In a battle between interconference foes headed in different directions, the Boston Celtics will travel to play the New Orleans Hornets. This game will help determine progress of different kinds for each team.
For Boston, it's about postseason seeding. For New Orleans, it's all about developing its young players.
So, who will emerge victorious?
Boston is 36-30 overall and 12-20 on the road. The Celts are also 14-12 against the Western Conference.
Perhaps most notably, Boston is coming off of a heartbreaking 105-103 loss against the Miami Heat.
As for the Hornets, they're 22-46 overall and 12-21 at home. They're 10-17 against the Eastern Conference. The Hornets have lost four consecutive games.
Time: Wednesday, March 20, at 8 p.m. EDT
TV: CSN New England and Fox Sports New Orleans
Records: Boston Celtics (36-30, 12-20 road) at New Orleans Hornets (22-46, 12-21 home)
Betting Line: N/A
Boston Celtics Injury Report
Rajon Rondo, Torn ACL, Out
Jared Sullinger, Back Surgery, Out
New Orleans Hornets Injury Report
Austin Rivers, Right Hand Surgery, Out
Jason Smith, Torn Labrum in Right Shoulder, Out
Key Storyline: Injuries
When the Boston Celtics travel to play the New Orleans Hornets, the No. 1 storyline will be injuries. That's the unfortunate truth about this game.
For Boston, Kevin Garnett is suffering from the flu and a strained abductor. There is a chance that he misses the battle with the Hornets, as he was forced to sit out the Miami Heat game.
Furthermore, Rajon Rondo is done for the season with a torn ACL. Jared Sullinger joins him with back surgery on two herniated disks.
Austin Rivers recently received right hand surgery. He will not play against his father and Celtics coach Doc Rivers as a result. Jason Smith will be out for New Orleans with a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
Key Matchup: Eric Gordon vs. Courtney Lee
The New Orleans Hornets live and die by Eric Gordon's ability to score the basketball. The issue is, Gordon hasn't been able to string together consistent production.
Going up against defensive stopper Courtney Lee, the odds aren't in Gordon's favor for a turnaround.
Lee has been superb in recent weeks, containing some of the game's elite scorers. That includes Dwyane Wade, who shot a respectable 7-of-15 but failed to get any offensive rhythm going.
Will Gordon fare any better?
If he does, the Hornets have a legitimate shot at achieving victory. If Lee can limit Gordon's contributions, however, New Orleans will find it tough to win.
Whomever wins this battle could very well win the game.
X-Factor: Jeff Green, Boston Celtics
During the Boston Celtics' most recent game, they were led by an unlikely party. That player was none other than the soft-spoken Jeff Green.
The former Georgetown Hoya finished with 43 points.
It would be irrational to believe that the Celtics need Green to top 40 points again. What they do need, however, is for Green to be more consistently aggressive. Whether as a scorer, defender, rebounder or facilitator, Green's versatility must be on display on a more consistent basis. If Green fails to provide such contributions, the Celtics will suffer.
A considerable amount of pressure is on this young man to step it up.
The Boston Celtics are a team with postseason aspirations. They're now a half-game behind the Atlanta Hawks for fifth in the Eastern Conference and firmly placed in seventh.
Who will win?
If they fail to win against New Orleans, they could end up in an unfavorable series in which they battle a team without home-court advantage. For a team that will be playing without their point guard, Rajon Rondo, that is a daunting task.
Consider this sense of urgency to be the influence necessary for a big win.
Jeff Green will build upon his breakout performance, while Paul Pierce will continue to take on the role of facilitator. Between Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee, Boston will stifle the Hornets' high-octane offense.
This is a win Boston needs and New Orleans would like to have.
Boston Celtics 97, New Orleans Hornets 89