The Celtics are in Charlotte to take on the Hornets for the second straight game. It is the third of 4 games between these two teams this season. In the first meeting, the Celtics beat the Hornets 140-105 in Boston. The Celtics defeated the Hornets 122-106 on Saturday, and they will play the final game on February 10 in Boston.
The Celtics are playing in the 3rd and final game of a 3-game road trip. They will have 2 days off before facing the Warriors at home, then they will hit the road for another 3 games. The Hornets take on the Celtics in Charlotte for the second time in a row. After this game they will go on a 4 game road trip.
The Celtics are No. 1 in the Eastern Conference. They are four games ahead of No. 2 Brooklyn, who lost at home to the Thunder on Sunday. They are 4.5 games ahead of 3rd place Milwaukee. They are 15-7 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 15-4 against Eastern Conference opponents. They have won their last 6 games.
The Hornets are last in the Eastern Conference, and only the Houston Rockets have a worse record at 10-32. The Hornets are tied with 14th-place Detroit and 5.5 games behind 13th-place Orlando. They are 5-15 at home and 2-8 in their last 10 games. They are 6-12 against Eastern Conference opponents. They have lost their last 4 games and 7 of their last 8 games.
Jaylen Brown will miss his third straight game with right adductor strain. Danilo Gallinari is out as he rehabilitates a torn ACL. Derrick White left Saturday’s game with a sprained neck and is listed as probable for this one. I think Robert Williams will start at center again and Al Horford will return to play at the four.
Former Celtic Gordon Hayward is listed as questionable for the Hornets. He missed the last 6 games due to hip injury. Kelly Oubre, Jr. injured his hand in the first week of the season and played through it for a while, but then had hand surgery last week and will be out until at least February 8th.
Probable Celtics starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jason Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
2 way players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) is out
Jaylen Brown (extra) is out
Derrick White (neck) is probable
Head Coach (Interim)
The likely starters for the Hornets
PG: LaMelo Ball
SG: Terry Rozier
SF: PJ Washington
PF: Jalen McDaniels
C: Mason Plumlee
Dennis Smith, Jr
Gordon Hayward (hamstring) is questionable
Kelly Oubre, Jr (hand) is out
Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Marcus Smart vs. LaMelo Ball
Ball is playing very well in his third season with the Hornets. He is averaging 24.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 8.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 41.9% from the field and 37.2% from beyond the arc. He missed the first game between these two teams and finished with 31 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists and 1 steal on Saturday. He shot 40.7% from the field, but just 12.5% (1-8) on threes. The Celtics will have to do everything they can to limit him in this game.
Photos by Michael Gonzalez/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Derrick White vs Terry Rozier
Rozier is averaging 21.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. He is shooting 41.3% from the field and 32.5% from beyond the arc. Rozier missed the first game between these two teams and he finished with 21 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block on Saturday. He shot 47.1% from the field and just 25% (2-8) from beyond the arc. He always tries a little harder to beat his former team, and the Celtics should protect him well.
Robert Williams III vs Mason Plumlee
Plumlee is averaging 11.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists. He’s shooting 65.3% from the field and hasn’t taken a 3 this season. On Saturday, he finished with 9 points, 16 rebounds and 1 assist. He shot 40% from the field and once again did not make a single 3. The Celtics need to keep him out of the paint and especially off the boards.
Protection – Defense is always the key to winning games. After being down 16 points on Saturday, it was the defense that helped the Celtics bounce back and win. The Celtics need to commit to playing tough defense for all 48 minutes, and not just after they’re down big. The Hornets have an offensive rating of 108.9 (29th) and the Celtics 117.4 (2nd). The Hornets are 27th with a 115.6 defensive rating and the Celtics are 7th with a 110.8 defensive rating. The Celtics need to make defense a priority and work harder on that end of the court.
Reflection – Most rebounds are effort and hustle, as evidenced by Peyton Pritchard, who beat everyone to 2 offensive rebounds. The Celtics need to crash the boards as a team and fight for every rebound. The Hornets are 5th with 45.5 rebounds per game and the Celtics are 9th with 44.3 rebounds per game. The Hornets are averaging 15.7 2nd chance points (6th) and so the Celtics will have to work harder to get rebounds to prevent those extra possessions and 2nd chance points for the Hornets.
Overconfidence – The Celtics cannot come into this game and expect to win without playing their best game. They beat the Hornets twice and may feel like they can just walk, but that would be a mistake. The Celtics need to come out and play like they are perfect, and the Hornets are a contender. The Celtics should expect a fight from the Hornets, who will be looking to avenge not 1, but 2 losses, and they can’t underestimate them.
Next Man Up! – The Celtics will be without Jaylen Brown again. Derrick White should play and could be limited. The Celtics got good contributions from Luke Cornett, Peyton Pritchard and Malcolm Brogdon in their last game and will need them to play well once again in this game. Jayson Tatum has been battling injuries and may or may not have a big game in this game. Every player needs to step up their game.
On the road – The Celtics are playing their 3rd straight road game. The ultimate road trip game is often difficult for one reason or another. Fatigue from traveling and staying in hotels, as well as playing in a hostile arena, can take its toll on players, especially young players. The Celtics need to play through road play distractions and stay focused on playing hard and playing the right way.
Position: – Refereeing is always an x-factor. Some referees call the game tight, while others let it play. Some favor the hosts, while others call it egalitarian. The Celtics need to play through all the calls that go against them and not let bad calls or no calls take away from their focus on the game.