Game Preview: Wizards at Celtics
BOSTON – Six weeks after the Washington Wizards (29-47) traded Jordan Crawford to the Boston Celtics (39-37), the guard will finally have an opportunity to give his old team some payback.
The Celtics and Wizards will meet at 6 p.m. Sunday evening in Boston’s third game of a four-game homestand. This will be the first time Crawford faces his former team since being traded to Boston on Feb. 21 in exchange for Jason Collins.
It is not a secret that Crawford’s career with the Wizards was tenuous. That rocky relationship concluded with four consecutive DNP-Coach’s Decisions prior to the February trade.
That relationship may give Crawford some extra motivation for Sunday’s game but you wouldn’t know it by talking to him. The 6-foot-4 guard is telling the media that he’s treating this game just like any other.
“It’s just another game,” Crawford said before Saturday’s practice. “I want to come out and try to win the game.”
Crawford did, however, give an indication that he still has some animosity for his former team.
“Who?” Crawford responded after a reporter asked him about playing against his former Wizards team. “I don’t recall playing for Washington.”
Maybe that’s because now he’s in a completely different situation than he was in Washington. He’s heading to the playoffs for the first time in his career and will be looked upon as a key member of Boston’s bench.
Crawford’s game within the game will be a hot topic for this matchup but there is another story that will garner some attention. There is a high likelihood that Kevin Garnett will return to Boston’s lineup for the first time since March 22 in Dallas. He has missed the last eight games with inflammation in his left foot but returned to practice on Saturday.
The expectation is that Garnett will play Sunday night. Doc Rivers hopes that is the case, even if it’s for limited minutes.
“Once he’s cleared health-wise, it’s probably better for him, even if he can’t play a lot of minutes, to play in games,” Rivers said. “Because no matter what we do in practice, practice will never duplicate a game.”
This would be a great game for Garnett to log some minutes. Washington may not have a great record, but it does have a very strong frontline. The combination of Emeka Okafor and Nene up front is quite formidable. It would certainly pose a challenge to KG and force him to play well.
Sunday’s contest will be far from a playoff preview, but it will still pack a lot of punch. Crawford wants to send his former team packing with a loss, and Garnett wants to help make that happen in his first game back in more than two weeks.
Wizards in a Back-to-Back
Playing a team that’s in the second night of a back-to-back is usually a good thing. That may not be the case tonight concerning the Wizards.
Washington dominated the Pacers last night during a 104-85 victory. John Wall was the catalyst to that victory, scoring 37 points on 16-of-25 shooting.
That dominant victory over the No. 3 seed in the East has likely pumped confidence through Washington’s veins. Instead of being tired and down in the second night of a back-to-back, they’re probably eager to return to the court against another playoff team.
Don’t Underestimate Them
The Celtics and their fans shouldn’t underestimate this Washington team just because it has a terrible record. As Rivers noted on Saturday, the Wizards’ players still have plenty of reason to play hard.
“I’ve always laughed when people think a non-playoff team doesn’t play hard – these guys, most of them are free agents, and every night is an audition,” Rivers said. “They’re auditioning for me when they’re on the other team. So it’s hard.”
Boston knows that better than anyone. It just lost to a lottery-bound team, the Cavaliers, Friday night at home. The C’s don’t want that to happen again.
Facing Off with John Wall
The Celtics haven’t faced off against Wall since March 25 of last year. That year-long streak is going to end on Sunday when Wall starts for the Wizards.
Boston has had a difficult time slowing Wall down during his three-year career. Wall has played the C’s seven times and holds averages of 18.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 6.6 APG in those contests.
Boston will keep its fingers crossed that Avery Bradley will be able to play in this game. He bruised his left collarbone during Friday night’s game and did not practice on Saturday. If Bradley plays, he will be tasked with the challenge of containing Wall. If Bradley doesn’t play, Wall could very well wind up with another monster performance.