twice more in Boston on February 9 and April 14. Last season, the Celtics won the series 2-1. They won both games in Boston but lost the final game in Washington. The Celtics are 198-120 overall all time and they are 80-74 all time in Washington. The Wizards have won 4 of the last 5 games that these two teams have played in Washington. After sweeping the Wizards in 2018-19, the Celtics have won just 6 of the last 12 games.
This will be Kristaps Porzingis’ first game back in Washington after the offseason trade to the Celtics. It will also be Danilo Gallinari’s first game in Boston after signing there last offseason and then tearing his ACL that kept him from playing a single game for them. I can imagine that he will want to beat the team that traded him before he got a chance to play for them. Mike Muscala will also be returning to the Garden for the first time since signing in Washington as a free agent.
Two-way center Neemias Queta was ruled out for this game by the team on Monday morning due to a sore foot. For the Wizards, Daniel Gafford is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. He left Saturday’s game after injuring the ankle but returned to play the second half. He didn’t practice on Sunday and is a game time decision for this game. If he can’t play, Mike Muscala or Danilo Gallinari will likely start in his place. Landry Shamet is out with a toe injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Neemias Queta (foot) out
Probable Wizards Starters
Two Way Players
John Butler, Jr
Landry Shamet (toe) out
Daniel Gafford (ankle) questionable
Wes Unseld, Jr
Jaylen Brown vs Kyle Kuzma
Kuzma is averaging 23.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block per game. He is shooting 43.9% from the field but just 14.3% from beyond the arc. He is a career 33.3% 3 point shooter and so he is capable of hitting them at a better percentage than he has this season. Jaylen Brown had a rough first game but bounced back in the last game and should have another strong game in this one.
Derrick White vs Jordan Poole
Poole is averaging 22.5 points, 3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1 steal per game. He is shooting 36.6% from the field and 22.2% from beyond the arc. He is a 33.8% career 3 point shooter. Derrick White had a big game against the Heat and hopefully he can pick up where he left off in this game.
Jrue Holiday vs Tyus Jones
Jones is averaging 15 points, 2.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He is shooting 50% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. Jrue should be able to slow him down somewhat and lower those percentages as well as to keep him from getting the Wizards into their sets quickly.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the key to winning. The Celtics need to defend the paint without letting up on their perimeter defense. They need to make defense their priority and their identity in order to win a championship. It will take a lot of effort and dedication to defend on each player’s part to play the type of consistent winning defense they need to.
Rebound - It’s important for teams to rebound to give themselves extra possessions and to limit their opponents’ possessions. 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. Each player needs to commit to crashing the boards and going after every rebound on both ends of the court.
Be Aggressive - In the past, the Celtics have lost games that they should have won because they allowed teams to play harder and be more aggressive than them. The Celtics must be the more aggressive team on defense, in grabbing rebounds, in going after loose balls, and in taking the ball to the basket for all 48 minutes. They can’t allow the Wizards to be the team that plays harder.
Stay Focused - The Celtics have to stay focused. They have to stay focused on playing the right way, taking and making good shots, playing good defense, boxing out and rebounding, and on having each other’s backs and trusting each other. They also have to focus on making good passes and taking care of the ball. They turned the ball over 15 times against the Heat and need to cut that number down.
On the Road - The Celtics are once again playing on the road. They have to overcome the distractions that come with playing on the road like travel, staying in hotels, missing family, an unfamiliar building and a hostile crowd. They have to stay focused and not allow those distractions to take away from playing the game the right way.
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 refs always start the season with points of emphasis and make it difficult for teams who aren’t used to those things being called. They will also be calling technical fouls on flops and that could make things more difficult as they try to differentiate between actual fouls and flops. The Celtics need to adjust to how the refs are calling the game and not allow bad calls or no calls to take away their focus from playing the game.