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.

Stars, studs and duds at halftime: Isaiah Thomas opens with efficiency

Stars, studs and duds at halftime: Isaiah Thomas opens with efficiency

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics found themselves in an unfamiliar place for most of the first half against Milwaukee. The Celtics were playing from behind as the half ended, and were trailing the Milwaukee Bucks 55-49.

The Bucks opened the game with a 14-4 run, only for Boston to respond with 10 straight to tie the game at 14. Boston would take the lead but couldn’t put much distance between itself and Milwaukee, with their lead in the first quarter peaking at just four points.

After a 24-all tie to end the first, Milwaukee opened with an 8-0 run and played with the lead for the remainder of the second quarter in which their lead grew to as many as 14 points. 

But the Celtics chipped away at the Bucks' lead, getting it down to as little has four points on multiple occasions before the Bucks wound up taking a six-point lead into the half. 

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Wednesday’s game against the Bucks. 

STARS

Khris Middleton: Milwaukee’s ball movement created lots of open looks, and nobody seemed to benefit more from this than Middleton. He had 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting with four rebounds and two assists. 

Isaiah Thomas: He didn’t take a lot of shots, but made the ones he did take count. He had 20 points at the half on 5-for-7 shooting from the field. 

STUDS

Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Greek Freak was solid in the first half with 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting. 

Mirza Teletovic: He gave the Bucks a nice offensive spark to the second quarter, finishing with eight points on 3-for-5 shooting.

Avery Bradley: He managed to get some easy looks on cuts to the basket, finishing with eight points on 4-for-9 shooting and three rebounds. 

DUDS

Celtics composure: Both Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas picked up technical fouls in the second quarter, letting their emotions get the better of them. And on top of that, they turned the ball over 11 times which led to five points for the Bucks but even more important, took away potential scoring opportunities for the Celtics.  

Celtics co-owner pleased with present, future of team

Celtics co-owner pleased with present, future of team

BOSTON – Like most of us around New England, Wyc Grousbeck heard all the early praise doled out on the Boston Celtics as being one of the elite teams in the East prior to this season starting. 

“I felt before the season that maybe we were being overrated,” Grousbeck, co-owner of the Celtics, told CSNNE.com. “That we were maybe a top-10 team in the league and the top few in the East, maybe. But it still felt like a longshot.”

And here they are, preparing to play Game No. 75 this season, against Milwaukee, with the best record (48-26) in the Eastern Conference. 

“They’ve grown into themselves,” Grousbeck said. “They’re playing better than I probably thought.”

But Grousbeck has been around the NBA long enough to know there is still much work to be done. After all, the Celtics’ focus remains on winning an NBA title. But Grousbeck is wise enough to know that while that is the goal, it often takes longer to accomplish than anyone – himself included – would like. 

It’s even trickier when you consider how the East is still relatively close despite their being just a handful of games remaining. 

“There’s a bunch of teams scuffling around in the East, and we’re scuffling around with them,” Grousbeck said. “We gotta do something in the playoffs.”

This will be Boston’s third straight season advancing to the postseason. Each of the first two appearances ended with a first-round exit. 

But this year is different. The Celtics are on pace to finish with home court advantage at least through the first round of the playoffs. But if they’re able to win the games they are favored throughout the remainder of this regular season, they will finish with the top seed in the East and with it, home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. 

And as we’ve seen of late, home court has indeed been an advantage for Boston which comes into tonight’s game having won its last seven at home, which includes the first four games of a current six-game home stand. 

The success Boston has had thus far has raised the expectations of many. 

And while Grousbeck certainly wants to see the Celtics have more success than they have had the last couple of years in the playoffs, there’s no mistaking he is pleased with the direction of the franchise that just four years ago was a lottery team.

“There’s no reason to put a ceiling on the season,” Grousbeck said. “I think this season already looks good to me. I love our coach. I love our young players. I love our draft picks and our potential cap room (this summer); all of our fans. So I’m already happy with where the team is going.

Grousbeck added with a grin, “If we can speed it up all the better.”