Celtics Hit the Road to Take on Wall and the Wizards

Boston Celtics (33-9) at Washington Wizards (12-29)
Saturday, January 22
7:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #43, Road Game #19
TV:  CSN-NE, Comcast Sportsnet, NBA-LP 754/755
Radio:  WEEI, WJFK
Verizon Center
Referees:   James Capers,  Mark Ayotte, Mark Lindsay

This is the second meeting between these two teams.  In their first meeting, the Celtics came away with a 109-91 win.  But, this game will be much different.  The Wizards did not have Wall in the last game and Gilbert Arenas, who is no longer with the team, started at point guard.  Wall will be a much tougher cover for Rondo than Arenas was.

Also, in that first game, the Celtics had Delonte West in his first game back as a Celtic and that gave them a boost off the bench.  Finally, the Wizards now have Rashard Lewis at small forward.  He always gave the Celtics problems in Orlando when Garnett had to cover him.  Now he is Pierce's problem and hopefully he will be up to the task.

The last difference between the first meeting between these two teams is that this game is on the Wizards home court and the last game was in the Garden.  The Wizards are a pretty good home team with a 12-6 record, in spite of their overall 12-29 record.  And, yes, that means that they are 0-20 on the road. They aren't quite as easy to beat at home as they are on the road.

Both teams are playing in the second of back to back games.  The Celtics are coming off of a big win over the Jazz while the Wizards are coming off a loss to the Suns.  The Celtics starters were able to rest through the 4th quarter with Pierce and KG playing just 25 minutes with Ray and Rondo around 30.  Wall, Young and Lewis all played close to 40 minutes in their loss.

This should be a game that the Celtics win easily but we all know that when they play a team that they should beat easily they tend to relax and sometimes they make it a lot harder on themselves that it should be.  The Celtics will be going for their 6th straight win while the Wizards are trying to avoid a 3 game losing streak.

Hopefully the Celtics will come out as focused in this game as they did against the Jazz and can put this team away early.  There won't be any Gino, but there will be rest for the weary.

Probable Starters
Rajon Rondo...Ray Allen...Paul Pierce...Kevin Garnett... Semih Erden

Boston Bench Mob
Glen Davis
Luke Harangody
Nate Robinson
Von Wafer
Marquis Daniels

Kendrick Perkins (knee) out
Jermaine O'Neal (knee) out
Delonte West (wrist)  out
Shaquille O'Neal (hip) out  
Marquis Daniels (ankle) probable 

Avery Bradley  

Probable Starters
John Wall...Neil Young...Rashard Lewis...Andre Blatche...JaVale McGee

Wizards Bench

Hilton Armstrong
Al Thornton
Trevor Booker
Cartier Martin
Kevin Seraphin
Yi Jianlian
Hamady Ndiaye

Josh Howard  (knee)  out
Kirk Hinrich (arm) doubtful 
Key Matchups

Rajon Rondo vs John Wall
In the first meeting between these two teams, Wall was out and so this is the first meeting between Rondo and the Rookie of the Year candidate.  Rondo always gets up for matchups with the top PG's and hopefully he will be ready to prove to Wall that he has not arrived yet.  Both are playing in back to backs.  Rondo played 31 minutes and Wall played 40 minutes the night before, but both are young and should be up for this matchup.  This should be fun to watch.  

Paul Pierce vs Rashard Lewis
This will be the first time the Celtics face Lewis as a Wizard.  In Orlando, Lewis played power forward and was always KG's problem and KG said that he was one of his toughest matchups.  After moving to Washington, Lewis also moved to the small forward spot and now it falls on Paul Pierce to match up with him.  Lewis has a slight height advantage, but I have a feeling that he will have more trouble containing Pierce than PP will have covering him.  

Honorable Mention

Semih Erden vs JaVale McGee
With Shaq not expected to make the trip,  Doc will more than likely start Semih at center.  Semih is coming off one of his best games as a Celtic with 14 points and 7 rebounds against the Jazz.  The Celtics will need him to continue to be aggressive on both ends of the court. 

Ray Allen vsNeil Young
Young has been hot over his last 6 games, averaging 26.3 points and shooting 50% from beyond the arc.  He scored 20 points against the Celtics in their first meeting.  Ray needs to contain him as well as continue his own hot streak.  

Keys to the Game
 Focus seems to be the biggest problem for this team when they play sub-.500 teams.  They lose focus and allow teams that they should beat easily to stay in the game and gain confidence and that will sometimes come back to bite them.  They must come out focused and stay focused until the final buzzer.

Rebound  The Celtics must crash the boards and keep the Wizards from getting second chance points, fast break opportunities and extra possessions.  As I have said before, when the Celtics put out the effort necessary to win the battle of the boards, that effort seems to pick up every area of their game as well.  

Defense    Defense always wins games and it will win the championship as well.  The Celtics have to make defense their priority and shut down the paint as well as staying on their outside shooters.

Be Aggressive
 The Celtics need to continue to play aggressively.  They need to take the ball to the hoop and try to get to the line early and often.   They also have to go for every loose ball and battle for all the rebounds.  

Move the Ball
 When the Celtics move the ball and rack up assists they are very hard to beat.  When the ball sticks and they try to do too much individually and forget the team game, that's when they are vulnerable.  They have to stick with what works and that is making the extra pass, finding the open man and not playing hero ball which sometimes happens in games on the road and against weaker teams.

Official Report
James Capers

Capers has  Capers founded the Goodcall Referee School, a summer referee camp for youth. His father was also a referee for 22 seasons.   James Capers was working for the CBA for 6 years before he reached the NBA. He has been in the league for 12 seasons and has officiated over 600 regular season games and  19 playoff games.  He has volunteered to train referees for the Philippines basketball association. I've seen several posts from Lakers fans blaming him for their loss to the Clippers and they swear he hates the Lakers. I kind of like this guy. The Celtics are 1-0 with Capers on the crew this season.  His home W/L record this season is 22-12.  

Mark Ayotte
Ayotte has 12 years of college officiating experience and 10 years of high school officiating experience. The Celtics are 1-1 with Ayotte officiating this season. His home W/L record is 20-10 this season.

Mark Lindsay
Lindsay worked in college and the NBDL before joining the NBA in 2007. Not a lot of info or controversy out there about him. The Celtics are 0-1 with Lindsay this season and that game was very one sided against the Celtics. His home W/L record this season is 19-10

The Road and Trap Game

The Celtics have played their last 6 games at home and being on the road again may have an effect on the team.  Hopefully they can shake off the road blues and play their game regardless of the venue.  The Wizards would be easy to take for granted because they have only 12 wins and they haven't had any wins over any of the top teams.  But all of those 12 wins are at home and they do have some talented players who can put up points in a hurry if the Celtics take them too lightly.