The Celtics look for their 3rd straight win as they host the Charlotte Hornets. This is the 4th and final game between these two teams this season. They won 140-105 in Boston on November 28. They won in Charlotte 122-106 on January 14 and they won again in Charlotte130-118 on January 16. The Celtics won the series 3-1 last season, winning both in Charlotte and losing one in Boston.
This is the 2nd game of a 3 game home stand for the Celtics. They won the first game against a fully healthy 76ers team while missing 4 of their starters. They will face Memphis at home on Sunday before back to back games on the road in Milwaukee and at home game vs Detroit take them to the All Star Break. The Hornets are playing in their 2nd straight road game. This is the first of back to back games for them as they host Denver on Saturday at home in the first of a 3 game home stand.
The Celtics are 1st in the East. They are 1 game ahead of the 2nd place Bucks after the Bucks won their 9th straight game. The Celtics are 4 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia. They are 1 game ahead of Denver for first place in the league. The Celtics are 21-7 at home and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 23-11 against Eastern Conference teams and have won their last 2 game.
The Hornets are 14th in the East. They are 1 game ahead of last place Detroit and 7 games behind the Magic, who are 13th in the East. They are 1.5 games ahead of Houston for last place in the league. They are 8-24 on the road and 3-7 in their last 10 games. They are 8-28 against Eastern Conference opponents. They have lost their last 5 games.
The Celtics will be without Jaylen Brown, who injured his face when he collided with Jayson Tatum going for a rebound. Marcus Smart will miss his 9th straight game with an ankle sprain. Danilo Gallinari remains out with the torn ACL. Jayson Tatum is questionable due to a non-covid illness.
Robert Williams (ankle) and Al Horford (knee), who missed Wednesday’s game are both listed as probable for this game. Mike Muscala is a game time decision after being traded from the Thunder. Malcolm Brogdon was a late addition to the injury list. He is probable with Achilles soreness. My guess is that Sam Hauser will start again in place of Jaylen Brown.
The Hornets will be without Cody Martin, who is expected to miss his 13th game with knee soreness. Kelly Oubre, Jr. has been out since having surgery on his hand on January 5 and is expected to miss this game. Svi Mykhailiuk was traded to Portland on Wednesday and then to the Hornets on Thursday and is questionable for this game. Reggie Jackson was also traded to the Hornets but is likely to be bought out according to reports. I’m guessing that Mark Williams will get the start replacing Mason Plumlee, who was traded on Thursday.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Derrick White
SG: Sam Hauser
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Jaylen Brown (face) out
Marcus Smart (ankle) out
Mike Muscala (trade) questionable
Jayson Tatum (illness) questionable
Al Horford (knee) probable
Robert Williams III (ankle) probable
Malcolm Brogdon (Achilles) probable
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Hornets Starters
PG: LaMelo Ball
SG: Terry Rozier
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: PJ Washington
C: Mark Williams
Dennis Smith, Jr
Two Way Players
Cody Martin (knee) out
Kelly Oubre, Jr (hand) out
Reggie Jackson (trade) out
Svi Mykhailiuk (trade) questionable
Derrick White vs LaMelo Ball
Ball is averaging 23.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. He is shooting 40.3% from the field and 36.2% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics this season, he is averaging 28 points, 7.5 assists, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game. He shot 38% from the field and 30% from beyond the arc. He is quick and can get to the basket and is very hard to stop when he gets out on a fast break.
Sam Hauser vs Terry Rozier
It’s just a guess that Hauser will once again start. Regardless of who starts for the Celtics, Terry Rozier is tough to cover. He is averaging 21.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.0 steal per game. In the games against Boston this season, Rozier has averaged 17.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He shot 41.2% from the field and 25% from beyond the arc vs Boston this season.
Jayson Tatum vs Gordon Hayward
Assuming that Tatum plays in this game, he will be facing former Celtic, Gordon Hayward. If Tatum doesn’t play, I’m not sure what Joe Mazzulla will do to fill in for him. Hayward is averaging 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. He is shooting 44.4% from the field and 29.4% from beyond the arc. Hayward missed the first 3 games against the Celtics this season.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning games. The Celtics must commit to playing tough team defense in each and every game. They have the players to be an elite defensive team, but they haven’t been committing to defense as much as they should. The Hornets are 24th, averaging 111.9 points per game. The Celtics are 5th, averaging 117.4 points per game. The Hornets are 25th with a defensive rating of 115.6 while the Celtics are 4th with a defensive rating of 110.5. The Celtics need to make defense a priority and work hard on that end of the court.
Rebound - Much of rebounding is effort and hustle. The Celtics need to crash the boards as a team and fight for every rebound. The Celtics must beat the Hornets to rebounds to give themselves extra possessions and to keep the Hornets from getting the same. The Hornets average 15.2 2nd chance points (7th) and so the Celtics have to work harder to get rebounds to prevent extra possessions and 2nd chance points for the Hornets.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics are 6th in the league, averaging 13.5 turnovers per game. However, they tend to go through periods in the game where they lose focus and turn the ball over too much. The Hornets are 5th in the league, averaging 18.8 points off turnovers per game and if the Celtics get sloppy, the Hornets will definitely make them pay.
Focus and Effort - The Celtics need to stay focused on playing the right way. They have to focus on moving the ball carefully, on taking good shots, on going after loose balls and on making plays. The Celtics can’t afford to come out with less than 100% effort because even though the Hornets are struggling somewhat, they are very capable of winning games. The Celtics can’t take them for granted and have to stay focused and give their best effort.
Home Game - The Celtics are playing in their 2nd straight home game while the Hornets are playing in their 2nd straight game on the road. The Celtics should get a boost from the home crowd and from being in the friendly confines of the TD Garden. The Hornets are 8-24 on the road and have to deal with all the distractions that come with playing on the road. The Celtics need to protect home court.
Injuries - The Celtics have to play with next man up attitude. They will definitely be missing Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown. They may be without Jayson Tatum as well. They proved in the game against the 76ers that they are a deep team and that they can win when their stars and starters are out. Each player has to step up their game and play as a team.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. Sometimes you don’t even notice the refs but other times, they very clearly make their presence known. Every crew calls the game differently and players never know what to expect. Sometimes they call it tight with a foul for every little bit of contact. Sometimes they let the teams play and allow them to be physical. Players need to adjust to how the game is being called and not allow the officiating to take their focus off of playing their game.