April 10, 2018 | Capital One Arena | Washington, D.C.
Coming off a season-worst four-game losing streak, the Washington Wizards had a choice to make: limp into the playoffs and probably get bounced in the first round or address their issues and enter as a legit Eastern Conference contender. After two practices, one that was a brutally honest film session, Washington chose the latter by eventually making easy work of the No. 2 Boston Celtics. With the regular season nearly its end, the Wizards might have just built some much needed positive momentum.
(Photo: Ned Dishman via Getty Images)
John Wall Continues To Prove Worth
29 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 three-pointers, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. No other player in NBA history since the 1983-84 season has recorded such a stat line. Wall recorded his 5,000th regular season assists on a pass to Markieff Morris in the second half to become just the fifth player to record 10,000 points and 5,000 assists in the regular season in his age 27 season or younger. The five-time All-Star did not have a perfect game with seven turnovers and five fouls, but he was clearly the best player on the floor and made his teammates better by drawing all of the defense’s attention. Everyone can now definitively say the Wizards are better WITH Wall, but it is truly mind boggling how the ignorant narrative began in the first place.
“It felt great,” Wall said about the display of team basketball. “I think we did a good job moving the ball. I think early on we let Jaylen Brown get too comfortable, in the first quarter. Luckily, we were able to slow him down. We turned up a little bit and started playing better, moving the ball, guys knocking down shots. Expect for a couple of carless turnovers I had, of just trying make reads that I should have scored the ball in, I think we did a great job.”
Kelly Oubre Turns A Corner
Before last game against Atlanta, Oubre made just two three-pointers on his previous 37 attempts dating back to the Denver game. He is a confident young man who said all the right things, but one could tell it was clearly weighing on him as it would any player. In his last two games, he has knocked down six three-pointers including three of four from deep against Boston. Scott Brooks has always been more concerned with Oubre focusing in on defense than what he does or does not produce offensively, last year calling any scoring a bonus, and that seemed to be the root cause of the improved shooting percentage. After Jaylen Brown dropped 21 points on Washington in the first quarter, Oubre was given the task to try and limit the wing and he helped do just that. The self-proclaimed Wave Papi was a big factor in Brown only scoring six points in the rest of the game. In Oubre’s 62 defensive possessions vs. Boston, he allowed just 10 points, per NBA Stats.
“I thought Kelly did a great job,” Brooks said when asked about limiting Brown late. “He had those threes late in the game, but he didn’t have a lot of points, but he played hard. He played with a purpose defensively. He wasn’t trying to go out and get defensive steals for layups. You play solid defense, you let your team defense get a stop. You don’t have to go for steals to get a dunk, the highlight steals that I like to call it. I thought he had a great game, we’re going to need him. We’re going to need his shooting, that’s good for him to make a couple threes going into this last game.”
“We just need Kelly to be Kelly,” Bradley Beal explained. “He’s our best defender. He is a true competitor. He is a winner. That’s somebody that you always want to go to war with. He understands that when he’s active defensively and he’s doing everything that we need him to do, we are a great team. We try to make it simple for him on the offensive end, put him in positions to score, and just knock down some easy shots. When he’s doing that, we are definitely a tough team to beat. With Otto [Porter, Jr.] being out he has to step up.”
Playoff Game 0?
If the Wizards beat the Magic on Wednesday and only one of the Heat (against the Raptors) or Bucks (at the 76ers), then Washington will get the first shot at Boston in the first round of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics will be without Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Daniel Theis, and likely Marcus Smart in such a series as they were Tuesday night in D.C. Despite a slow start where Jaylen Brown looked like Paul Pierce in the first quarter, Washington clearly flexed their muscle as the superior team with more firepower. Sure, Brad Stevens probably has a few aces up his sleeve when the games truly count, but the Wizards may actually be the favorite to get to four wins as the No. 7 seed.
Wall is better than Rozier, Beal is better than Brown, Porter and Tatum are a push, Horford is better than Morris, and Gortat and Baynes are a push. Off the bench, Satoransky, Oubre, Scott, and Mahinmi are better than Larkin, Ojeleye, Yabusele, and Monroe, in my opinion. The Wizards have historically turned it up to another level in the playoffs, while the Celtics have some inexperienced players when it comes to the postseason. If Washington plays at the level they did in the final three quarters on Tuesday, then they will beat Boston in a seven-game series without much doubt.
Rest Is For The Weak
For the first time in his career, Bradley Beal has the opportunity to play all 82 games of the regular season. It has been a goal of his because he has dealt with lower body injuries early in his NBA career and he will likely get that opportunity on Wednesday in Orlando even though it could be wise for Brooks to give him the night off headed into the playoffs. “I haven’t talked to Coach, but I’m going in with the mindset that I am,” Beal said after Tuesday’s win.
Like Beal, Wall is of the mindset that they want to play all 82 games of the regular season if their bodies will allow them to. If it were up to Wall, he would have played against Chicago, Atlanta, and on Wednesday against Orlando even though it is the second leg of back-to-backs that the team is precautiously holding him out of.
“I want to compete,” Wall expressed. “I don’t care who I’m playing against, that’s just me. You take the money away, take the fame away, you take everything away, I’m still going to play the game the same way. That’s all I know how to do. That’s how I was born and raised. That’s how I was built off of. So, whenever I can’t play, it’s frustrating because I know my guys are going out there giving everything they got and I can’t give them the half that I want to give.”
“Yeah, definitely,” Wall said about taking pride in every game. “If I didn’t have the injuries I had in my career I [would] want to play every single game. I don’t believe in the resting or sitting out. People make those decision on their own or the training staff does that, but these fans and these people come and see us play and it might be a kid’s one time. That’s one quote I use from Michael Jordan. He always took every game seriously because it might be the one game that kid, might be the only time he gets to see him play. So, why would you want to rest?”
Next Game: Washington finishes the regular season with Orlando before the “second season” begins.