Watch It! – Wizards at Celtics
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards meet at 8 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.
Wizards Riding Momentum into Boston
The Boston Celtics suffered one of their most disappointing losses of the season last night as they squandered a 16-point second-half lead in Toronto, before falling 114-106 to the Raptors.
The Washington Wizards, meanwhile, are fresh off of one of their most exhilarating wins of the campaign.
John Wall hit a game-winning jumper last night with 5.9 seconds remaining in regulation that vaulted the Wizards to a 101-99 win over the Chicago Bulls. The win also pushed Washington over the .500 mark in the win/loss column for the first time this season.
Now, the Wizards will look to carry that momentum into the second game of a back-to-back, while Boston hopes to refocus and send Washington home with a loss.
Duel of the East’s Hottest Guards
The key to handing the Wizards a loss will be slowing down Wall, the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Month.
Wall averaged 24.5 points per game last month and paced the East in assists (10.7 per game) and steals (2.7 per game), while leading the Wizards to a 10-5 record.
He’ll be facing off against the man he edged out for the award – Isaiah Thomas, who led the East in scoring during December with 30.3 PPG.
Thomas seemed to have a chip on his shoulder last week when discussing the results of the Player of the Month voting, so tonight he will have a chance to prove himself when he goes face-to-face with Wall.
Bradley’s Presence vs. Wizards’ Backcourt
Avery Bradley (strained Achilles) was missed greatly during last night’s loss in Toronto as the Raptors’ backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry went off for a combined 65 points.
If Bradley sits again tonight, those backcourt issues could continue for Boston as it’s set to face off against Washington’s fearsome combo of Wall and Bradley Beal.
Wall, as mentioned, is on fire at the moment and is averaging 23.2 PPG, 10.3 APG and a league-best 2.2 SPG this season. Beal, meanwhile, is averaging a career-high 22.1 PPG and knocks down nearly three 3-pointers per game.
Boston needs a better defensive effort from its backcourt tonight, and getting Bradley back on the court would provide major help in that regard.
Ignore November’s Result
The Wizards handed Boston its worst loss of the season back on Nov. 9 when they throttled the C’s, 118-93.
However, there are a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t put too much stock into that result.
For one, Boston started that game with an abnormally low level of energy on both sides of the ball, as it was outscored 34-8 during the first quarter.
And two, the Celtics were far from full strength that night as they were missing Al Horford and Jae Crowder due to injuries.
Expect Boston to come out with a lot more energy on its home court tonight, especially now that Horford and Crowder are back in the starting lineup.
Surprisingly, Wall and Beal didn’t play much of a role during November’s matchup as the pair combined for just 22 points against the C’s.
The biggest issue for Boston was stopping Otto Porter.
The third-year forward unquestioningly had the best game of his career as he went off for a personal-best 34 points and tied career highs in rebounds (14) and blocked shots (three).
Crowder likely would have guarded Porter during that game. Now that No. 99 is back in Boston’s lineup, the C’s should be able to do a better job of containing Washington’s starting small forward during tonight’s matchup.