The Celtics visit the Charlotte Hornets for the first of 3 meetings this season. They will play again in Charlotte on April 1 and will meet in Boston on April 12. The Celtics won the series 4-1 last season and have won 8 of their last 10 games against the Hornets. The Celtics blew out the Hornets 127-99 in Charlotte in their preseason finale. The Celtics have won the last 4 meetings in Charlotte.
The Celtics are 75-45 overall all time against the Hornets. They are 35-25 when playing in Charlotte. The Celtics are first in the East and have won their last 6 games. They are 6-2 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. The Hornets are 13th in the East and have lost their last 4 games. They are 1-6 at home and 2-8 in their last 10 games.
The Hornets are playing the 4th game of a 5 game home stand. They are 0-3 so far on the home stand losing to Miami, Milwaukee and New York so far. They will play one more game on the home stand as they face the Wizards on Wednesday, before heading out on a 3 game road trip. The Celtics are playing in the final game of a 4 game road trip. They are 3-0 so far on the trip. They will return home to face the Bucks on Wednesday.
The Hornets are short handed and have been plagued with injuries so far this season. Former Celtic Terry Rozier has missed the last 7 games with a groin injury. Jame Bouknight has yet to play this season with a knee injury but has been cleared for team activities. Nick Richards has a concussion. Cody Martin (knee) hasn’t played since January and Frank Ntilikina (leg) has been out since the preseason. All are expected to be out for this game.
Jaylen Brown was questionable for Sunday’s game but played and seemed fine so should play in this game. Al Horford is on the injury list as out for rest, which isn’t a surprise since he hasn’t been playing in back to back games. Derrick White was a late addition to the injury list for personal reasons. I’m guessing that Jaylen Brown will slide to the 2 guard and Sam Hauser will start at small forward.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Sam Hauser
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Kristaps Porzingis
2 Way Players
Al Horford (rest) out
Derrick White (personal) out
Probable Hornets Starters
PG: LaMelo Ball
SG: Brandon Miller
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: PJ Washington
C: Mark Williams
Nick Smith, Jr
2 Way Players
James Bouknight (knee) out
Cody Martin (knee) out
Frank Ntilikina (leg) out
Nick Richards (concussion) out
Terry Rozier (groin) out
Jrue Holiday vs LaMelo Ball
Ball is averaging 24.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He is shooting 42.3% from the field and 38.5% from beyond the arc. He is a fun player to watch and should give Holiday a challenge to defend.
Sam Hauser vs Gordon Hayward
Hayward is averaging 14.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He is shooting 43.1% from the field and 32.1% from beyond the arc. He has played in 11 of the 12 games for the Hornets so far, which with his injury history is very good. I expect Sam Hauser to start opposite Hayward, which would be fun with as much alike as the two players look.
Jayson Tatum vs PJ Washington, Jr
Washington is averaging 14.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. He is shooting 45.5% from the field and 30.6% from beyond the arc.
Keys to the Game
Defense – Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics are 2nd with a defensive rating of 106.5. The Hornets are last with a defensive rating of 121.4. The Hornets are 15th in scoring with 113.1 points per game. The Celtics are 1st in 3 point attempts with 44.3 and 12th in 3 point percentage at 33.1%. The Hornets are 28th with 29.5 three point attempts per game and 28th in 3 point percentage at 33.1%. The Celtics especially need to guard the paint as the Hornets are 2nd in the league with 58.3 points in the paint per game.
Rebound – The Celtics can’t score if they don’t have the ball, and the best way to get the ball is the grab rebounds. The Celtics are 1st in the league with 47.6 rebounds per game while the Hornets are 13th with 44.4 rebounds per game. It will take a team effort to beat the Hornets on the boards. The Hornets are 7th in the league with 15.3 second chance points per game and so the Celtics need to crash the boards to keep them from getting put backs and 2nd chance points.
Don’t Underestimate – The Hornets are shorthanded with 5 players either out or questionable. They have won just 3 of their 12 games so far. It would be easy for the Celtics to come in expecting an easy win and not giving their best effort. However, a close brush against the equally shorthanded Grizzlies on Sunday should be a wake up call for them to not underestimate the Hornets. The Celtics have to start strong and play hard throughout the game. They can’t expect to win, even against a depleted team that is not playing well, if they don’t play hard and give it their all.
On the Road and Fatigue – The Celtics are on the road for the fourth straight game away from TD Garden. They are playing in the final game of a road trip, which is often the toughest to win. They need to get past the distractions of travel and playing in front of a hostile crowd. They have to concentrate on playing the right way and ignore all the distractions. They are playing on the second night of back to back games and so fatigue could come into play at the end of the game.
Trap Game – The Hornets are missing 5 players. Derrick White and Al Horford are out. It’s the last game of a road trip. They are facing the Bucks on Wednesday. It is the second night of back to back games for the Celtics and they had to travel after Sunday’s game. The Hornets are rested. There are numerous factors that make this a trap game for the Celtics. Hopefully, after a close escape in Memphis, they will take this game seriously and play to put them away early.
Officiating – Officiating is always an x-factor. Some officials call the game tight and call every little bit of contact. Others let them play and allow both teams to be physical. Some refs give the home team the benefit of the calls while others favor the road team or call it even. Some refs just make head scratching calls as they did in the Grizzlies game. The Celtics have to concentrate on playing their game and not allow bad calls and no calls to take away from their focus on playing.