Celtics Look to Recover as They Host the Wizards

Washington Wizards (21-57) at Boston Celtics (54-24) 
Friday, April 8
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #79,  Home Game #40
TV:  CSN-NE, Comcast Sportsnet, NBA-LP 756/757
Radio:  WEEI,  WJFK
TD Garden 
Referees:   Tom Washington,  Josh Tiven,  Leon Wood 
This is the 3rd of 4 games between these two teams.  They will meet again on April 11.  The series is tied 1-1 as the Celtics dropped a game they should have won on the road against the Wizards back in January. 

Coming off a very lackluster performance in a game that they said they wanted to send a message in,  the Celtics once again dropped into a tie with the Heat for the 2nd spot.   Miami is in action against the Bobcats and so should the Celtics give a half effort again in this game, they may find themselves a full game behind Miami at the end of the night. 

The Celtics are 31-8 at home while the Wizards are just 3-36 on the road.   In their last 10 games,  the Celtics are 5-5 and the Wizards are 4-6.   The Celtics have been struggling and even the players are starting to question whether they can get it together in time for the playoffs as seen in Rondo's comments after last night's game.
"It's not the same team. We're not going to be able to turn it on like we did last year. Even last year, we came up short [in Games 6 and 7 of the NBA Finals]. I don't know what we're waiting on, but these type of games we have to find a way to win.
The Celtics can't afford to take this game for granted and must come out strong and use it as a means of trying to get back on track as a team, regardless of the competition. 

Probable Starters
Rajon Rondo...Ray Allen...Paul Pierce...Kevin Garnett... Jermaine O'Neal

Boston Bench Mob
Glen Davis
Jeff Green
Delonte West
Nenad Krstic
Sasha Pavlovic
Carlos Arroyo
Troy Murphy
Von Wafer
Avery Bradley

Shaquille O'Neal (calf/old age) out  

Probable Starters
John Wall...Jordan Crawford...Maurice Evans...Andre Blatche...JaVale McGee

Wizards Bench

Kevin Seraphin
Yi Jianlian
Othyus Jeffers
Mustafa Shakur
Larry Owens

Josh Howard  (knee)  out 
Hamady N'Diaye (knee)  out
Nick Young (knee)  out 
Trevor Booker (foot)  out
Rashard Lewis (knee)  out 

Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs John Wall
After being completely out-played by Derrick Rose in last night's game, Rondo should come into this game ready to have a much better game and ready to make a statement against Wall.  In the last game, Wall banked a 3 off the glass to put the Wizards ahead for the win.  Wall has been playing very well and has averaged 18.6 points, 7.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds since the all star game.   Rondo needs to be aggressive and set the pace.  As Rondo goes so go the Celtics. 

Jermaine O'Neal vs Javale McGee
In the last game between these two teams McGee had 16 points and 6 rebounds against Semih Erden.   The Celtics will need more out of O'Neal than they got vs the Bulls where he scored 5 points and had ZERO rebounds and very little defense.  The Celtics need JO to step up and be more of a force on both ends of the court. 

Honorable Mention
Kevin Garnett vs Andray Blatche
Kevin Garnett has played well, even as the Celtics have struggled as a team.   Blatche has averaged 27.5 points and 14 rebounds in his last 4 games and so KG is going to have to play him tough in this game to keep him from putting up big numbers. 

Keys to the Game
Focus  Focus seems to be the biggest problem for this team when they play sub-.500 teams (and maybe even when they play the top 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.  That happened in the last meeting between these two teams.    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. They were out rebounded by the Bulls last night and they were also out rebounded by the Wizards in their loss to them in their last meeting.     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 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. Against the Bulls, we saw very little effort on defense and allowed way too many open and easy shots.  When the Celtics clamp down on defense the rest of their game picks up. 

Be Aggressive  The Celtics need 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.   They can't afford to play passively like they did against the Bulls, even vs a lowly team like the Wizards. 

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 had just 14 assists against the Bulls and that is not acceptable.   They have to stick with what works and that is making the extra pass, finding the open man and not playing hero ball which we have seen all too much this season. 

Official Report 
Tom Washington
Washington has officiated over 855+ regular season games and 55+ play-off games. The Celtics are 6-0 this season and 9-1 over their last 10 games with Washington calling the game. At least 2 of the  games were poorly officiated.  In the home game vs the Suns the officiating was bad both ways which elicited a pretty strong rant from Tommy.  In the Hornets game, the officiating was also very poor and Washington ignored the Hornets attempts to intentionally foul both Pierce and Allen at the end of the game.   The Wizards 1-3 this season and  are 4-6 in their last 10 with Washington as a ref. His home W/L record this season is 34-30.

Josh Tiven
This is Tiven's first full season as an NBA Referee. He was part of a group of NBDL refs last season who officiated several games as part of an initiative aimed at preparing top prospects to move up. He also spent time calling games in the WNBA and college before moving to the NBDL. The Celtics are 2-2 so far this seaaon with Tiven as an official. One loss was the Celtics 108-102 loss to the Rockets at the Garden. The second loss was in Houston where Tiven and crew were so bad that they actually caused Tommy to swear on the air over their falling for flops.    The Celtics are also 3-3 in their 6 games with Tiven. The Wizards are 1-2 in their games with Tiven, all this season. His home W/L record this season is 35-21.

Leon Wood
Osie Leon Wood, III has officiated 600+ regular season games and 3 play-off games.   Prior to becoming an NBA referee, Wood was a shooting guard in the NBA. He was chosen 10th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1st round of the 1984 draft. During his career, he played for the 76ers, Bullets, Nets, Spurs, Hawks and Kings. He played in 274 games in his career and won a gold medal as a member of the 1984 US Olympic basketball team. When not officiating, Wood helps train younger officials. You would think that being a former player, Wood would try to be fair but he has been a mediocre ref at best. The Celtics are 5-0 this season and 9-1 over their last 10 games with Wood officiating. One game with Wood was at Utah where the Jazz shot 12 more free throws than the Celtics. The officiating was terrible both ways though. Another game with Wood was against the Bucks where they let them play and showed no bias toward either team.   The Wizards are 1-2 this season and  3-7 over their last 10 games called by Wood. His home W/L record this season is 33-34.

Back to Back and Effort
The Celtics are playing in yet another back to back set.  The Celtics are 7-10 in the second of back to back games but they are 4-0 in the second of back to back games when they play the first on the road and the second at home.  To continue that trend, the Celtics are going to have to put out more effort than they have in the past against sub .500 teams.