Yes, you read that headline correctly. The Boston Celtics, the NBA’s most storied franchise with 17 champions and 17 true Hall of Famers (ones who played primarily with the Celtics), have never played a Christmas Day game at TD Garden. That will change on Monday, December 25th, 2017.
Technically speaking, the Celtics have played on Christmas Day once as the “home team.” We travel back to Dec. 25, 1964, to a game against the Detroit Pistons. The game was played at Madison Square Garden in New York as part of a doubleheader. The C’s beat the Pistons 118-106, with help from John Havlicek (27 points) and Bill Russell (21 points). With that game having a bit of an asterisk marked next to it, the green have always been on the road for Christmas Day.
On Monday, the team will welcome in the Washington Wizards, who are coming off a 130-103 win vs the Orlando Magic Saturday night. After finishing 4th in the Eastern Conference a season ago (49-33), the Wizards have not found that same success yet this season. With a record of 15-18, Washington now sits seventh in the Eastern Conference. But for this matchup especially, throw both records out the window. Washington surely still remembers its devastating game seven loss to the Celtics in the conference semi-finals just a season ago, and they want revenge. But Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens will not be buying into all the hype on this so called “rivalry.”
“I don’t get into all that stuff; I just know that that’s a heck of a team. (Head Coach) Scott Brooks – really good coach,” said Stevens. “They play hard. They exposed us in so many ways; that series could’ve gone either way. We probably won the series because we won home court…but obviously we have a lot of respect for them.”
Christmas Day in Boston should be one of the best games of the season to date. One question that will need to be answered is if Marcus Morris will make his return to the court after dealing with a repeated knee injury this season, which has kept him in and out of the lineup. If he plays, Morris is instant production off the bench that could help the Celtics. The 6’9” forward is averaging 12 points per game to go along with 5.5 rebounds. A team that is 23rd in the league in bench scoring, the C’s would benefit by having Morris back. If he plays, he will give Stevens another option not only offensively, but defensively to help guard center Marcin Gortat, or switch to more athletic wings like Kelly Oubre Jr. and Otto Porter Jr.
Another storyline to pay attention to is this: who will win the point guard matchup? Both John Wall and Kyrie Irving have put up tremendous numbers this season and have helped their teams in different ways. Over the last five games, however, John Wall has not scored over 20 points. This may be because he is working his way back from a knee injury he sustained a couple weeks back. The last time the all-star guard put up at least 20 points was on November 22nd, when he had 31 in a loss to the Charlotte Hornets. If Wall can score against the likes of Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, and do his part defensively on Kyrie Irving, this gives the Wizards a chance.
While Wall was out, Bradley Beal was locked in. Beal is averaging the most points per game in his career (23.2) and even poured in 51 points vs Portland on December 5th. When healthy, the Wizards backcourt is electric in so many ways. The key word in that last statement, however, is “when.” But it seems that that “when” will be on Monday, making this game must watch television.
The TD Garden crowd will be fired up. A 5:30 pm tip off is a perfect time for an NBA game for Celtics families who celebrate Christmas. They can open presents during the morning, spend time with each other in the afternoon, and then head to the parquet floor, where the crowd will roar so loud that Santa will wonder what that sound is all the way from the North Pole.