Boston Celtics (25-8, 11-6 Away) vs. Washington Wizards (11-24, 6-10 Home)
Date: January 6, 2020
Location: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C
Tip-Off: 7:00pm EST
Line: Celtics -8.5
Season Series: Celtics lead 1-0
As expected by most, the Boston Celtics have been near the top of the East for the majority of the season so far. Currently, Boston stands at 25-8 and the #2 seed. After a 2-game losing streak to the 76ers and Pacers, the Celtics are 8-1 since then. They come in to Capital One Arena with an impressive 11-6 Away record and a 1-0 advantage in the season series.
Statistically, Boston is efficient in most categories. Ranked at #13 in the NBA, the Celtics average 111.4 PPG. Rebounding has also been a key focus as they come in averaging 46 RPG, good for 12th in the league.
In terms of ball movement, Boston does a fairly good job of getting everyone involved. They average 23.2 assists per game which ranks at #19. Lastly, their defense is among the best in the league so far, as they only allow 103.7 points per game
In his third season from Duke, Jayson Tatum continues to shine on the court. He has improved every season, which is all you can ask of a young player. Tatum is second on the team in scoring with 21.3 PPG, behind only Kemba Walker. He is also averaging 7 RPG coming into D.C.
Tatum’s shooting efficiency has, however, dropped from his career average. He is only shooting 42.6% from the field and 36.5% from 3-point range. To contrast, his career field-goal percentage is 45.3% and 39% from three.
In Boston’s first meeting with Washington, Tatum had a solid game with 23 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists. The key for Tatum will be continuing to head to the line where he was 100% last time around vs. the Wizards. He was cold from downtown, shooting only 20% that game, but expect him to produce a much better performance from long-range tonight.
The Wizards are coming off an impressive win against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night, 128-114. They also beat Miami, another top-tier team, just a couple of days before 123-105. Washington’s record now stands at 11-24.
While this season has been acknowledged to be a learning period with numerous inexperienced players on the roster, this team has nevertheless contended night in and night out. This is also the final game of the Wizards’ 6-game home-stand, and Washington will look to end it on a winning note.
Washington’s offense still continues to be among the league’s best, as they average 116.1 PPG which ranks 4th in the league. They are also a Top 10 team in assists with 26 assists per game, good for 7th in the NBA.
The main two areas Washington has struggled this season have been on the defensive end and rebounding. In regards to the latter, the Wizards average 42.2 RPG which is dead last in the league. Their defense is also the worst in the league, with 120.9 points allowed per game.
While there have been numerous players who have stepped up to provide a spark. Ish Smith has done the most lately. Coming off the bench as a back-up to Isaiah Thomas, Smith has delivered time and time again. Against the Nuggets, Smith went off for a career-high 32 points while also adding in 8 assists and 3 steals.
For the season, Smith is averaging a solid 11 PPG, 4.3 APG and shooting 37.2% from three. In his last 10 games, Smith has kicked it up a notch with 14.8 PPG in addition to a blazing hot 40.6% from three.
The Wizards have had some key wins against title contenders in the span of a week. Tonight, however, I expect Boston to pull away in the 2nd half. With the amount of injuries Washington has, asking them to get a 3rd big win so soon might be too tall of a task. Washington will definitely give Boston a fight and make it a close game, but ultimately the Celtics should secure the win in D.C.