NBA preview: Celtics, Wizards focused on opposite ends of playoff chase

The Wizards (33-42) were in a tie with Indiana for 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings following Sunday’s 114-104 loss to Toronto.

Published : Mar 28, 2023 15:19 IST - 3 MINS READ

Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal (3) in action.
Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal (3) in action. | Photo Credit: AP

Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal (3) in action. | Photo Credit: AP

The Boston Celtics are attempting to earn the best record in the NBA and the No. 1 seed ahead of the Eastern Conference playoffs, while the Washington Wizards also have something to play for Tuesday at Boston.

The Wizards (33-42) were in a tie with Indiana for 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings following Sunday’s 114-104 loss to Toronto.

Washington has seven regular-season games remaining and still has a slim chance to extend its season. The Wizards will need to be seeded No. 7 through No. 10 to qualify for the NBA’s play-in round and were 3 1/2 games outside of the No. 10 spot heading into league play Monday.

The setback against Toronto was Washington’s eighth loss in its last 10 games. The Wizards played Sunday’s game without guard Bradley Beal (left knee), forward Kyle Kuzma (right ankle) and guard Monte Morris (left groin). Beal has missed Washington’s last three games, and Kuzma has been unavailable for the team’s last four contests.

Beal, who has played in 50 games this season, is the team’s leading scorer (23.2 points per game) and is averaging 5.4 assists. Kuzma is Washington’s No. 3 scorer (21.2 points).

“Us without our main guys ... it’s a difficult task,” said Washington’s Kristaps Porzingis, who scored a team-high 26 points in Sunday’s loss.

A hip injury prevented Jayson Tatum from playing in Boston’s 137-93 victory over San Antonio on Sunday night. Tatum leads the Celtics (52-23) in scoring (30.1) and rebounding (8.9).

Jaylen Brown filled the scoring void by pouring in 41 points against the Spurs.

“He’s the best shooting guard in the league,” Boston’s Malcolm Brogdon said. “He’ll be All-NBA. He’ll make one of the teams this year. His game really speaks for itself. When (Tatum) is out, he’s the No. 1 option. He’s showing that he can be that. He’s put in the work, he’s evolved and taken giant steps forward every year and he’s playing at an extremely high level.”

Entering Monday’s game against Detroit, Milwaukee had a 1 1/2-game lead over Boston for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks and Celtics have split a pair of games this season and will meet for the final time during the regular season Thursday at Milwaukee.

“I think we’re getting more and more locked in,” Brogdon said. “I think it’s apparent when Milwaukee took the No. 1 seed from us after the (All-Star) break, it was sort of a shock to us that we had dropped because we had created some separation between us and them.

“That’s something we want - we want the No. 1 seed. I think this team understands the importance of having home-court advantage in the playoffs, so that’s something we are going after.”

Tuesday’s matchup will be the third game between the Celtics and Wizards this season. The Celtics prevailed 112-94 on Oct. 30 and 130-121 on Nov. 27. Both games were played in Boston.

Brown was Boston’s leading scorer in each game. He tossed in 24 points and had 10 rebounds in the first game, and scored 36 points in the second contest.

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