The Celtics welcome the New Orleans Pelicans for the first of 2 meetings this season. They will meet once again in New Orleans on March 30. The Celtics won the series 2-0 last season. They are 24-21 overall all time against the Pelicans and they are 14-8 in games played in Boston. The Celtics are playing in the first of back to back games. They are 7-1 on the first night of back to back games. They are 3-0 when those games are in Boston.
The Celtics remain 1st in the East, 3 games ahead of 2nd place Milwaukee, 5 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia, 6 games ahead of 4th place New York, 6.5 games ahead of 5th place Cleveland and 9 games ahead of 6th place Indiana. The Celtics are 20-2 at home, after dropping their last 2 home games. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and 11-5 against Western Conference teams. They are coming off a loss in their last game.
The Pelicans are 7th in the West, 6.5 games behind first place Oklahoma City and half a game behind 6th place Phoenix and the final guaranteed spot in the playoffs. They are 1 game ahead of 8th place Dallas and 4.5 games ahead of 11th place Houston, and dropping out of Play-In contention. The Pelicans are 12-10 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 8-3 against Eastern Conference teams. They have lost their last 2 games.
The Celtics are playing in the 2nd game of a 7 game home stand. They began the home stand with a 115-96 loss to the Clippers. After this game, the Celtics play back to back against the Pacers on Tuesday followed by the Lakers, Grizzlies, Hawks, and Wizards. They will then head to Miami for the final game in that series followed by a home and home series against the Nets to finish up that series.
The Pelicans are playing in the 2nd of a 4 game road trip. They began the trip with a 141-117 loss to the Bucks. After this game, they will complete the trip with stops in Houston and San Antonio. They will then return home for one game against Toronto before heading out on another 4 game road trip through the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers followed by Portland and Memphis.
The Celtics may be very short handed in their front court in this game. Kristaps Porzingis is out with the ankle sprain that kept him out Saturday’s game against the Clippers. Al Horford was originally questionable with a neck sprain but is now available. Al will likely play in this one and sit out Tuesday’s game.
Luke Kornet is also out for this game with hamstring tightness after leaving Saturday’s game in the 3rd quarter. All are a game time decision. I’m hoping that Kristaps Porzingis can return for this game and then maybe Al would play tomorrow. I would have to guess that Neemias Queta would start at center if they are all out.
For the Pelicans they have just Malcolm Hill listed on the injury report for undisclosed reasons. He was with the Pelicans in training camp and waived before the season. He has been playing with their G-League affiliate. He was just signed to a 10 day contract and shouldn’t make much of an impact if he plays or if he doesn’t.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Al Horford (neck sprain) available
Luke Kornet ((hamstring) out
Kristaps Porzingis (ankle) out
Probable Pelicans Starters
Trey Murphy III
Larry Nance, Jr
2 Way Players
Malcolm Hill (undisclosed) questionable
Jayson Tatum vs Zion Williamson
Williamson is averaging 21.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 58.9% from the field and 40.3% from beyond the arc. The Celtics will need to defend him very closely both inside and out as he is a threat in the paint and on the perimeter.
Jaylen Brown vs Brandon Ingram
Ingram is averaging 21.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game. He is shooting 48.8% from the field and 36.1% from beyond the arc. Once again, Ingram can score both in the paint and on the perimeter and so the Celtics need to defend him well.
Jrue Holiday vs CJ McCollum
McCollum is averaging 19.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 46.4% from the field and 44.0% from beyond the arc. As with Ingram and Williamson, McCollum can score both inside and out and so the Celtics need to defend him where ever he is on the court.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the key to winning. The Pelicans average 116.7 points per game (13th) while the Celtics average 120.3 points per game (4th). The Celtics must play tough defense to slow down the Pelicans’ scoring if they want to win this game. The Celtics are 2nd in the league with a defensive rating of 110.6. The Pelicans are 9th with a defensive rating of 113.0. The Celtics have to especially defend in the paint as the Pelicans average 51.6 points in the paint per game. The Celtics must make defense a priority to get a win.
Rebound - The Celtics have to crash the boards as a team. Rebounding takes effort and when they put that extra effort out to dominate the boards, it often translates to all other areas of the game as well. The Pelicans are averaging 44.4 rebounds (10th) and the Celtics are averaging 47.5 rebounds per game (1st). The Pelicans are 12th in the league with 14.4 second chance points and so the Celtics are going to have to work hard to keep them off the boards to keep them from scoring second chance baskets.
Stay Focused - The Celtics have to stay focused on playing the right way. They have to focus on their ball handling and on their passes and not give the Pelicans free possessions by turning the ball over as the Pelicans average 16.8 points off turnovers per game. They have to stay focused on taking good shots and on making them. If the outside shots stop falling, they need to get to the basket. They have to focus on playing team ball and on playing defense. The Pelicans are a good team and the Celtics can’t lose focus for any period of time or the Pelicans will make them pay.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have got to be aggressive in going to the basket, playing defense, diving for loose balls and just play harder. Their effort and aggressiveness can make them very tough to beat and their lack of it can make them vulnerable. They are once again facing a team that plays hard and are aggressive and they can’t afford to come out with less than 100% effort. They especially need to be aggressive and play hard in the third quarter as they have been outplayed by a lot in that quarter in the past 2 games.
Home Game - The Celtics are at home for the second straight game. The Pelicans are playing in their second straight road game. The Pelicans have struggled at times on the road this season with an 12-10 record away from home. Hopefully the Celtics will come out ready to play and get some motivation from the home crowd. They were embarrassed at home in their last game and need to turn that around and get a win in this game. Protect home court.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. Every crew calls the game differently. Some are tyrants with the whistle and some let the teams play. Some refs are very touchy and call quick fouls and techs. The Celtics have to adjust their game to however the refs are calling it. They can’t let missed calls and no calls get to them and make them lose their focus.
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