The Celtics and Wizards played their first of their four matchups this season on Christmas Day on ESPN. They will play their second tonight on TNT. The Wizards are small two-point favorites in the first game of the nationally televised doubleheader.
Boston was 27–9 when Washington came into Boston and ruined everybody’s Christmas. John Wall scored 21 points but his 14 assists were what really got the Wizards going. Everyone was involved scoring the ball and Washington showed what it can do when it shares the ball.
Fast forward six weeks and Wall is out of the picture for at least the next month or two. His bad knee got worse and worse in the new year. He missed some time, came back and played poorly before the Wizards decided to shut him down for six to eight weeks.
That decision has proven to be a season-saving one. Washington won five in a row immediately after Wall went out. The ball started moving and Wall was no longer a defensive liability, allowing the opponent’s point guard to waltz into the middle of the defense at will.
Understand, though, that Washington isn’t a better team without Wall. It is a better team without an injured Wall. If he is 100 percent, the Wizards have about as good a shot in the Eastern Conference as any and that is the idea by shutting him down so the surgeons can clean out his knee now — that he’ll come back at full strength in time for the playoffs.
In the meantime, Bradley Beal has been the clear-cut primary option on offense. That’s a job he’s able to handle at this point in his NBA career. He scored 30 in a losing effort against Philadelphia two nights ago, Washington’s first loss since shutting Wall down.
But the offense is really predicated much more of ball movement and passing. Otto Porter is a bigger part of the attack and Markieff Morris is asserting himself. Kelly Oubre Jr. is also getting more time with the regulars in Wall’s absence. It’s imperative that those guys stay healthy between now and when Wall comes back but so far Scott Brooks is holding things together in Washington.
The Celtics are coming off of their second 20-point loss of the season in a crucial divisional game against Toronto.
The divisions don’t really matter anymore with the conference seeding only looking at wins and losses but the Raptors are vying for the one-seed and are even with Boston in the loss column. Whoever gets that home court advantage will be the favorite to win the Eastern Conference with LeBron James and the Cavs fading hard down the stretch.
Kyrie Irving returned from a three-game absence and played just ok against Toronto. He said he wished he was healthier after the game but he’ll likely give it another go in this game. This is a revenge spot for Boston after the Christmas Day game.
Both offenses are rather methodical in their current states and both teams know they have to play hard defensively to continue winning games the way they have been winning them. I see this one playing in the 90s.
Free Pick: Under 206