Game NotesThe Celtics visit the Washington Wizards for the 3rd and final meeting between these two teams this season. Their first meeting was on October 30 and the Celtics won 112-94 in Boston. Their second meeting was on November 27 which the Celtics once again won 130-121, also in Boston. They tied the series last season 2-2 with each team winning once at home and once on the road.
Washington is playing in the first of 2 home games. They will play Orlando at home on Friday before heading out on the road to New York to play the Knicks. The Celtics just completed a 2-0 home stand and now are playing in the first of 2 straight road games. They will head to Milwaukee for a big game on Thursday. That will be the first of back to back games for the Celtics and the 2nd of back to back games for the Bucks.
The Celtics are 2nd in the East, 2 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks, who won in Indiana on Monday. They are 3 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia, who lost their 3rd straight on Monday. They are 4.5 games ahead of 4th place Cleveland. The Celtics are 24-14 on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 games They are 30-16 against Eastern Conference teams. They have won their last 3 games.
The Wizards are 12th in the East. They are tied with 11th place Indiana and 3.5 games behind 10th place Chicago and the final play- in spot. They are 1 ahead of 13th place Orlando. The Wizards are 17-19 at home and 2-8 in their last 10 games. They are 19-27 against Eastern Conference opponents. They are coming off a loss in their last game.
Jayson Tatum missed Sunday’s game against the Spurs with hip soreness. He is not on the injury list at this time so I expect him to play in this one. Payton Pritchard, who missed 9 straight games is listed as probable. Danilo Gallinari (ACL) continues to be out.
For the Wizards, Bradley Beal will miss his 4th straight game with a left knee sprain. Kyle Kuzma will miss his 5th straight game with sprained right ankle. Monte Morris was a partial participant in Monday’s practice and is listed as questionable for this game with a groin injury. Daniel Gafford is questionable for this game with foot soreness.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Payton Pritchard (heel) probable
Probable Wizards Starters
2 Way Players
Monte Morris (groin) questionable
Daniel Gafford (foot) questionable
Bradley Beal (knee) out
Kyle Kuzma (ankle) out
Wes Unseld, Jr
Jayson Tatum vs Kristaps Porzingis
With Beal and Kuzma out, Porzingis is the biggest threat on the Wizards. He is averaging 23 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists. He is shooting 49.4% from the field and 38.2% from beyond the arc. In the games against Boston so far this season he averaged 19 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1 block. Slowing Porzingis down will go a long ways toward getting a win in this game.
Derrick White vs Corey Kispert
Kispert is averaging 10.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. He is shooting 49.6% from the field and 42.2% from beyond the arc. Against Boston so far this season, he is averaging 8 points, and 1 rebound. He shot 37.5% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc.
Jaylen Brown vs Deni Avdija
Avdija is averaging 9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. He is shooting 44% from the field and 30.3% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics this season, he averaged 8 points, 1 rebound and 2 assists. He shot 50% from the field and 42.9% from beyond the arc. Jaylen Brown is coming off a 41 point game and hopefully he can pick up where he left off in that one.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the key to winning. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 110.6 which is 4th in the league. The Wizards are 21st with a defensive rating of 114.9. The Celtics have played great defense at times in games and at other times, they let up and allow their opponents to score at will. The Wizards score 50.8 points in the paint. The Celtics need to defend the paint without letting up on their perimeter defense. It will take a lot more 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. Rebounding, and allowing opponents offensive rebounds, has been a problem for the Celtics at times this season. They are 7th, grabbing 45.3 rebounds per game. The Wizards are 14th, with 43.5 rebounds per game. 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.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have lost games that they should have won because they allowed teams to play harder and be more aggressive than them. This is especially a problem against young and tanking teams like the Rockets, Magic and Pistons. They have allowed some teams to come back from a deficit when they took their foot off the gas. 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 on their goal of getting the first seed and also winning a championship. They can’t do either if they give less than their all in any of the games between now and the end of the season. 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.
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 as they have several times already this season. The Celtics need to adjust to the way the refs call the game and not let bad calls and no calls take them out of the game or affect their focus. They have to stay focused on the game and not on complaining about the officiating.