addByline("Marc D'Amico", "Celtics.com", "Marc_DAmico");
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and the New Orleans Pelicans meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.
The Celtics downed the 76ers last night at TD Garden and will be right back on the same court tonight to host the Pelicans. Let’s discuss just how rare this situation is.
Boston hasn’t hosted a back-to-back at home since February of 1999. The only reason such a scheduling quirk took place back then was because of the lockout, as the NBA needed to squeeze as many games as possible into three-month schedule.
While this is a rare occurrence, the Celtics won’t complain. They were able to head home after last night’s win and sleep in their own beds, rather than hopping on a plane to fly somewhere else for the tail-end of their back-to-back. Now they can rinse, wash and repeat as they return to the Garden in hopes of logging another win in front of their home faithful.
The saga of Donatas Motiejunas has been quite interesting over the last year.
First, Houston tried trading him to Detroit at last season’s trade deadline before his failed physical nixed the deal. Then, Brooklyn signed the 7-footer, a restricted free agent at the time, to a four-year offer sheet in November, only to see the offer matched by Houston. Then the Rockets surrendered their rights to him shortly thereafter after Motiejunas did not report for his physical.
Now, as an unrestricted free agent, Motiejunas has signed a deal to play for the Pelicans for the remainder of the season. He signed the deal four days ago and could make his season debut with New Orleans tonight. And it sounds as if the Pelicans are excited to play him alongside their star big man, Anthony Davis.
“I think that he alleviates some of the double-teams that teams can throw out there (at Davis) because he can spot up and he can space the floor," said head coach Alvin Gentry. "I think having him out there creates more space. We kind of want to look at it like maybe a Channing Frye situation."
Different Look for New Orleans
Boston fell to New Orleans back on Nov. 14 at the Smoothie King Center. However, the team that will take the court tonight in green and white will look quite different from the one that fell in New Orleans.
The Celtics did not have the services of either Al Horford or Jae Crowder, two-thirds of their starting frontcourt, during that game. Both players are now fully healthy, and Horford is coming off of a stellar 19-point, 12-rebound, four-assist, two-block performance last night against Philadelphia.
To a similar extent, the Pelicans are a bit different, too. They opened the season with an 0-8 record (Boston was their 11th opponent) but have gone 14-15 since while recovering to full health. New Orleans has much more confidence now than it did in mid-November, but the same can be said for a Celtics team that is much healthier this time around.
Power of the Brow
Davis finished the November matchup against Boston with 26 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks. Believe it or not, that felt like a win for the C’s, because Davis has dominated them since he came into the league.
The electric big man has averaged nearly 28 points, 13 boards and three blocks per game against Boston since his rookie season. Simply put, the C’s haven’t had an answer for him.
They’re hoping that changes tonight now that they have their starting frontcourt intact.
The Gift of Holiday
One of the greatest reasons for the Pelicans’ resurgence has been the return of Jrue Holiday, who missed the early portions of the season for personal reasons. Holiday has played in 22 games since his return and New Orleans has gone 12-10 during those contests.
Holiday is a former All-Star who can change a game all by himself. He enters tonight’s contest with averages of 14.5 points and 7.2 assists per game. His assist average ranks eighth in the entire league.
Isaiah Thomas excelled during the last matchup between these two teams when he matched up with Tim Frazier. However, with Holiday back in the lineup, Boston may opt to have Thomas defend rookie Buddy Hield while giving Avery Bradley the defensive assignment to contain Holiday.