Celtics (11-20) vs. Hornets (11-24): Preview


2015 has started off just as 2014 ended, with the Boston Celtics losing.

Fun, right?

Tonight’s match-up might give Boston a chance to turn things around, however, as the Rajon Rondo-less Celtics host the Al Jefferson-less Charlotte Hornets.

So you’re saying there’s a chance?

All kidding aside, at least for the moment, even though they have lost six of eight since trading Rondo to Dallas, the Celtics are only two games behind the Miami Heat for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.  Believe me, I know how ridiculous that sounds – but head coach Brad Stevens isn’t afraid to admit that he still believes this team can make the playoffs:

"I’m going to approach every single day with that mindset. And I think the biggest thing is not too look at it necessarily from what’s 52 games away, but look at it as how do we become the best team that we can be? For me it’s identifying where we stand right now statistically – really black and white – in the rankings of some key categories, and seeing if we can’t rise up in that. And being able to judge ourselves that way."

Clearly, if Boston wants to enjoy the postseason, it has to take care of the teams that lie below it in the standings, starting with the Hornets tonight.

Boston’s Keys to Victory

1. Pray for an injury to Al Jefferson – check!

Seriously: the Celtics should be saying prayers to whatever gods they believe in this afternoon, because they have NOT had an answer for Big Al ever since he came to Charlotte.  Jefferson is averaging 19.9 points against his former team, his highest mark against any team in the NBA.  Boston should also be excited to see that shooting guard Lance Stephenson will be sitting out tonight’s game, as well – but Charlotte’s success against Boston really stems from Jefferson’s dominance, so his absence is a huge plus for the Cs.

2. Be more aggressive.  Like, to the point where the team actually IS aggressive.

Out-rebounded 24-10 on the offensive boards by the Chicago Bulls?  Going to the foul line only 11 times in a 42-minute game (also against the Bulls)?  That is not the sign of a team that is being aggressive, scrapping and clawing for a playoff spot.  The good news is that Boston didn’t spend the entire evening hoisting 3s against Chicago – they only attempted 17, well below their average of 23 attempts per game.  Still, barely cracking double-digit free throws in inexcusable for a team that loses pretty much every match-up it sees on a nightly basis.

3. Figure out what the hell is wrong with Jeff Green.

I know what everyone is thinking: there’s nothing wrong with Jeff Green; this is simply what he does.  When the season started, it looked like Uncle Jeff was going to shed the label of Mr. Inconsistent, and he still leads the Celtics with 18.2 PPG . . . but over the last three games Green is averaging 11.7 PPG on 33.3% shooting.  It doesn’t take a mind as brilliant as Gary Tanguay’s to figure out that Boston needs Uncle Jeff to give us more Dr. Jekyll than Mr. Hyde from here on out, especially if this team hopes to make the playoffs.

Tonight’s game will tip-off at 7:30 p.m.

Next: Marcus Smart or Evan Turner?