The pre-game post before the second game of the 2012-13 season, Washington Wizards home opener against the Boston Celtics on Saturday, November 3, 2012.
Here to tell you what you need to know and give a prediction is Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It, guest Ryan DeGama, who writes about the Celtics at the TrueHoop blog Celtics Hub, and surprise bonus predictor, TAI’s John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend).
Wizards Starters (0-1):
A.J. Price, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker, Emeka Okafor
Celtics Starters (0-2):
Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce,
Brandon Bass, Kevin Garnett, and Jared Sullinger.
Q #1: What have you done for me lately?
(What’s the status of the Celtics over the past week?)
Ryan DeGama: Not much. After two mostly dismal losses, Celtics fans are longing for the halcyon days of the preseason when Jeff Green was dominant and Darko Milicic looked like the answer at center. Right now, both guys are train wrecks and the C’s are 0-2. Of course, each of the last few seasons the Celtics have staggered for long stretches, so it’s hard to get too fussed about the early returns. They could well come out and dominate the Wizards tonight. Or they could lose by 20. Nobody knows anything. This is what we talk about when we talk about the Celtics.
Q #2: Who threw out my alarm clock?
(Which player(s) are we sleeping on?)
Ryan DeGama: Right now, you could safely snooze on all of them, because they’re playing with little urgency and even less continuity. If you need a candidate for a good night, I’d take Jason Terry, who rebounded after a jittery opener against Miami to find a fourth-quarter groove against Milwaukee.
Q #3: What game-within-the-game counts most?
(What matchup between two players or between each team in a particular statistical category is most important.)
Ryan DeGama: The Celtics have been losing the perimeter game on both ends of the court. On offense, Rajon Rondo has struggled in the pick-and-roll, particularly against trapping defenses. On defense, the Celtics have surrendered too much penetration, a carryover problem from last season. If I’m the Wiz, I take it to the Celtics early to see if they can match my intensity and physicality. Smart money says they can’t. Right now, they just don’t seem up for the fight.
Q #4: How it’s going down?
(TAI’s general key to the game.)
@Truth_About_It: After one game the Wizards are 14-for-25 (56%) from within five feet and have scored 32 points in the paint (PITP). Over the final 20 games last season, when Kevin Seraphin was on the court, the Wizards averaged 45.5 PITP per 48 minutes (41.5 PITP when Seraphin was on the bench). And over those last 20 games, Seraphin himself averaged 10.7 PITP per 48 minutes. Boston gave up 46 PITP to Miami in their opener (scoring 42) and 52 to the Bucks last night (scoring 36). So Seraphin’s contributions on offense are key to Washington’s chances, but him being able to help on the boards as a big, especially after the Wizards got son’d by the Cavs, could be more important.
Q #5: Re: Beal; is the staff on him about being more assertive? Can that be coached up by how he’s used & what plays they run?
(question via Twitter from: @OBtoojiveforyou)
@Truth_About_It: The coaching staff certainly has been in Brad Beal’s ear to be more assertive (hopefully Sam Cassell can pump him up the most). But yes, part of the responsibility falls on Wittman and Co. to put him in the right places. It also falls on the likes of A.J. Price and Jannero Pargo, the two pass-first point guards that the Wizards have decided to keep. Sure, not as ideal of an environment to cultivate chemistry, but Beal’s a pro now. No longer is he at Florida dealing with Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker, he’s the NBA’s third overall pick. Beal must get better at off-ball movement (his teammates also need to set good picks), and he must concentrate of being aggressive on defense first in order to get his overall game flow going. Everything I’ve seen out of Beal thus far makes me think that tonight will be a bounce-back game for him.
Q #6: Who’s gonna check KG’s chin when he starts trying to bully people?
(question via Twitter from: @DMV_Yatta)
@Truth_About_It: Better be Trevor Booker after his relative no-show in the season opener (although the Cook Book will likely match up against Brandon Bass to start). [UPDATE: Jared Sullinger will start instead of Brandon Bass.]
The Spread: The Celtics are favored by 5.5 points and the over/under is 190 (via USA Today).
DeGama: Wizards 95, Celtics 91.
@Truth_About_It: There’s the Kevin Garnett intimidation factor, but even that’s losing its muster, as there will be no Andray Blatche to motivate steam out of K.G.’s ears, and the old man is probably better off keeping moisture inside of his body with the creaky joints and all. But tonight, I’m afraid Rajon Rondo will be too smart, Jason Terry will provide too much offense off the bench, and Paul Pierce will be too clutch (although please do keep a close eye on when Pierce and Chris Singleton match-up). I have to give it to the Celtics, 89-87.
Surprise bonus predictor, @JohnCTownsend: The Wiz (after one game against the Cavs) average 32 points in the paint per game—that ranks them 26th in the NBA—so they’ll be happy to see Kevin Seraphin battle the Celtics’ bigs down low. However, I expect that the C’s will clean up their act on offense (they’ve committed an average of 16.5 turnovers in their first two games, both losses) and force the Wizards into just enough tough shots to offset Seraphin’s scoring bonus. Also, as always, look for the benevolent Rajon Rondo to fill up the stat sheet and make life difficult for the home team. He’s now dished out 10 or more assists in 26 consecutive games, the longest streak since John Stockton put up double-digit dimes in 29 straight games in 1992. Hard to believe Rondo won’t extend his streak to 27 tonight. Boston steals one on the road, 97-95.