Washington Wizards vs. Boston Celtics: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
In the top-heavy Eastern Conference, seeding means everything. Even Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledged he wants to "stay out of the eighth spot" to avoid the Miami Heat in the first round (via Chris Forsberg of ESPN).
With three games left against the top four teams in the standings, Boston has to win matchups against weaker opponents to secure its position.
Of course, the Wizards are not as bad as their record implies. Even though they have been eliminated from postseason contention, they are 23-19 since John Wall returned from injury, after starting 5-28.
There is a lot of young talent on this team, and it has a chance to get the home win against an injury-riddled Celtics squad.
Either way, this is certain to be an exciting battle from beginning to end. Here is everything you need to know about the upcoming matchup.
When: April 7, at 6 p.m. ET
Where: TD Garden, Boston
Injuries (via USA Today)
Paul Pierce (Ankle) Questionable
Kevin Garnett (Ankle) Questionable
Jared Sullinger (Back) Out
Rajon Rondo (Knee) Out
Bradley Beal (Ankle) Out
Celtics Player to Watch: Jeff Green
Kevin Garnett has missed the past couple of weeks with an ankle injury, while Paul Pierce has been in and out of the lineup. However, Jeff Green has stepped up in their absences.
The forward had a coming-out party with 43 points against the Miami Heat last month, but it is important to note that he has scored in double figures in 14 games in a row.
Green is shooting lights out from three and has shown an incredible ability to drive to the basket and finish around the rim.
Basically, he is everything the Celtics hoped he would be when they traded for him from the Oklahoma City Thunder two years ago. He will need to continue this great play to lead Boston to more victories this season.
Wizards Player to Watch: John Wall
John Wall is simply the type of player that makes everyone around him better. The Wizards were barely competitive with the point guard out of the lineup, but this squad is a playoff contender when he's healthy.
Recently, however, Wall has raised his game to an incredible level. In March, Wall averaged 22.1 points and eight assists per game, totaling six double-doubles.
It does not seem to matter who else is in the lineup, the point guard will get his points and assists, and the team will be in the running for wins.
If he gets some help from frontcourt players Nene or Emeka Okafor, the Wizards will be in good shape.
Key Matchup: Emeka Okafor vs. Brandon Bass
The point guard battle between Wall and Avery Bradley will be fun to watch on both ends of the court, but this matchup of big men will have a bigger impact on the game.
For all of Okafor's faults, he has always been an elite rebounder. This season, he is averaging nine rebounds per game with a total of 20 double-doubles.
These types of players have caused problems for Boston, which ranks 29th in the NBA in total rebounds per game.
Brandon Bass has been decent offensively for the Celtics since Garnett went down, but he allowed Tristan Thompson to total 17 rebounds in a win for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.
If the forward cannot handle the Washington frontcourt on the glass, it could be a huge problem.
Prediction: Celtics 92, Wizards 88
Washington routinely plays relatively low-scoring games, and this one should not be any different. Bradley's pressure will slow down Wall, and that should lead to an underwhelming day for the Wizards offense.
On the other end of the court, Green should continue his strong play, while Jordan Crawford looks for a big game against his former team.
The Celtics need this game more than the Wizards, and that will likely come through with increased effort from Boston toward the end of the fourth quarter. It will be close, but the home team will pull it out.
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