Game Preview: Celtics at Wizards

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett scored a game-high 15 points for Boston Friday night.
Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics (0-2) will take their show on the road and visit the Washington Wizards (0-1) at 7 p.m. tonight in our nation’s capital. Both teams will be looking for their first win of the season.

The C’s will visit Washington one night after a tough home opener in TD Garden. They fell behind by as many as 22 points as the Milwaukee Bucks ran them out of the gym in a 99-88 loss. The Wizards are coming off of a 94-84 loss to Cleveland that took place in the very first game of the NBA season Tuesday night.

Two losses haven’t brought many positives to the table for Boston. The defense has been nowhere near the team’s standard and the offense has been disjointed. To Doc Rivers, it’s all about bringing the necessary mindset into their games.

“I just don’t see the urgency yet,” Rivers said after Friday’s loss. “At times I think we thought we would show up, because we have a lot of players on the team, and that would mean we would win. And when you make so many changes, I think our guys have to understand you have to invest, invest into the team to become a team.”

There are 10 new players on Boston’s roster compared to the roster that participated in the playoffs a season ago. There has been a drastic learning curve for those players and the team as they adjust to Rivers’ system at both ends of the court.

Randy Wittman hasn’t had it much easier on his end. Washington also underwent a major makeover this summer when it acquired Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor from the New Orleans Hornets. Those players, along with rookie Bradley Beal, are a major part of the Wizards’ current starting lineup.

That starting group is currently without its two best players. John Wall is out of the lineup due to a stress injury to his left patella, and Nene is out with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. A.J. Price will start at point guard for Washington, meaning the Wizards are playing with four new starters compared to last season. The only carryover is Trevor Booker, who came on to average 10.6 PPG and 8.3 RPG over the final 29 games of last season.

These two fresh rosters will both have the opportunity tonight to notch their first win of the season. It hasn’t been pretty thus far for the Celtics or the Wizards, but one win can do wonders for sending a teams in the right direction.

Perfect for Team Defense

Sometimes playing a team without a star can be the best thing for your team defense. That may be the case for the Celtics tonight.

Boston struggled on defense in its season opener and then allowed the Bucks to score at least 25 points in three of four quarters Friday night. Tonight’s game will be different than both of those contests, because the Wizards don’t have a go-to scorer like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis.

Wall and Nene, arguably Washington’s two best players, are out with injuries, leaving the Wizards with a bunch of good-but-not-great players on the roster. Jordan Crawford is probably their best offensive player, but he’s expected to come off the bench.

The C’s don’t need to load up on any specific player, which will allow the team defense to shine.

3-Point Happy

This Wizards team loves to launch the long ball. They attempted a whopping 32 3s in their season opener against the Cavaliers on Tuesday, but only eight of those attempts fell through the rim. That wasn’t abnormal, either, because they took 21.8 3-pointers per game in eight preseason contests. In comparison to last season’s NBA stats, that average would have ranked as the fifth-highest in the league.

There are some guys on this Wizards team who can hit 3s. Bradley Beal has been dubbed by many as ‘the next Ray Allen,’ and the C’s have seen Crawford light it up in person. Still, though, 32 attempts is way too many. Washington should dial it back a bit, particularly A.J. Price, who attempted nine of his own Tuesday night.

Dominate the Glass

Boston made it a point to address its rebounding issue this summer. The team brought in several big men, led by Jared Sullinger and Darko Milicic, in an attempt to rectify their past rebounding issues. The C’s rebounded well in their opener but were outrebounded by 10 Friday night against the Bucks.

The C’s will have a big advantage on the glass tonight. Okafor and journeyman Earl Barron are the only true rebounders Washington has on its active roster. Booker, the starting power forward, notched just one rebound Tuesday night.

With Garnett, Brandon Bass and this summer’s additions, the C’s are deep down low. There is no doubt that they’ll have a rebounding advantage tonight, but they need to consciously attack the glass in order to take advantage of it.