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PREGAME: Wizards at Celtics

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Regular Season Game 5

Washington (3-1) at Boston (1-3)

November 6, 2015 at 7:30 PM
TD Garden, Boston, MA
TV: CSN Washington
Radio: 99.1FM


Last time they met was..

December 27, 2014 – Verizon Center, Washington – Wizards 101, Celtics 88
Game Notebook 29


What to watch

Irfan: Pick-and-Roll ALL night long! Wall and Gortat. Wall and Nene. Isaiah Thomas and David Lee. Isaiah Thomas and Amir Johnson. Do you like basketball played like this??

Expect to see a lot of that. Both teams will play with the floor spread, with point guards that thrive in the pick-and-roll, both attacking the rim, hitting the roll man, or finding open teammates elsewhere. Clog the lane with help? Wall will kick it to Otto or Kris Humphries for open threes, and Thomas will kick to Olynyk or Jae Crowder for open threes. I’m guessing you haven’t watched a lot of Celtics basketball in the last 18 months. Not many people outside of Boston have. Breaking news: They don’t suck, and last years playoff appearance was no fluke. Prepare yourself for a fun (and close) game.

Abdullah: Boston’s lineups. Brad Stevens put Tyler Zeller and David Lee in basketball timeout after their loss to the Spurs earlier in the week, inserting Amir Johnson and Jared Sullinger into the starting lineup against the Pacers on Wednesday. The results? Mildly better but similarly not positive. Check it:

Zeller/Lee vs. Spurs: 1-9 FG, 0 rebounds, 2 points

Sullinger/Johnson vs. Pacers: 3-12 FG, 11 points (nearly all of it by way of Sullinger)

Regardless of which lineups Stevens rotates out there, expect very few of them, if any, to be small ones. The Celtics are over-capacity in the front court with Zeller, Lee, Sullinger, Johnson, Kelly Olynik, and Jonas Jerebko, all of whom average at least nine minutes per game. Will Wittman be given a reason to use the historic front court combo of Nene and Gortat? Could we see extensive minutes from CareBlair? These are things to watch for tonight.


Key matchup

Irfan: John Wall vs. Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas is the main reason why this game will be both fun and close. If you’re not familiar with THIS Isaiah Thomas, here’s a quick, eye-opening preview:

Go ahead…watch it a few more times, I don’t blame you. Done? That little dude is averaging 22 points and 6 assists per game. Don’t let his coming off the bench fool you. He’s the Celtics best scorer, best play-maker, and best closer. He may start the game on the bench, but he certainly won’t finish there…unless John Wall has something to say about it.

One of the things we love most about John Wall is his defense, and the way he embraces the challenge of guarding the best guards in the league. Normally that means names like “Curry,” “Paul,” or “Kyrie.” But Thomas is dangerous, and can’t be overlooked. However, judging by John’s intensity the first few games, I don’t think he’s overlooking anyone.

Abdullah: The Battle of the Bradley’s

Two uprising shooting guards. Two NBA All-Defensive Team hopefuls. Only one flat out beast.

Bradley Beal in 4 games: 25.3 ppg; 47% FG; a whopping 46% from 3.
Avery Bradley in 4 games: 14.0 ppg; 41% FG; 35% from 3.

For Beal, this will be the second straight game where he’ll be tested by a really good defender, or in Avery’s words, “the best on-ball defender in the NBA,” as he boldly professed in an interview last April. Beal has made similarly bold exclamations this season as well, challenging that, plain and simply “nobody can stop” him. And now suddenly I’ve turned this into a heavyweight pre-bout press conference, with Beal holding the belt, of course.

Beal’s services have been much needed late in games this season and given the Wizards’ nature of keeping these games close, we’ll see if he’s put in the same situation yet again. Moreover, we’ll see just how much Avery’s premiere on-ball defense can disrupt Beal from conducting another 4th quarter takeover.


X-Factor

Irfan: Marcus Smart. Smart’s game and his personality can both be volatile. He plays with an intensity that can be either reckless to his team, or wreak havoc on his opponents. His shooting does the same. He’s the kind of guy who will shoot 30% from three-point range by going 3/3 one night, and 0/7 the next. In the Celtics one win this year, Smart hit 3/6 threes. In their two losses, he shot 2/10. As his career progresses, he’ll eventually find consistency in his game, and learn to pace himself without losing his intense edge. For now, he’s an X-factor. If Smart starts the game hitting a few threes, and getting a few steals, prepare yourself for a long frustrating night. If he starts the game with a few bricks, and a few quick dumb fouls, then kick back and relax. We got this!

Abdullah: Pace. The Wizards are at their best when dictating the pace and flow of a game. Their early success on offense has come at the expense of a strategy which encourages faster pace, but some of that could be hindered when facing the Celtics tonight and their plethora of big men. Should the Wizards decide to remain with their smaller rotations, then look for them go no holds barred and gunning in transition upon every opportunity given. But should the Celtics’ bigs try to keep up, Marcin Gortat will just derail them:


Fun factor

Irfan: John Wall blocks! As of my writing this sentence, John Wall is averaging 2.7 blocks per game, 8th in the league. Isaiah Thomas is 5’9″ Good times!

Abdullah: John Wall spin 360 layups and winks!


Predictions

Irfan: Wall puts the clamps on Thomas and finally has his breakout assist game we’re all waiting for!

Abdullah: Beal holds on to the belt. The Celtics cook the Wizards down low but at the expense of poor transition defense. Wizards win decisively on the road.

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