How do you follow up making the NBA's best defense look like the Bosh-Bargnani Raptors? You go to Boston and light up one of the best defensive big men of all time, arguably the best defensive point guard in the NBA, and your one-time teammate who forced his way out of town because he didn't want to come off the bench behind the third pick in the draft. Let's see if John Wall and the Washington Wizards can rise to the occasion.
Where and when? Tip off is at 6 p.m. in Boston.
Are they good? As has been the case for years now, Boston's a decent regular season team that is always capable of playing better than their record would have you believe. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are still phenomenal players and, when they play more than 30 or 35 minutes, Boston's as good as any team in the East other than Miami.
Who's out? Garnett and Pierce are questionable for tonight, while Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger are out for the season for Boston. Washington is going to be without Bradley Beal. Nene is listed as day-to-day but, based on how he's looked lately and the fact that this is the second game of a back to back, I wouldn't count on seeing too much of him tonight.
Why should I care? It's Jordan Crawford's first game against the Wizards since being traded for pennies on the dollar.
What are they good at? Playing defense, at least when KG is in the game. Boston is seventh in the NBA in defensive rating, but that doesn't tell the whole story. The Celtics give up 100.4 points per one hundred possessions when Garnett is on the court and 107.3 when he goes to the bench. The former is a great number, the latter not so much. That's not to say that the rest of the team is bad, though. Boston is still committed to team defense and guys like Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee can be really disruptive on the perimeter, with Bradley in particular being someone who should get at least a couple of All Defensive Team votes. Good pick and roll dive men can give Boston some trouble, but at their best they make life completely miserable for any kind of ball dominant perimeter player.
What are they bad at? Taking shots. Yes, that sounds odd, but bare with me. Boston's offense is ranked only 25th in the NBA in efficiency, yet MySynergySports places them 12th in terms of points per possession. The reason? They only pull down 20% of their available offensive rebounds, the worst rate in the NBA. Some of that is a result of their commitment to getting back on defense, but more and more, it appears to be a product of the team's personnel. Garnett is the only decent rotation player over 6'9, the beastly Sullinger is out for the year with back trouble and Brandon Bass and Jeff Green are complete non-factors on the boards. The team also commits a surprising number of turnovers, further limiting their ability to get shots up.
How's Jordan Crawford been? Per 36 minutes and adjusted for pace, here are his 2012-13 stats with Washington and Boston:
Jordan Crawford, 2013 statistics, per 36 minutes, pace-adjusted
Data courtesy of NBA.com/stats
As tends to happen when a featured player leaves a bad team for a good one, Crawford's doing less with the ball and focusing his energy on more than scoring. He shoots less, passes more and is more or less a more effective player now, even though he's less likely to drop 30 on someone. He's also playing far fewer minutes in Boston than he did in Washington (about 20 a game in Boston as opposed to about 27 in Washington). It hasn't been a perfect transition for Crawford, but with his style of play and Boston's well-documented weaknesses when it comes to shot creation, he'll probably have at least one or two big moments in the playoffs this year.
Who wins tonight? If Garnett and Pierce sit, Washington should win. Then again, Bradley is such a good defender that he could disrupt Wall enough to throw him off his game and, with Beal out and Nene reeling, Washington could begin to struggle to score. I hate to go out on a limb like this, especially against Washington, but I'm thinking Boston's role players pull off the upset.
What are your thoughts and predictions for tonight's game? Vote in our poll and sound off in the comments!