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Celtics-Wizards Preview

12.10.09 at 11:18 am ET
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What to make of the Washington Wizards? They started the 2009-10 season losing seven of their first nine games, which pretty much knocked them out of sleeper contender status in the Eastern Conference. Then Antawn Jamison returned from an injury and the Wizards went 5-5, which gets them back into playoff contention. (Hey, it is the Eastern Conference). When healthy — they are also without Mike Miller — the Wizards are probably a playoff team and they have played the Celtics tough over the last few years.

The Celtics have their own health issues with Marquis Daniels expected to be out for up to two months after wrist surgery. Tony Allen made his return Tuesday and provided the usual Tony Allen delights — a couple of hustle plays, a turnover on a pass to a guy in the courtside seats, a charging foul that a bull in Pamplona would have avoided. But not even the return of TA could derail the Celtics express. The C’s have won eight straight and are sure to be gracing the top of various power rankings shortly.

CELTICS (17-4, 9-1 last 10)

Points Per Game : 100.0

Offensive Efficiency: 109.4 (8th)

Points Allowed: 90.5

Defensive Efficiency: 99.0 (First)

Pace: 91.0 (25th)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins.

WIZARDS (7-12, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 96.7

Offensive Efficiency: 103.8 (24th)

Points Allowed: 100.4

Defensive Efficiency: 107.8 (20th)

Pace: 92.6 (15th)

Likely Starters: Gilbert Arenas, Nick Young, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood.

Key Matchup: Perkins vs. Haywood. The Celtics are not a good rebounding team. Doc Rivers and the players have pegged it as a team-wide issue. The bigs have taken responsibility. The guards have taken responsibility. That’s all good from an Ubuntu perspective, but it wouldn’t hurt if players started putting bodies on their opponents. The Wizards don’t do a lot of things well, but they do hit the offensive glass, particularly Haywood who is one of the best in the league. Also keep an eye on Andray Blatche and Rasheed Wallace when the second units are on the floor.

The Wizards in a Paragraph: We’ve gone this far and we haven’t mentioned Agent Zero. Possibly because it seems that Gilbert Arenas doesn’t know who Gilbert Arenas is anymore. He started the year being all business, then he dropped that for his “old” persona which now seems as dated as Windows XP. Ernie Grunfeld made a bold move in the offseason bringing in Miller and Randy Foye to compliment his veterans and intriguing collection of young talent. It was always going to take time, but injuries have set back the timetable and the Wizards don’t have much time left.

The Celtics in a Paragraph: The C’s are back on the road for three straight, which brings up an interesting point. Did you know the Lakers have played 16 of their first 20 games at home? To put it another way, the Celtics played as many road games last week as the Lakers have played all season.

What to Watch For: This seems simple. Keep the Wizards off the offensive glass. Now that Daniels will be out for a significant chunk of time, who takes his minutes? Tony Allen gets first crack. Can he handle the job?

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