The Wizards will look to right the ship against the 8-1 Celtics in Boston after a two-game skid against the Pacers and Cavs.
When you don’t win the “winnable” games, it makes the difficult games appear even more daunting, and that’s what the Wizards face Wednesday night against the Celtics, the current owners of the NBA’s best record. The Celtics won’t be at full strength as Gordon Hayward is out at least six weeks with a broken hand and Kemba Walker, who experienced a “stinger” in his neck on Monday night, will possibly draw a questionable tag. Regardless, the Celtics always seem to bring their A-game against the Wizards no matter who is suiting up.
Recent Wizards-Celtics games have been fierce battles despite the Celtics being a top team in the East and the Wizards stuck in the basement. Over the past two years, the Wizards have a 3-4 record against the Celtics with three games going into overtime, one going into double overtime, and not a single game ending with a deficit greater than 12 points.
Game focus: Defense
It’s no secret that the Wizards defense has been atrocious so far this season. Since holding the Thunder to 85 points in Oklahoma City, the Wizards have given up an average of 124.5 points per game over their last six, and are 28th in the league in defensive rating. The stat I want to focus on, however, is DREB% – which is the percentage of defensive rebounds available that a team actually gets. The Wizards are dead last in that category, grabbing only 69.7% of the defensive rebounds available to them. Because of that, the Wizards’ defense also ranks 29th in opponents’ second-chance points. The Wizards are a young team and the guards are undersized. An elite defense wasn’t something that was expected, but the rebounding has to improve. It all starts on the defensive glass. If the Wizards can limit their opponents’ second-chance points, the defense as a whole will improve.
Isaiah Thomas against his former team
In the heat of the physical and emotional play of the 2017 second-round playoff series between the Wizards and Celtics, Isaiah Thomas memorably said: “we don’t like them and they don’t like us”. Thomas was the face of the Celtics in a year that featured the “funeral game” and numerous technical fouls and ejections between these two teams. He was the enemy, and now he’s the Wizards starting point guard. It was that ferocity and killer mentality that made so many Wizards fans excited about seeing Thomas in our uniform. Thomas has been slightly less efficient after being inserted into the starting lineup (averages of 16 points and six assists from the bench compared to 10 points and five assists as a starter). Hopefully, playing against his former team will reignite his flame.
Will Bradley Beal find his three-point shot?
Bradley Beal has started the 2019-20 season at an All-Star pace once again. He’s averaging 26 points, 6.5 assists, and almost five rebounds per game, but his three-point shot is not falling. In the last two losses against the Pacers and Cavs, he shot a putrid 4-21 from behind the arc, and on the season he’s shooting them at just a 29% clip. His lowest mark in any other season was the 35% he registered last year. His career-high usage rate of 32.9% may have something to do with his shooting struggles, but finding his stroke against the Celtics could get him on the right track, and turn him back into the elite weapon we know he is.
The Celtics are an all-around great team. They rank second in offensive rating, eighth in defensive rating, first in net rating, and they turn the ball over less than any other team. The Wizards will have their hands full but if Bradley Beal starts hitting from deep and they can minimize the Celtics’ second-chance opportunities, they may be able to get the best of a roster not at 100%.