Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics Preview
The Boston Celtics (8-1) and Washington Wizards (2-6) will clash in Boston on Wednesday in a game that will feature beloved former Celtic, Isaiah Thomas. For Thomas, it will be his first start in the TD Garden since being traded before the 2017-18 season.
“The love that they showed (when I returned the first time), you would have thought I won a championship there or was there for 10 years-plus,” said Thomas.
Boston comes into this matchup after beating Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks on Monday 116-106. The Celtics were without Gordon Hayward, who will miss six weeks recovering from a broken hand. The Wizards are 14th in the conference, but their starting backcourt of Thomas and Bradley Beal, along with rookie Rui Hachimura has been enjoyable to watch. The Boston fans will be hoping for a ninth straight victory tonight.
Time: 7:30 PM ET
Arena: TD Garden, Boston, MA
Channel: NBCSWA, NBCSB
Wizards: Ian Mahinmi (O), John Wall (O)
Celtics: Gordon Hayward (O)
Washington Wizards Starting Lineup
The Wizards have not played since Nov. 8 when they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers 113-100. The Wiz were down by as many as 21 but managed to get within a single point (91-90) with 9:39 to play before the Cavs outscored Washington 22-10 the rest of the game.
Thomas Bryant led the team with 23 points. Hachimura chipped in 21 and their all-star guard, Beal had 20.
Man, what a strange ride it’s been for Wizards fans. It wasn’t long ago the partnership of John Wall and Beal was one of the premier backcourts in the league. Washington was a pseudo-contender with a legit chance to make it out of the Eastern Conference in the 2016-17 season when they lost to–interestingly enough, the Boston Celtics. Fast forward to the present day and Wall is still recovering from a torn Achilles, and Beal was left to do his best impersonation of Kobe Bryant last season. This season has been a little different. The Wizards are still bad, but the fun kind of bad. Seeing Thomas start for a team and produce at a solid rate is very encouraging for those of us who rooted for “the little guy” during his time in Boston.
Beal is still the focal point on offense, he is averaging 26.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game, but he’s getting a decent amount of help: Bryant averages 14.8 points, Hachimura contributes 13.6 and Thomas scores 13.2 a night. Their team defense is 29th in the league and they are heading into a contest against the second-best offense in basketball right now. Boston’s wings along with Kemba Walker should be able to get whatever they want on the offensive end of the court in this one.
Boston Celtics Starting Lineup
Boston led by as many as 14 in their matchup against the Dallas Mavericks. They shot 47 percent from the field and 43 percent on 3-pointers and held the Mavs to 41 percent shooting from the field and 26 percent on 3-pointers.
Walker was the leading scorer as he went head-to-head with Doncic. He scored 29 points, including three triples in the fourth quarter. Jaylen Brown added 25 points and 11 boards and Marcus Smart scored 17.
“I was just trying to be aggressive, trying to make the right plays,” Walker said.
Boston has been unfortunate with injuries and key players missing extended time. Enes Kanter missed time with a knee injury, Brown was out with an illness and most recently Hayward will miss time with a broken hand. In the most stubborn fashion, the Celtics have continued to win games. They have signature wins against the Bucks and Raptors (who they beat when the Raptors were at full strength) and their wins against the Spurs and Mavericks after losing Hayward are reasons to believe this team is very comfortable with the “next man up” approach.
The Celtics third-most used lineup: Walker, Smart, Brown, Jayson Tatum and Daniel Thies have a defensive rating of 76.7 and a net rating of 63.7 in 21 minutes of action together, per NBA.com advanced stats. For context out of all lineups in the league that have played a minimum of 20 minutes together their net rating is no. 1. Twenty-one minutes is not a lof time spent on the court together, but with Hayward out this lineup will be coach Brad Stevens’ go-to lineup.
Key Player Matchups
Kemba Walker vs. Isaiah Thomas
There’s something funny about going from Kyrie Irving to Kemba Walker. It gives Celtics fans a feeling they haven’t felt in a couple of years. The excitement that comes from rooting for a diminutive guard that makes the impossible seem possible. Walker is listed at exactly 6-feet and Thomas is listed at 5-foot-9. Walker reminds me of Thomas’ prime, the ability to freeze a defender with a series of dribble moves or rise up for a 3-pointer off of a hand-off. Walker is averaging a career-high in true shooting, 3-point percentage, free-throw percentage, and rebounds. After spending a majority of the past two seasons trying to stay healthy Thomas is running the show for Washington and averaging 6.2 assists on 36 percent shooting from the 3-point line on 5.5 attempts.
Marcus Smart vs. Bradley Beal
Beal signed a two-year $72 million extension just before the start of the season, and just like this season’s most intriguing trade target was off the table. Beal had two years remaining on his existing contract and signing the extension assured Wizards fans that they’d have a minimum of the remainder of this season to watch the prolific guard get buckets. Beal is a shifty scorer who hasn’t even shot the ball at the rate I expect from him. Marcus Smart is one of the best defenders in the league and he and Beal are no strangers to matching up against one another.
Jayson Tatum vs. Rui Hachimura
Chauncey Billups, the great Chauncey Billups compared Hachimura to Kawhi Leonard during the draft. I almost choked when I heard him say it. Most of the NBA universe almost choked as well. Not only because the comparison is lunacy but because I wasn’t even sure Hachiimura was going to be good at all. I was wrong, and while time will only tell if Billups is wrong (I’m betting he will be) Hachimura looks the part of a very poised and solid NBA player. His work in the midrange is fluid. He doesn’t waste any motion when he gets the ball and tonight’s matchup with Tatum, who is playing excellent defense this season will be a nice test for a rookie that looks like a possible 20 point scorer in a couple of years.
Kemba Walker and Bradley Beal lead the field of fantasy picks for this matchup. Both players are creative scorers who can heat up in an instant. Walker is available for $9k on FanDuel and Beal is up for $8.9k. Walker is projected to post 37.7 fantasy points and Beal is projected at 38.1.
A value pickup for the matchup is Enes Kanter. He’s available for $4.3k, with projected fantasy points set at 23.5. The big man missed the last seven games with a knee injury, but he’s a fantasy delight with his ability to get points and rebounds and shoot better than 50 percent from the field in limited minutes.
Bet on Matchup
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