Celtics-Wizards preview: Backcourt depth tested

Celtics-Wizards preview: Backcourt depth tested
January 22, 2014, 1:30 pm
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WASHINGTON — The pickings are getting pretty slim these days for the Boston Celtics who have been decimated by injuries in the backcourt.

Recently-acquired Jerryd Bayless suffered a left toe injury against Orlando and will be out for about a week. Then the latest setback came Tuesday night when Avery Bradley went down with an ankle sprain early in the second quarter and was unable to return. Bradley will be out "at least a week," and the Celtics signed guard Vander Blue to a 10-day contract to help with their depth at the guard position.

Blue will be available to play tonight for the Celtics.

This rash of injuries has happened within days following the Celtics engineering trades that shipped out guards Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks to Golden State, and a separate deal that sent Courtney Lee to Memphis.

At least Celtics head coach Brad Stevens hasn't lost his sense of humor in dealing with all the recent backcourt challenges.

"I was sitting next to (assistant coach) Jay Larranaga, who can still play a little bit, he was the next guy I was going to throw in (against Miami), suit and all," quipped Stevens. "Because we were down to five perimeter guys."

And the Celtics might be even more short-handed in the backcourt tonight if Rajon Rondo doesn't play. Rondo has played in three games for the Celtics -- all with minutes restrictions -- since returning to the roster following a torn right ACL injury last January. However, he has not played in a back-to-back set of games yet.

While he sounded optimistic about playing tonight, he wouldn't rule out missing tonight's game, either.

"I don't know if I'm playing (against Washington)," said Rondo who added that he planned to speak with team trainer Ed Lacerte today and get a better gauge on whether to play or not.

Here are some other keys in tonight's game:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston's greatest weakness wn of late has been a strength of the surging Washington Wizards. The Celtics have been the NBA's worst shooting team since the start of 2014, a trend they continued in Miami when they shot just 39.3 percent from the field which included missing 22 of their 27 three-point attempts. Meanwhile, Washington's defense has been a key to them winning four of their last five games. In that span, opponents are averaging just 96.2 points while shooting 44.9 percent from the field which rank eighth and ninth in the league, respectively.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger vs. Marcin Gortat.

Sullinger will need to continue generating second and third-shot opportunities for the Celtics tonight. He's averaging 3.1 offensive rebounds per game which is tied for the 12th-best mark in the NBA. But doing so won't be easy against Gortat who seems to play some of his best basketball against the Celtics. He comes into tonight's game averaging 12.1 points and 8.7 rebounds which includes 2.2 offensive boards per game.

PLAYER TO WATCH: All eyes will continue to be on Rajon Rondo as he makes his way back from a torn right ACL injury. While it's clear that he is making progress, the results so far have been well short of what many expect from the four-time All-Star. He comes into tonight's game having gone 0-for-8 from the field in Tuesday's loss at Miami, the first time he has taken that many shots without a single make.

STAT TO TRACK: You can count on the Wizards trying to get out and run as much as possible. And the reason is simple. They're really good at it with John Wall more often than not, being the trigger man that makes it happen. Washington is averaging 17 fast-break points per game this season which is tied for the fifth-best mark in the league.