Game Preview: Wizards at Celtics

Make your picks now in Celtics 3-Point Play

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics (2-3) will have an opportunity to complete a rare home-and-home sweep of the Washington Wizards (0-4) when the two teams collide again at 7:30 p.m. tonight in TD Garden.

Boston is coming off of a convincing win over the Wizards Sunday night in Washington, where the C’s pulled out a 94-86 victory that was not as close as the score may indicate. The Celtics led by as many as 19 points and held a double-digit cushion for nearly the entire game.

How were the Celtics so dominant on Sunday evening, you might ask? The answer is relatively simple: Rajon Rondo.

Rondo played fantastic in a matchup against one of the premier point guards in the league, John Wall. Boston’s point guard recorded his 14th career triple-double after notching 18 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists in less than 34 minutes of play.

“He was sensational all night,” Doc Rivers said after the game. “I thought he was attacking. I really thought he had one of those nights where he just called a good game.”

More like a great game, but Rivers’ comments clearly cement the fact that Rondo was the player who dictated the pace of Sunday night’s game.

For his part, Wall’s final numbers weren’t too shabby, either. He pushed for a triple-double as well and finished with 19 points, seven boards and eight assists. But the second-year guard out of Kentucky simply couldn’t stop the engine that runs the Celtics.

Recording a triple-double is one feat, but doing it with ease while playing limited minutes is another. Rondo will finish this season averaging around 40 minutes of playing time per game, but he was not even close to that on Sunday night. His performance was exactly what the Celtics needed against a lowly Wizards team that is still searching for its first win of the season.

Washington will again enter play tonight searching for that evasive first win of its season. The Wizards won’t get it simply by slowing down Rondo. They’ll need to worry about other key Celtic, most notably Kevin Garnett, if they hope to leave Boston with their first victory.

The headlines may have belonged to Rondo on Sunday, but the stories all highlighted the fact that Garnett had his best game of the season. He tallied 24 points and nine rebounds, which are both season highs, in less than 28 minutes of play.

Rivers has been all over Garnett to be more aggressive offensively this season, and that coaching finally paid off on Sunday. Garnett took a team-high 17 shots and made nine of them, which sounds about right for a guy who Rivers said “woke up aggressive” yesterday.

The performances of Rondo and Garnett were overwhelmed a Wizards team that is struggling to find its identity. The Celtics, on the other hand, have found their identity over the course of their past two games. They’ll have a chance to show it off in front of their home crowd tonight when they shoot for a second win over Washington in as many nights.

Point Guard Adjustments

Neither Rondo nor Wall needs to worry about changing too much on offense. They both played fantastic offensive basketball last night and proved why they are two of the most entertaining guards in the league to watch. However, their performances at the defensive end of the court were not something to write home about.

The reason both point guards lit up the box score is because neither could slow the other one down. Yes, that’s a pretty obvious statement, but it’s absolutely true. Rondo is known as one of the top defensive point guards in the league, and Wall wants to get there. There’s no way either of those players could have had their defensive performance from Sunday night sit well with them while they were laying in bed last night.

The great thing about home-and-home sets is that you can see the way players and teams adjust to each other in the same manner you would while watching a playoff series. Pay attention to the defensive adjustments these two point guards make tonight, because both of them will be looking to contain the other, something they couldn’t do on Sunday.

Match the Intensity

Boston’s season has quickly turned around because it has played with a great level of intensity for two consecutive games. Their back-to-back wins happen to coincide with the return of Paul Pierce, the team’s captain.

The Captain’s presence has clearly played a role in bringing his teammates’ morale to a whole other level. Take a look at the body language Boston displayed in its first three games compared to the last two. It’s not even close.

Maintaining that level of intensity over the long haul isn’t easy, but its necessary to win games in this league. Garnett knows that the C’s will need to bring it to the table again tonight if they hope to reach the .500 mark for the first time this season.

“We will see this team again in 24 hours,” Garnett said after Sunday’s win, “and we will have to play with the same intensity.”

No Wizards from Downtown

One reason the Celtics were able to dominate Sunday’s game is because their defense forced the Wizards into a perimeter-oriented game. Washington attempted 16 3-pointers in the game, and that’s not their strong suit. Only two of those shots fell through the basket.

Washington has some talented young pieces on its roster, but most of them are known more for their athleticism than their shooting prowess. Nick Young and Rashard Lewis, who are probably the team’s best 3-point shooters, combined to shoot 0-for-7 from downtown during Boston’s win.

It’s unlikely that the Wizards will shoot so poorly again tonight. After all, there’s a reason why these players are in the NBA. If they couldn’t put points on the board, they wouldn’t be here.

The Celtics learned last night that the Wizards struggle to put points on the board from the perimeter. Look for Boston’s defense to try to force Washington into as many shots from the outside as possible again tonight.