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Wizards vs. Celtics game preview: Make this holiday a cheery one

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Washington (11-13) at Boston (12-15)

December 21, 2013 at 1:00 PM
TD Garden, Boston, MA
TV: CSN Washington
Radio: 106.7FM The Fan

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Projected starting lineups:

Washington Wizards
C- Marcin Gortat, PF- Trevor Booker, SF- Trevor Ariza, SG- Bradley Beal, PG- John Wall

Boston Celtics
C/PF– Brandon Bass, PF- Jared Sullinger, SF- Jeff Green, SG- Jordan Crawford, PG- Bradley Beal

Key matchup:

Bradley Beal v. Jordan Crawford

Beal offers blessings for Steez, before replacing him.
THROWBACK: Beal offers blessings for Steez, before replacing him.

The ousted headcase versus the embraced stud. The imploded relationship between the Wizards and “Steez” bitterly split the two last season when Crawford was shipped to Boston in exchange for a roll of half eaten Bubble Tape. Since his departure, Crawford has been joyous in his time in Beantown, averaging just over 13 points a game and..wait for it… 5.5 assists per game? He’s been shooting moderately from the field at a 43% chip and 35% from downtown. Earlier this month, Crawford earned the Eastern Conferenece’s Player of the Week award after averaging 23.3 points and 6.7 assists, leading the Celts to a 3-0 stretch between Dec. 2 and Dec. 8.

Crawford’s matchup against Bradley Beal will be an intriguing show for Wizards fans. A former player who’s entire stint with the team was scrutinized for awkward behavior, questionable shot selection and erroneous ball handling, versus the replacement; a respected fan-favorite and superstar hopeful.

Despite the minutes limit imposed on him, Beal has returned strong from his leg injury, averaging 18 points in his two games back on 6-for-9 shooting from downtown. The Wizards are trying to keep him around the 25-30 minute mark for playing time while his right leg continues to gain strength from the stress injury.

Although Crawford’s numbers have been favorable, his on-court habits have remained for the most part, which should be an advantage for Beal defensively. I look for Brad to to keep Crawford planted around the perimeter often and avoiding any lane penetration. This accomplishment will most likely be cause for extensive side-to-side hard dribbling and 25 foot chucks, something that Crawford is still strongly prone to do.

Spotlight:

Nene. Nene came off the bench in his return against Brooklyn and will most likely do the same this afternoon. This concept worked beautifully against the Nets and gave the Wizards a huge punch off the bench. Trevor Booker, who has started the past few games in place of Nene has been a solid insertion in the lineup. This makes the decision to run Nene with the second unit much easier and more favorable. Bench production has been a plaguing detriment for the Wizards all season long and with Nene and Martell now part of that group, the Wizards may look stronger than they have all season.

The Celtics don’t have much of an interior presence and with Nene keeping fresh throughout the game coming off the bench and on a minutes limit, I look for him to have a strong outing today.

The X-factor:

Defending and attacking small ball. The Celtics have an uber-small lineup with only two players on the roster over 6-9 who barely get 10 minutes of floor time per game. Not only are the Celtics small, but they’re not very effective offensively. However, despite their lack of size, players like Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and even the pesky Avery Bradley are pretty decent at finding the rim so it’ll be key for the Wizards bigs to rotate timely and effectively.

On offense, it’s all about Marcin Gortat. He’s complained about his disposition with the ball but has done little to reverse his problems, even after changing up his game. For the Wizards to overpower the Celtics, Gortat needs to continue rolling hard, and more importantly, he needs to finish. He’s gone just 8-for-25 from the field since his complaint. Having Nene on the floor will certainly add punch to this strategy and I’m certain Wittman has a gameplan ready to execute.

What happened last time they played?

The last time these two teams matched up, the Celtics were comprised of a much different lineup which included KG and Paul Pierce. The Celtics won that game 107-96 late last season behind 20 points from Brandon Bass and 15 from Pierce. Meanwhile, in his first game against his former team, Steez accounted for just six points. The game was close in the first half as the Wizards trailed by just four going into halftime, but a 19-3 run in the 3rd gave Boston a 17-point cushion and the Wiz Kids never recovered.

Who’s hurt?

Glen Rice, Jr. and Al Harrington will be out for the Wizards, while Boston will be missing Rajon Rondo.

Outlook:

Boston is coming off a tough, tough break against Detroit after blowing a 42 point 1st quarter in which they took a 19-point lead. Washington is on a 2-game winning streak after sweeping NYC with wins over the Knicks and Nets. Honestly, what would be more cheery this holiday season than the Wizards going into the break on a 3-game winning streak? Ok good answer, an XBox One and spiked eggnog. Sure, I get that. But these Wizards really need this momentum boost with their prime players all healthy and the rotation looking stronger. I’m sure Wittman has relayed all this information to his players and I look for the Wizards to reciprocate with a solid midday outing and a win. Wizards take this one by 7.

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