Blakely's Celtics-Wizards preview

Blakely's Celtics-Wizards preview
March 25, 2012, 7:02 pm
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BOSTON It seems whenever the Boston Celtics have been parched for a win this season, the Washington Wizards have proven to be the perfect thirst quencher. After a 1-3 start, back-to-back games against the Wizards brought the C's to .500 status. A stretch in which Boston lost six of seven games was turned around after a win over Washington triggered a four-game winning streak.

So here are the Celtics coming off a tough 99-86 loss at Philadelphia on Friday, and they're once again looking for the Wizards to be the perfect remedy for what ails them.

Even though the C's have dominated the head-to-head series this year, a victory tonight will be much tougher to come by.

Mickael Pietrus suffered a concussion in the second quarter of the Sixers loss. He told CSNNE.com that he's unlikely to play tonight, and wasn't sure if he would be able to play Monday at Charlotte.

"I still have some dizziness, and feel weak," he told CSNNE.com on Saturday. "But I know it could have been a lot worse."

In addition, the C's don't know for sure if Ray Allen (left ankle) will play, an injury that kept him out of the lineup in the Sixers loss. Although Avery Bradley's ankle sprain isn't expected to keep him off the floor tonight, with injuries and the Celtics this year . . . you just never know how long anyone will be sidelined.

Health will certainly be a factor in tonight's outcome. Here are a few other factors that should come into play as the Celtics look for a season sweep, their first four-game season sweep of Washington since 1982.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR -- Lately, Boston has been surprisingly efficient offensively to start games. In their last two games, the Celtics have averaged 33.5 points per game in the first quarter, a significant bump over their 22.7 points per game average, 26th in the NBA, that they have scored in the first this season. In Washington, Boston faces a Wizards team that has had its struggles defensively in every quarter. But their first quarter scoring defense (25.3 points per game, No. 24 in the NBA) is actually their best in terms of where it ranks compared to the rest of the NBA.

MATCHUP TO WATCH -- Kevin Garnett vs. Nene: This is where Garnett's ability to stretch a defense with his perimeter shooting skills comes in handy. Nene is a strong, bullish big man who is known to have his problems with bigs who can stretch the floor like Garnett. However, Nene seems to have adjusted nicely to a Wizards system that's built more for what he does best -- score with his back to the basket. In his three games with Washington since being traded from Denver, Nene has averaged 16.3 points and 8.7 rebounds -- both better than his numbers with the Nuggets.

PLAYER TO WATCH -- Although his numbers might suggest something different, Marquis Daniels is gradually getting back to being a contributor to the Celtics' second unit. With Mickael Pietrus (concussion) expected to not play in the next couple games, along with Ray Allen (left ankle) questionable, Daniels may in fact see his role expand soon. After having played a total of 19 minutes this month, Daniels has played 20 minutes in each of the Celtics' last two games. In those two games, he has averaged 7 points and 2.5 rebounds while shooting 55.6 percent from the field.

STAT TO TRACK -- With the Celtics thin on bodies, keep an eye on team fouls for both teams. This season, Boston is committing 20.2 fouls per game which ranks in the league's bottom-10, at No. 21. Fortunately for Boston, they face a Washington team that's used to being in foul trouble as well. They too are ranked among the NBA's bottom-10, averaging 21.5 fouls per game which ranks No. 26 in the league.