Dec 21, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics shooting guard Jeff Green (8) drives to the basket against Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (4) during the second half at TD Garden. The Washington Wizards defeated the Celtics 106-99. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Wizards-Celtics preview: Another chance to get over .500


Washington has won 3 of their last 4 at home and will conclude their 5 game homestand tonight with a chance to get over the .500 mark for the first time this season against the struggling Boston Celtics. The game will tip off at 7:00 PM from the Verizon Center.

Key Match Up:

Despite the lack of team success this season, Jared Sullinger has emerged as one of the top young big men in the NBA under new Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. Averaging 13 points and nearly 8 rebounds per game, Sullinger has taken advantage of his new role now that the Celtics have begun rebuilding their team from the ground up. Sullinger’s offensive game has really blossomed under Brad Stevens and we’ve seen him have some success shooting the ball from the perimeter instead of solely focusing on scoring in the post. He’s shooting 50% from 16-24 feet, which has made him a tough cover for virtually anybody in the league. Sullinger has also led his team in rebounding with about 8, but he’s had some monster games on the glass this season, including a 22 points, 11 rebounds performance against the Wizards in December.

For the Wizards to get over .500 tonight, they’ll have to find a way to contain Sullinger on both sides of the floor. Trevor Booker missed last game with a sprained ankle and the Wizards have struggled on the glass without his presence. Nene and Marcin Gortat can’t let Sullinger beat them on the glass like he did last month. Sullinger got whatever he wanted against Washington, especially against Gortat, and that can’t happen at home tonight. The Celtics are one of the lowest scoring teams in the NBA, ranking 25th in points per game, so Sullinger will inevitably get his chance to score the ball, but the Wizards have to find a way to rebound the ball when he’s on the floor. Even though Boston doesn’t have much talent, the Wizards can’t allow them to get second and third chances. If Washington rebounds the ball and protects the basket, I don’t think they should have a problem getting over .500 tonight for the first time this season.

Notes:

  • Rajon Rondo returned to Boston’s lineup last Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers, but he’s understandably had some troubles adjusting. Rondo has made just 3 of his last 18 shot attempts, including an 0 for 8 performance last night against the Miami Heat.
  • Avery Bradley scored 26 points against the Wizards in December, but he’ll likely miss tonight’s game with a sprained ankle.
  • Boston has struggled on the offensive side of the floor this season, but they’ve been OK defensively (15th defensive rating).

Prediction:

Washington’s had the chance to get over the .500 mark four times this season, but they’ve managed to squander all four games. Nothing they’ve done should suggest they’ll do any differently tonight, but I do believe we’ll finally get to see the Wizards get over that hump tonight. They have to take advantage of their last home game before heading out on the west coast road trip and the Boston Celtics shouldn’t present much of a challenge.

Like many other rebuilding teams around the league, Boston doesn’t have much talent, but they are gritty, which gives them a chance to compete against anybody in the NBA. They were down by double-digits against the Miami Heat last night, but chipped away, cutting the deficit to as little as 6 points before collapsing. Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green, and even guys like Kris Humphries are capable of putting up some big numbers if they’re taken lightly.

With that said, John Wall and Bradley Beal are coming off pretty good games against the Philadelphia 76ers and should be able to dominate against Boston. Nene and Marcin Gortat will present some match up problems for the Celtics, given that they don’t have much size down low. I think they’ll have enough to sneak past the Celtics, improving to over .500 for the first time this season.

Tags: Jared Sullinger John Wall Marcin Gortat Nba Game Preview Nene Washington Wizards Wizards Celtics Preview