The Warmup: Boston Celtics vs Charlotte Hornets
Celtics look to stay hot against a sliding Hornets team
The Boston Celtics will square off against the the Charlotte Hornets this Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Charlotte is coming into Boston losing four straight games and have slipped down to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference standings. Even with Boston currently holding the third seed, only five games separate the two teams. Expect the Hornets to fight hard to get back on track.
It has been reported that Avery Bradley had a full practice with the team on Sunday, and is expected to return to the lineup. Even though Marcus Smart has done a fine job filling Bradley’s shoes, it will be nice getting those 18 points and seven rebounds a game back into the starting lineup. With Smart come off the bench, Brad Stevens will have his full army of wings at his disposal to throw at Hornets point guard Kemba Walker, who is averaging almost 23 PPG.
Keys to the Game
The Hornets have had issues guarding bigs as of late. In their last game against the 76ers, Joel Embiid trusted the process to a tune of 24 points and eught rebounds in only 27 minutes of action. The Celtics could dump the ball to Al Horford this game and let him go to work against Marvin Williams, Frank Kaminsky, and Cody Zeller (the much more evil brother of Tyler).
Remember that Walker guy I mentioned earlier, well my advanced research tells me his nickname is “Cardiac Kemba” since he is revered for his end of game dominance. Want to know who else is pretty good in end of game situations? This guy on Boston named Isaiah Thomas. Thomas is now averaging 9.9 (!!!) points in the fourth quarter alone. In twelve career games against each other, Kemba averages 19.9 PPG while Thomas averages 16.6. Don’t expect this to hold consistent, as Thomas has been playing just as well as anyone in the league as of late. Couple that with Boston’s defensive wing depth returning to force; expect Thomas to have the upper hand.
The one area Boston needs to be aware of is the free throw disparity. The Hornets are stacked with guys who can get to the line. They are attempting an extra 6.8 free throws per game more than their opponents are, while Boston shoots 3.2 less than theirs. I used a calculator and figured out that adds up to 10 additional free throws for Charlotte. Boston needs to stay disciplined, and keep the Hornets out of the paint as much as possible. If they can keep the free throws even, the Celtics will probably come out with a W.
It was reported that Kelly Olynyk rolled his ankle while warming up for Sunday’s practice. Apparently one of the assistant coaches son’s ran onto the court while Olynyk was going through a shooting drill, this caused him to trip, thus suffering the injury. This isn’t the first time Olynyk has been involved with a strange injury. I’m sure Cleveland fans remember the loose ball incident he and Love had in the 2015 playoffs, which left Love sidelined the rest of the year. Since Olynyk has some experience with freak injuries, my prediction is not only will he play against the Hornets, but he will also drop 25 points.
So… Who Will Win?
I 100% denounce the Hot-Hand Fallacy. The Hornets are cold right now, and the Celtics have won two straight, just had two days to rest, and are probably getting Bradley back. My money is on the home team.