Night No. 2, Game No. 2 — this time the Wizards are in Boston to take on the Celtics. To the point: we have three questions about this evening’s game. TAI’s Dan Diamond, Arish Narayen and Kyle Weidie have the answers to those questions. 3-on-3 starts now… [UPDATE: as noted below, Ray Allen is out for the Celtics; Nene is also out for the Wizards with back spasms.]
#1) Seems like the Wizards of the Nick Young/Andray Blatche/JaVale McGee era always got up to play against these olde tymey Celtics, and likewise with Kevin Garnett often making Andray, who’s currently “NWT-Conditioning,” the target of his ire. Boston is back home after a 4-4 eight-game road trip; Washington is in the second night of their first 3-game, 3-night set of the season, and they are coming off two tough, blown-lead losses against Indiana and Atlanta. Do either of these teams play with energy? If at all, which one has more? And which player gives which team the advantage in this department?
DIAMOND: Boston has the edge here. Wizards may be hoping to catch them sleeping–but after two weeks away from home, at least the Celtics finally got to snooze in their own beds last night. I like Greg Stiemsma to be the energy guy for Boston off the bench; he’s been a solid banger for the Celtics in recent weeks.
NARAYEN: On January 2nd, in Boston, the Wizards were on the second night of a home-and-home versus the Celtics. Washington lost that game 100-92. Interestingly enough, the total in tonight’s game is 192. My sense is that there will be more offense than crisp defensive rotations in this game. I anticipate both teams playing with energy: Boston, because of an uneven road trip that saw them lose to playoff-bound teams (and get embarrassed in Sacramento); Washington, because of trying to forge a new team identity in the midst of two gutwrenching losses. I give Boston the edge, as the home crowd will likely rejuvenate those road weary legs. As for a specific player that will boost their team’s energy the most, it has to be Paul Pierce. Boston was already thin on reserves, and with the likely absence of Pietrus, Pierce will have to play major minutes.
WEIDIE: Surprisingly, I think the Wizards have the advantage. Don’t underestimate a young and hungry team, with the taste of two give-away games fresh in their mouth, having a chance to immediately reconcile for wrongs on the very next night. Sure, Boston may be nice and comfy back in familiar confines after a long road trip, but that can also be the case where they let their guard down. If the Wizards break out with a fast start, taking the Boston faithful out the game early, the underdogs could surprise. Look for Kevin Seraphin to provide the Wiz with a spark of muscle.
#2) On the scale of 1-to-10, 10 being “very close” and one being “extremely far away” how close is the Wall-Rondo point guard debate — so, if you say ’1′ you think Rondo is Shawshank Redemption and Wall is a movie produced by Master P/No Limit Films; if you say ’10′ you think they are samsies to the point where you’d obviously prefer Wall over Rondo.
DIAMOND: 4. Judged on jump shots alone, Rondo’s just another brick in “The Wall” (Pink Floyd’s epic music video). But beyond his bad shooting, Rajon’s clearly a level above as a playmaker and defender.
NARAYEN: 6. Rondo is a better distributor and on-ball defender (given the defense behind him), but Wall is more adept at blocking shots and seems a bit more comfortable shooting from the mid-range. In his second season, Rajon Rondo attempted 0.7 shots (per game) from 10-15 feet and 2.7 shots from 16-23 feet; this season, Wall attempts 1.3 shots from 10-15 feet and an entirely too high 4.5 shots from 16-23 feet. Neither player shoots from distance with much efficiency. What gives Rondo the edge is his efficiency as a passer. On a per game basis, Rondo averages 7.8 assists to 2.6 turnovers for his career. Meanwhile, Wall has averaged 8.1 assists to 3.9 turnovers over the past two seasons. Better decision-making by Wall (and perhaps, better teammates) would close the gap between these two players in a hurry.
WEIDIE: 6.5. These two are closer than people think — part of it is due to Rondo entering the league with competent teammates, part of it is to do with Rajon’s atrocious reluctance toward offense. Give Wall two more seasons and he and Rondo will be considered on the same NBA point guard level.
#3) This is already the fourth meeting between these two teams (Washington faced Indiana for just the first time on Thursday and has now seen all NBA teams at least once), with Boston winning all three so far. Ray Allen missed Friday’s loss to the Sixers — Mickael Pietrus replaced him but got a concussion — and Allen’s status is currently unknown for Sunday (UPDATE: both Allen and Pietrus are OUT versus the Wizards). Either way, Boston is favored by 10 points (UPDATE: BOS favored by 9.5 points at game time)… Does Boston cover? Does Washington cover? Or do the Wizards avoid the season sweep? Give your score prediction…
DIAMOND: Boston covers. Washington is coming off two painful losses in DC; although the Celtics are a mortal 16-8 at home, I have no faith the Wizards will look any more magical on the road. 101-87, bad guys.
NARAYEN: I’m going out on a limb here, you guys. Despite virtuoso performances by Rondo and Pierce, the Wizards will defeat the short-handed Celtics by a score of 96-92. Andray Blatche will be seen cheering in a gym somewhere as he does ’6 minute abs.’
WEIDIE: As I alluded to in the first question, I’m thinking the Wizards surprise Boston tonight. Ironically, in the paint is now where Boston is the most vulnerable, and down low is where Washington will promote their offense much to Randy Wittman’s delight. The Wiz kids take the game 100-90 (of course, now that there are reports that Nene is out…).