Celtics vs. Wizards: Keys to the game

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Celtics vs. Wizards: Keys to the game

WASHINGTON When you've struggled the way the Boston Celtics (5-9) have, there's no such thing as a sure win. But facing the Washington Wizards (2-13) comes pretty darn close. Boston has won both of their previous meetings this season, each by eight points. In those games, contributions came from an array of players -- the kind of play we've seen from the C's in past years. But the past will do the Celtics little good today . . . even against the woeful Wizards, who are treading a historically bad run at home.
Here are a few keys to today's game to keep an eye on.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Rebounding, as is the case most nights, will be a huge factor in the game's outcome. Boston has to hold its own on the defensive boards, which, as we've seen, is easier said than done. It becomes a really big issue against the Wizards. Despite all their flaws - and they have plenty - offensive rebounding is the one thing they do pretty well. They come into today's game ranked 10th in offensive rebounds, while the C's are just 26th (out of 30 teams) in defensive rebounds. But the C's haven't been hurt too badly by second-chance points against Washington, which has outscored the Celtics, 26-20, in second-chance points this season.MATCHUP TO WATCH - Paul Pierce vs. Chris Singleton. On paper, it seems like a no-brainer to give this to Pierce. But the way he has struggled all season - career lows across the board - combined with Singleton's steadily improving play, this battle has the potential to be a lot closer than most would anticipate.
PLAYER TO WATCH - Ray Allen. He is the one Celtic whom the Wizards have had the most trouble defending. In the two games this season, Allen is averaging a team-best 20 points per game, which includes connecting on 8 of his 12 3-point shots. For Allen to be effective, that means freeing him up for shots - something the Celtics have not done a good job of lately. Allen averages 10.2 shots per game this season. He has failed to get double-digit shot attempts in the last four Celtics games, and five of the last six.
STAT TO TRACK - It's a four quarter game, obviously. But Boston's success - at least thus far this season - is usually known by halftime. The Celtics have only been tied or ahead three times this season at the half. Their record in those games? 3-0.