Celtics-Wizards preview: Running into Wall

Celtics-Wizards preview: Running into Wall
April 7, 2013, 1:15 pm
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BOSTON -- Even before the season began, there were rumblings about John Wall's ability to lead the Washington Wizards. Missing the first 33 games of the season with a knee injury didn't help, either.

But since Wall's return, he has enjoyed the best season of his still-young NBA career with career highs in scoring (18 points per game), field goal percentage (44.7) and 3-point shooting percentage (30.6).

Even more telling is that Wall's numbers have been on the rise along with the Wizards' rate of success.

One of the NBA's worst teams when he was out, there was little hope that his return would do anything other than help a horrific team upgrade itself into one that was just really bad.

But since he returned to the lineup on Jan. 12, Washington has been among the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

In fact, only four teams in the East (Miami, New York, Indiana and Brooklyn) have had a higher winning percentage since Jan. 12 than the Wizards.

So as much as the Celtics make focusing on themselves as the number one priority from one game to the next, limiting the impact of Wall will indeed be a key to their chances of winning tonight.

Here are some other factors to keep in mind heading into tonight's game.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: There's a chance that Kevin Garnett (inflammation, left foot) returns to the lineup tonight. His return would bode well for a team whose interior defense has been exposed in his absence. In the eight games Garnett has been out with his current injury, opponents are averaging 46.8 points in the paint. Prior to that, the C's were allowing 42.4 points in the paint.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Nene. With or without Garnett on the floor tonight, Bass has to continue to give the Celtics solid play defensively and on the boards, in addition to knocking down a jumpshot every now and then. Washington has won four of its last six with Nene averaging 11.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and a blocked shot in that period of time.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Facing his former team for the first time, you have to wonder just how fired up Jordan Crawford will be to prove a point against a team that wanted him out of town in the worst way, which was evident when they traded for a player who could not play because of an injury (Leandro Barbosa, torn ACL) and another player in Jason Collins who has played a total of just five games with his new team.

STAT TO TRACK: While the Celtics have seen their scoring defense numbers rise recently with Kevin Garnett sidelined, their field goal percentage defense has still been relatively solid. In fact, Boston has held its last 22 opponents under 50 percent shooting which is the longest current streak in the NBA.