After a two-game road trip, the Celtics return home Friday night to take on a Washington Wizards team that's been in rebuilding mode all season and is now bound for the draft lottery. It's a bit silly that the Wizards, who sit 37 games out of first place in the Eastern Conference, now play a major role in deciding how the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds in the East playoffs will fall into place. But such is life.
The C's are now tied with the Atlanta Hawks for third in the East, and they need to keep winning if they want to lock up that higher seed. The Wizards are one of the worst teams in the NBA, but they can't be overlooked.
Celtics (49-29) at Wizards (24-54)
Friday, April 9, 7:30 p.m. (CSNE)
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.
Are these the Washington Wizards or the Washington Generals? It's hard to imagine more of a doormat than the Wiz, who are winless against the Celtics over the last two seasons — 0-6, going on 0-7 unless they can pull off a miracle at the TD Garden on Friday night. At least this year, they've kept it close a couple of times. The C's won 104-102 in the nation's capital on Dec. 10, and they trailed for most of the game in Boston on March 7, coming back in the fourth quarter to steal an 86-83 win. But close or not, six losses is six losses. The Wizards have not enjoyed this matchup.
Ray Allen vs. Nick Young
On a Wizards roster full of disappointments and sob stories, Nick Young has been one bright spot for Washington this season, especially recently. In his first four games in April, he's scored 10, 16, 29 and 21 points. With extra playing time since the Wiz traded Caron Butler, Young has had room to blossom into an athletic, explosive shooting guard with the ability to score from anywhere in the floor. That's exactly the kind of player that gives the aging Ray Allen fits. Ray's got to be ready to contest the long jump shot, keep Young from driving, and be quick to switch off picks and screens. He'll have his hands full.
Point guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting guard: Ray Allen
Small forward: Paul Pierce
Power forward: Kevin Garnett
Center: Kendrick Perkins
Point guard: Shaun Livingston
Shooting guard: Nick Young
Small forward: Mike Miller
Power forward: Andray Blatche
Center: Fabricio Oberto
The Wizards may have nothing left to play for, but that doesn't mean they can't give the Celtics a game anyway. In this league, you just never know. The C's learned their lesson earlier this week about overlooking opponents when they let the Knicks steal one; they can't repeat that mistake. Expect Doc Rivers to have his team ready for this one — the C's need an athletic, energetic brand of basketball to keep up with the young Wizards. Every game counts in this playoff race, even the ones against conference doormats. Doc's squad can't afford to let its guard down for a second.