The day is finally here. Tonight is the debut of the NBA Play-In Tournament. On paper, this was a great idea. However, some players across the NBA are against the idea of this. Tonight we see what kind of competition there will be and if this idea should stay for years to come. On paper, the Boston Celtics have no buisness being here. But, after a very dissapointing season, here they are. Their opponent, the Washington Wizards, also have no buisness being here. But, here they are after they fought their way to be the eight seed. So what can fans expect from this matchup?
Jayson Tatum needs to be a leader
Celtics star forward Jayson Tatum needs to have the game of his life if Boston wants to secure the seventh seed in the East. The Celtics lost Jaylen Brown to injury a few weeks back and that left a void on the floor. Tatum has had an up and down season. He did test positive for Covid and it did take him some time to return to normal, understandably so. But, Tatum has a tendency to have a slow and basically non-existent first quarter. That can’t happen tonight. He needs to establish himself as the leader tonight with Kemba Walker. A double-double is ideally what Tatum should have tonight.
Kemba Walker needs to show up
Kemba Walker needs to show up. Last year in the playoffs, Walker just disappeared. Yes, he was injured, but still no excuses to not alert team doctors or anyone. Kemba loves to smile when things typically go wrong. That can’t happen. Like Tatum, Walker also needs to have his best game of his career tonight. He needs to pass the ball and force any bad shot. If he’s hot early, he needs to shoot his pull up three’s. When he makes them, he’s the best shooter on the team. Walker ideally should score about 25 points tonight and have close to ten assists.
Is Bradley Beal healthy enough?
The Washington Wizards star is not healthy coming into the game. Currently, Beal is nursing a hamstring injury. After Sunday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets, Beal said his injury did not worsen and he will rest and be ready for the play-in game against the Celtics. It’s no secret that Beal is a major reason why Washington is in the play-in tournament. If the Wizards want to pull off a road victory, Beal will need to score atleast 35 and share the ball around too. Don’t force anything. After all, his teammate Russell Westbrook has more playoff experience and is typically clutch in these types of games.
For both the Celtics and Wizards, their benches need to show up big. Boston specifically needs a big game from Payton Pritchard. Pritchard impressed this season and now it’s safe to pull the rookie label from him… for now. Yes, playoff basketball is a different animal, but he needs to come up big for when he comes in the game for Kemba Walker, which Celtics fans know, could be anytime. As for the rest of the bench, all of them will need to play a significant role. All hands on deck.
The Washington bench needs to come together tonight. Washington’s bench isn’t the worlds greatest but tonight they need to be. The Celtics bench outmatches the Wizards bench for the most part. The one player that needs to step up is Ish Smith. Smith averaged eight points per game against Boston this season. It needs to be atleast ten tonight so that Washington can avoid the elimination game.
We have a battle tonight. The Wizards and Celtics go to war tonight in Boston at 9 PM. Expect a high scoring affair and herculean performances from the top players like Jayson Tatum and Bradley Beal tonight.
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-Matt Burnett (@mattthew_jordan on Twitter)