AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
Paul Pierce and the Celtics visit the Wizards on Saturday night.Stumbling out of the starting gates, the Boston Celtics (0-2, 0-1 road) trek to the nation's capital on Saturday night for the tail end of a back-to-back and the start of a (stretched-out) home-and-home with the Washington Wizards (0-1, 0-0 home) at the Verizon Center (7 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
* QUICK TURNAROUND GOOD FOR C'S: The Celtics' struggles on the second night of back-to-back games in recent seasons has been well-documented, but throw all of that out the window tonight because (1) Boston is eager to play again after an embarrassing effort in their home-opener Friday against Milwaukee; (2) Beyond Kevin Garnett (36), Paul Piece (35), and Jason Terry (35), the Celtics have a new youth-filled core that should aid their struggles in back-to-back situations; and (3) Let's face it, the Wizards are not that daunting of an opponent. This is a quality chance for Boston to clean up its early-season woes, build back some eroded confidence, and -- maybe more than anything else -- get in the win column.
* WIZARDS OPENING UP: Now, no one is going to mistake the Verizon Center as a house of horrors for visiting teams, but the Celtics will have to deal yet again with a team that should have an extra spark. After playing season-openers against Miami (also the home-opener, which included a ring and banner ceremony for the defending champs) and Milwaukee, Boston stumbles into Washington's home-opener on Saturday. The Wizards might not have John Wall (knee) available, but much-hyped rookie shooting guard Bradley Beal will be in the spotlight. Said Beal on the opener: "I'm real excited. My family is going to be here on top of that and actually this is my town now, this is my city, so to speak, so now I'm going to be able to represent and show what I am capable of doing."
* URGENCY, NOT PRESSURE: Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted his players looked like they were pressing at times while the game against the Bucks got away from them. Rivers implored his team to simply focus on the fundamentals, something as simple as passing the ball multiple times while trying to generate open looks. Instead, players were running into traffic and turning the ball over. "Guys were trying to be aggressive, but I think that’s what happens when the offense is struggling and the tendency is to drive in there, try to do something aggressive," said captain Paul Pierce. "But that will come. We have a lot of offensive weapons here, we implemented a new system, offensively, too, so we’re still trying to learn one another." Even after putting up 107 points in Miami, Rivers was critical of his team's offense and is looking for better continuity and execution at that end of the floor.
* GOTTA FEED KG: Boston's most sustained offensive output Friday might have come in the third quarter when Garnett demanded the basketball around the hoop. The veteran big man scored 10 of his team-high 15 points in that frame, but the Celtics tend to get away from him when they are pressing for points. Boston needs to keep Garnett involved throughout the game.
* C'S NEED MORE FROM BENCH MOB: The Celtics have gotten decent production from their bench over the first two games, but virtually all of it has come in the fourth quarter. Leandro Barbosa scored 16 fourth-quarter points against Miami to spark a feverish rally, while Jason Terry was scoreless for 42 minutes Friday before a late 10-point barrage made the score less lopsided against Milwaukee. Boston needs more from its bench players, particularly late in the first and third quarters when the starters begin to sub out.
* SEE YOU AGAIN SOON: The two teams will keep their scouting reports handy after Saturday's game. While there are three days off in between, the Celtics and Wizards meet again on Wednesday night in Boston.