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Washington Wizards (9-41) at Boston Celtics (39-12) Game #52 2/9/24

The Celtics host the Washington Wizards to close out their 7 game home stand.

NBA-Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

On the day after an active trade deadline, the Celtics host the Washington Wizards. This is the 7th and final game in a 7 game home stand. This is the 2nd of 4 games between these 2 teams. The Celtics won the first game 126-107 in Washington on October 30. They will meet again in Washington on March 17 and in Boston on April 14. The Celtics are 59-43 overall all time against the Wizards and 36-16 in games played in Boston. Boston won the series 2-1 last season.

The Celtics are 1st in the East, 4.5 games ahead of 2nd place Cleveland, 6.5 games ahead of 3rd place Milwaukee and 4th place New York, 8.5 games ahead of 5th place Philadelphia and 11 games ahead of 6th place Indiana. The Celtics are 24-3 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 26-6 against other Eastern Conference teams. They have won their last 2 games.

The Wizards are 14th in the East, 2 games ahead of last place Detroit. They are 1 game behind 13th place Charlotte, 8.5 games behind 12th place Toronto, 12.5 games behind 10th place Atlanta and a spot in the play-in games. They are 6-19 on the road, which is actually better than their 3-22 home record, and they are 2-8 in their last 10 games. They are 6-29 against Eastern Conference teams and have lost their last 4 games.

The Celtics are 4-2 so far on their home stand, beating Indiana, New Orleans, Atlanta and Memphis and losing to the Lakers and Clippers. After this final game in the home stand, the Celtics will visit the Heat for a matinee game on Sunday and then face the Nets for a back to back home and home series, first in Boston and then in Brooklyn. They will then visit Chicago and New York before another 3 game home stand against Philadelphia, Dallas, and Golden State.

The Wizards just completed a 4 game home stand where they went 0-4, losing to the Clippers, Miami, Phoenix and Cleveland. They will return home after this one road game in Boston to host Philadelphia before heading out on a 4 game road trip that will take them through Dallas, New Orleans, Denver and Oklahoma City.

Jrue Holiday is no longer on the injury list and should play in this game. However, Jayson Tatum has been added to the list due to an illness. His status will be a game time decision, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sit this one out. He was present at shoot around so he may be on track to play in this game. If he doesn’t play, I expect Al Horford to start in his place. The Celtics 2 new acquisitions, Xavier Tillman is out due to a knee injury. Jaden Springer is questionable due to just being traded.

For the Wizards, Marvin Bagley III is out due to a low back contusion. With Daniel Gafford traded and Richaun Holmes also out due to just being traded to the Wizards on Thursday, I’m guessing that their two way player, Eugene Omoruyi, will start and Kyle Kuzma may see some minutes at center. Isaiah Livers is out with a hip injury. He was traded to the Wizards on January 14 but has yet to make his debut. Patrick Baldwin is also out due to a sprained right ankle.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Oshae Brissett
Sam Hauser
Al Horford
Luke Kornet
Svi Mykhailiuk
Payton Pritchard
Xavier Tillman
Jaden Springer
Jordan Walsh

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Drew Peterson
Neemias Queta

Injuries/Out
Xavier Tillman (trade) questionable
Jaden Springer (trade) questionable
Jayson Tatum (illness) questionable

Head Coach
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Wizards Starters

Wizards Reserves
Bilal Coulibaly
Johnny Davis
Anthony Gill
Corey Kispert
Landry Shamet
Delon Wright

Two Way Players
Jared Butler
Jules Bernard
Eugene Omoruyi

Injuries/Out
Marvin Bagley III (back) out
Richaun Holmes (trade) out
Isaiah Livers (hip) 0ut
Patrick Baldwin, Jr (ankle) out

Head Coach
Brian Keefe (interim)

Key Matchups

Jayson Tatum vs Kyle Kuzma
Kuzma is averaging 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. He is shooting 45.5% from the field 33.1% from beyond the arc. Against Boston in the first game, he finished with 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. He shot 60% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. Jayson Tatum is questionable and so Al Horford may get the start opposite Kuzma.

Derrick White vs Jordan Poole
Poole is averaging 15.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1 steal per game. He is shooting 40.4% from the field and 29.7% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics he finished with 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block and 3 steals. He shot 45.5% from the field and 20% from beyond the arc.

Honorable Mention
Jaylen Brown vs Deni Avdija
Avdija is averaging 12.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. He is shooting 50.8% from the field and 38.9% from beyond the arc. He is one of the better shooters on the Wizards and so Jaylen needs to slow him down and limit his shots.

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. The Wizards are 2nd in the league, averaging 55.8 points in the paint per game. They need to make defense their priority and their identity in order to win every game and to win a championship. It will take a lot of effort and dedication from each player to play great team defense along with great individual defense.

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. The Celtics are 1st in the league with 47.5 rebounds per game while the Wizards are last in the league with 40.6 rebounds per 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’ 9-41 record to cause them to come into the game expecting to win without putting out the effort. (See the Lakers Game).

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 because the Wizards are 4th with 18.1 points off turnovers per game. It would be easy to let their focus go in this one but it would be a big mistake on their part.

X-Factors
Home Game - The Celtics are once again at home. They should get a boost from the home crowd and from being in familiar surroundings. The Celtics need to have a sense of urgency at home to protect home court and not expect to win because the Wizards have not been good so far this season. Also the Wizards will have to deal with travel, staying in a hotel, and a hostile crowd and hopefully that will give the Celtics an advantage.

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 we have seen many times. 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.

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