Boston Celtics (57-16) at New Orleans Pelicans (45-28) Game #74 3/30/24

Boston Celtics (57-16) at New Orleans Pelicans (45-28) Game #74 3/30/24

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The Celtics continue their 6 game road trip with a stop in New Orleans to take on the Pelicans. This is the second and final meeting between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first meeting 118-112 in Boston on January 29. The Celtics won the series 2-0 last season. The Celtics are 25-21 overall all time against the Pelicans. They are 10-13 in games played in New Orleans. They have won 5 in a row against the Pelicans.

The Celtics remain 1st in the East, 11 games ahead of 2nd place Milwaukee, 12.5 games ahead of 3rd place New York, 13 games ahead of 4th place Cleveland, 14.5 games ahead of 5th place Orlando, and 16.5 games ahead of 6th place Indiana. They are 25-13 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 19-7 against Western Conference teams and lost their last 2 games after winning the previous 9 games.

The Pelicans are 5th in the West, 6 games behind 1st place Denver, half a game behind the 4th place Clippers, 1.5 games ahead of 6th place Dallas, and 2 games ahead of 7th place Phoenix, and slipping into the play-in. They are 21-14 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 19-9 against Eastern Conference teams and they are coming off a win in their last game.

The Celtics are playing in the fifth game of a 6 game road trip. They are 2-2 so far on the trip, winning the first 2 and losing the last 2 games. After this game in New Orleans, they will then close out the road trip in Charlotte before returning home for 3 games against Oklahoma City, Sacramento, and Portland. Then it’s one game on the road in Milwaukee before finishing the season at home against New York, Charlotte and Washington.

The Pelicans are playing in the 3rd game of a 6 game home stand. They lost to Oklahoma City and beat Milwaukee in the first 2 games of this home stand. They will host Phoenix, Orlando and San Antonio to close out the home stand. They will then head out on a 4 game road trip through Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento and Golden State before finishing the season at home against the Lakers.

Only Jaden Springer (knee) and JD Davison (ankle) are listed as out for this game on the injury report. For the Pelicans, Brandon Ingram has been out for the last week with a bone contusion in his left knee. He is doing some on court work and is expected to return soon, but he will miss this game. Jose Alvarado is out with an oblique injury. Dyson Daniels is probable for this game after missing 21 games after having meniscus surgery on his left knee.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics ReservesOshae BrissettSam HauserAl HorfordLuke KornetSvi MykhailiukPayton PritchardJordan WalshXavier Tillman

2 Way PlayersJD DavisonDrew PetersonNeemias Queta

Injuries/OutJaden Springer (knee) out JD Davison (ankle) out

Head CoachJoe Mazzulla

Probable Pelicans Starters

Pelicans Reserves Dyson DanielsJordan HawkinsEJ LiddellNaji MarshallLarry Nance, JrJeremiah Robinson-EarlCody Zeller

2 Way Players Malcolm HillMatt RyanDereon Seabron

Injuries/Out Jose Alvarado (oblique) out Brandon Ingram (knee) out Dyson Daniels (knee) probable

Head Coach Willie Green

Key Matchups

Jayson Tatum vs Zion Williamson Williamson is averaging 22.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 58.6% from the field and 35.7% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics, he finished with 26 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals while shooting 58.6% from the field with no 3 pointers. The Celtics will need to defend him very closely both inside and out as he is a threat in the paint and on the perimeter. He is also very hard to stop when he gets a head of steam heading to the hoop.

Jrue Holiday vs CJ McCollum McCollum is averaging 18.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists per game. He is shooting 45.5% from the field and 41.5% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics, he finished with 16 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal. He shot 50% from the field but just 20% from beyond the arc. As with Williamson, McCollum can score both inside and out and so the Celtics need to defend him where ever he is on the court.

Honorable MentionJaylen Brown vs Trey Murphy IIIMurphy is averaging 14 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. He is shooting 43.5% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc. In the first game he finished with 15 points and 4 rebounds off the bench while shooting 42.9% from the field and 30% from beyond the arc. Murphy has been starting in place of the injured Brandon Ingram.

Keys to the Game Defense – Defense will always be the key to winning. The Pelicans average 115.6 points per game (13th) while the Celtics average 121.1 points per game (2nd). The Celtics are 2nd in the league with a defensive rating of 110.8. The Pelicans are 5th with a defensive rating of 111.4. The Celtics have to especially defend in the paint as the Pelicans average 51.9 points in the paint per game. The Celtics allowed their offensive struggles against the Hawks affect their defense and it cost them the game. They have to play tough team defense for 48 minute if they want to win this game.

Rebound – The Celtics have to crash the boards as a team. Rebounding takes effort and when they put that extra effort out to dominate the boards, it often translates to all other areas of the game as well. The Pelicans are averaging 44.5 rebounds (7th) and the Celtics are averaging 46.4 rebounds per game (2nd). The Pelicans are 11th in the league with 14.4 second chance points and so the Celtics are going to have to work hard to keep them off the boards to keep them from scoring second chance baskets. Rebounding was one of the biggest reasons for the Celtics 2 losses against the Hawks. They were out rebounded 44-38 (18 2nd chance points) in the first loss and 53-43 (28 2nd chance points) in the second loss. They have to put out more effort to beat the Pelicans to rebounds if they want to win this game.

Be Aggressive – The Celtics have got to be aggressive in going to the basket, playing defense, diving for loose balls and just play harder. Their effort and aggressiveness can make them very tough to beat and their lack of it can make them vulnerable, as we saw against the Hawks. They are once again facing a team that plays hard and are aggressive and they can’t afford to come out with less than 100% effort. They especially need to be aggressive and play hard in the third quarter as they have been outplayed in that quarter in the past 2 games.

Push the Pace and Move the Ball – Two things that have helped the Celtics offense to be dominant this season are the fact that they have picked up the pace and pushed the ball up the court. They also moved the ball and along with hitting from outside, they also get to the basket. The Celtics need to continue to do both of those things in order to keep winning. They can’t play hero ball and they can’t just walk up the court. They have to run and get into their offense before the Pelicans defense gets set. They have to be careful with the ball, however, since the Pelicans are 5th with 17.5 points off turnovers per game.

X-FactorsOn the Road – The Celtics are playing in the 5th game of a 6 game road trip.. Whether it is the travel, hotel living, or an unfamiliar arena and hostile fans, there are plenty of distractions to hinder a team playing on the road. The Celtics need to come in focused and not allow the distractions of playing away from home to keep them from playing their best.

Officiating – Officiating always has the possibility to be an x-factor. Every crew calls the game differently. Some call every bit of contact while some let them play. Some favor the home team and some call it evenly and some are just bad. Hopefully the Celtics get a crew that calls it even and lets both teams play. However the game is called, they need to focus on the game and not allow bad or no calls to take that focus away. Refs have been very quick to call techs for complaining in recent games and the Celtics need to keep their emotions under control to avoid giving away points on technical fouls.

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