Game Preview: Wizards at Celtics

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics (1-2) will host the Washington Wizards (0-2) at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the second game of a unique home-and-home set.

These teams met Saturday night in Washington, D.C., where the Celtics squeaked out an 89-86 victory. Both squads have since had three days off to prepare for their rematch tonight in TD Garden.

“This is unusual,” said Doc Rivers. “It’s one thing when you play them back to back, like day after day, but this is like a playoff game in some ways, because you play a team, you travel, you get two days off, three days off.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce scored a game-high 27 points Saturday night against the Wizards.
Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images

“So both teams have played once, and now you get three days to prepare again. That’s unusual. I don’t know if that’s ever happened since I’ve been in the league.”

That’s quite a statement from Rivers, who has been in or around this league for 19 years. The reality, however, is that this home-and-home set is far from a playoff game. These teams share only one win on the season, and both are integrating many new pieces.

“I’m still practicing for our team,” Rivers said. “It would be great if we had been together and you can [strictly prepare for Washington], but this team doesn’t know our defense so we can’t worry about what [the Wizards] are doing yet.”

Washington is in the same boat, so suffice it to say that both teams spent their most recent practices working on their own stuff rather than their opponent’s.

Boston has already proven that if executes its own stuff it can dominate the Wizards. The C’s opened Saturday night’s tilt with flawless execution and that led to a 17-2 lead out of the gates.

But the Celts also proved that when they don’t execute their own stuff they can be beaten by anyone. Washington, playing without its top two players, fought all the way back and took a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter. Boston had to grind out the victory over the final two minutes in order to jump into the win column.

Rivers’ team has had two days of practice to work on its offensive and defensive principles since its last meeting with Washington. The Celtics didn’t treat those days as playoff practices for an opponent, but they should still be much more prepared for the Wizards tonight than they were on Saturday.

Who Starts for Washington?

Wizards head coach Randy Wittman is in an interesting position.

On one hand, he has some very accomplished veterans whom his general manager acquired this summer, as well as a highly-touted rookie who was drafted this summer. Natural wisdom tells Wittman that all of those players should start.

On the other hand, all of those players finished with at least a negative-10 rating in the plus/minus category when they started on Saturday. Meanwhile, none of Wittman’s bench players finished with a negative plus/minus rating.

Washington’s lesser-known reserves were much more effective than its starters were. Which begs the question, does Wittman flip his starting lineup based on one game?

Boston’s Bench

The Celtics were a complete reversal of what Washington experienced on Saturday. Boston’s starters performed very well, but the bench struggled mightily. As we have all heard for months, Boston’s bench is expected to be one of its strong points this season.

Jeff Green helped the bench score 27 points during Saturday’s win but all of the reserves finished with a negative plus/minus rating. Jason Terry, the leader of the bench, takes that fact personally.

“That’s frustrating, but I take that squarely upon my shoulders,” Terry said on Monday. “This is a new week. I’m looking to go this week and hopefully we can get three straight consecutive games of outscoring their bench.”

Tonight is their first opportunity of the new week to get on the right track.

Attack the Glass

Rebounding wasn’t a glaring issue for Boston during their victory over the Wizards, but a quick glance at the final box score shows that the C’s struggled in that area. They were outrebounded 46-35 in the game and didn’t have a single player grab more than seven boards, albeit three C’s did grab seven apiece.

There is no reason why the Celtics shouldn’t have someone approach double-digit rebounds every night. There are plenty of strong rebounders on this roster, most notably Kevin Garnett and Jared Sullinger. Someone needs to step it up in that department tonight so that the C’s don’t have to overcome another double-digit rebounding deficit.