Watch It! - Wizards at Celtics
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards meet at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.
Battle at the Point
Saturday’s starting point guards know each other very well. Jordan Crawford used to back up John Wall before the Celtics acquired him at the trade deadline last season. Now he’ll get an opportunity to one-up him at TD Garden.
Crawford has been very good this season, particularly this month. He’s averaging 17.4 points per game and 6.1 assists per game in eight December games. His assist-to-turnover ratio this month is 3.1-to-1, which is fantastic.
Still, though, Crawford has not been on Wall’s level. Wall is having an All-Star-type season, racking up overall averages of 19.6 PPG and 9.1 APG. Those numbers have spiked to 20.6 PPG and 9.4 APG this month. Wall has scored at least 20 points in five of his last six games.
There’s no doubt that these two former teammates will be excited to face off on Saturday. Crawford will want to show Wall and the Wizards what they’re missing, and Wall will want to prove that Washington stuck with the right man.
Protecting the Glass
Neither Boston nor Washington is a great rebounding team, but the Wizards have a clear advantage in this game. They have four players on their team who are 6-foot-10 or taller, while the Celtics have just two.
Brad Stevens has been studying the Wizards and he came away impressed by their rebounding ability after viewing Washington’s 112-107 win over Brooklyn Wednesday night.
“Think about this: they won on the glass against Brooklyn 51-31,” Stevens said after Friday’s practice. “We all saw Brooklyn in person a couple of weeks ago. Brooklyn is not small. So that was a heck of an accomplishment.”
The Celtics are no stranger to being outsized. They’ve been in that position all season long. Saturday will be just another test on the glass against a team that excelled in that department during its last game.
Sharp Shooters vs. Sharp Defense
Sometimes the best basketball to watch is when two teams with offsetting strengths collide. That’s going to happen on Saturday.
Washington is fantastic at shooting the long ball. Four Wizards are shooting the 3 at better than 40.0 percent on the season. That includes starters Bradley Beal (46.2 percent) and Trevor Ariza (40.9 percent).
Those players may have a difficult time making those 3s during Saturday’s matchup with the Celtics. Boston is nearly the best in the league when it comes to defending the 3-point line. The C’s are mere percentage points behind the Nuggets for the top spot in that category, as they limit opponents to just 32.5 percent shooting from downtown.
Use Green’s Size
This is a game in which Boston would be smart to use Jeff Green in the post. Green, who is 6-foot-9 and weighs 235 pounds, will be starting against Trevor Ariza, who is 6-foot-8 and weighs 220 pounds.
Ariza has split time in his career between playing shooting guard and small forward. He’s having a very fine season, but defending bigger, stronger players is not his forte. According to Synergy Sports, only 5.5 percent of Ariza’s defensive plays have come in the post, and he rates out as a below-average defender in those situations. Green, with his sharp post skills, can take advantage of that if he’s aggressive.
Many NBA pundits believe this is the season that the Wizards will return to the playoffs. That’s due almost entirely to the fact that their starting five is legit.
Wall, Beal, Ariza, Nene (who came off the bench last game) and Marcin Gortat are all solid-to-great NBA players at this point of their careers. However, Washington’s bench consists of mostly unproven NBA players.
Martell Webster is having a phenomenal season off the bench with an average of 13.1 PPG. No one else on the bench is scoring more than 7.9 PPG.
Now to be fair, Boston ranks just 16th in the league when it comes to bench scoring, led by Courtney Lee’s 7.4 PPG. However, Lee, Humphries and Gerald Wallace are all proven players in this league who have had great seasons. The reserves have also maintained Boston’s elite level of defense when they come onto the floor.
Expect the continuation of Washington’s trend of playing its starters big minutes. If that trend doesn’t hold, Boston’s bench should be able to take advantage.