clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Game Preview: Celtics at Hornets

The Hornets have an important home game tonight against the Boston Celtics, another team currently finding themselves on the outside of the playoff bubble.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

First things first: the Charlotte Hornets and Boston Celtics are both in contention for a playoff spot, but neither team currently occupies one of those eight places. Both are certainly looking to move up in the standings, but it'll take some luck in the form of other teams losing in order for the winner of this game to hold 8th place in the Eastern Conference.

Of course, neither team is at full strength, thanks to some injuries that really couldn't have possibly come at a worse time. Cody Zeller is expected to miss tonight's game, and it is unlikely that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will play either, due to an ankle injury he suffered against the Washington Wizards on Friday night. The Celtics already knew that Jared Sullinger would be lost for the season, but Isaiah Thomas, the team's best player since acquiring him at the trade deadline, has been dealing with a foot injury-- although he is expected to be in the Boston lineup tonight.

The Celtics had really only been an afterthought in the Eastern Conference playoff race until right around the All-Star break, when they made some smart deadline deals and put themselves back in the conversation. Adding Thomas to their team helped, of course, but they also put together quiet winning streaks of three games, three games, and five games all in short succession. Right now, though, they've been falling back to Earth a little bit, having lost five of their last seven, due to some unfortunate scheduling of tough teams all in a row (One of those two wins was against the Knicks, so they at least got a little rest in between playing the Heat and the Clippers). The Celtics are also playing the second end of a back-to-back, having fallen to the Clippers, thanks to every Los Angeles starter scoring 15 points or more.

Brad Stevens is enjoying his second season as the headman of the Celtics, coaching them to a much more respectable record this season despite expectations for the team to be much worse. His system emphasizes possession, and the Celtics rarely turn the ball over, while rarely forcing either a shot or a drive to the basket. They don't excel at either end of the court, but they don't struggle either, ranking 19th in offensive rating, and 14th in the defensive counterpart. They are a poor shooting team, especially from three, but they defend the perimeter well. They also play really quickly, ranking 6th in the NBA in pace, a speed the Hornets likely would not have been able to match before their trade for Mo Williams, who has sped up the Charlotte offense considerably. The Celtics are pretty weak when it comes to interior defense, so expect to see a lot of Al Jefferson post-ups tonight, and they're also just not great shooters, which plays well into the Hornets' typical defensive gameplan.

The injuries are going to hurt the Hornets a little bit, especially as some veterans are going to be more fatigued near the end of a long season, but the Celtics are a team that they match up favorably with, in addition to probably just having more talent. Thanks to some good play by the backcourt lately, the Hornets will have an opportunity to take back a lot of ground in the standings, but they'll need to have top-notch play tonight in order for that to happen.