“This time, it’s personal,” the Celtics blogger said in an extremely 80s action hero voice…BUT SERIOUSLY: The Celtics and Wizards have a strange rivalry, but there’s real anger behind it, and the battle they’re in as the only East teams liable to truly challenge Cleveland in the postseason is just as real. Washington was no pushover, making small runs whenever Boston seemed to have a huge lead, but couldn’t establish a lead of their own after Q2 and the Cs got contributions from around the roster to make it FUNERAL TIME for the Wiz.
THE GAME FLOW
This game began as a war of attrition. Boston’s offense hummed efficiently (especially in transition plays) but so did Washington’s, and the latter’s defensive weakness (other than Wall on the perimeter and Gortat at the rim) wasn’t significant enough for the Celtics to take a big lead. The Wizards would have a big 11-4 run…and the Celtics would answer with a 10-0 run. If Boston had any real advantage it was depth: Multiple Celtics contributed to the box score, while the Wiz leaned on the red-hot shooting of Bradley Beal and were a bit cold otherwise.
Avery Bradley took control from jump during this contest. He led in every primary stat category until much later in the game – including rebounds. Somewhat expectedly due to the injury that kept him out of the 2 previous games, Isaiah Thomas was ineffective, but A.B. and Al Horford picked up the slack.
The squads remained even throughout Q2. Leads changed with relative frequency until the Celtics established a solid one halfway through the frame–after the first real display of the mutual animosity these teams have developed: Brandon Jennings tried to take Terry Rozier for bad at the beginning of a Celtics possession, bumping him twice–and was repaid seconds later with a walloping shove by the Cs second-year reserve guard.
Both were fairly penalized with technicals, but the loss of momentum only proved crippling for Jennings’ team. Beal stayed sniping, but otherwise the Wiz offense began crumbling with minimal impact from the rest of the team, even wall. And in the biggest shock of the game thus far, the Celtics rim protection further stymied them, with Horford, Kelly Olynyk and Amir Johnson stopping D.C. players at the hoop and getting crucial offensive rebounds. Jae Crowder got into a shooting rhythm to help Bradley and Horford on the offensive end, and all of these factors proved enough to keep Boston in front by 11 when halftime arrived, 58-47.
A third-quarter headshot to the Wizards would, in all likelihood, seal this game for the Celtics, and that seemed to be what the Cs were fighting for early in the third quarter. Forcing Washington turnovers, fighting for offensive boards and bombing 3s put them almost 20 points ahead before one-third of the frame elapsed. And with I.T. finding the offensive punch that’d previously eluded him–essentially doubling his first-half point total in about 5 minutes of second-half play. Even some downright filibuster-reminiscent officiating fuckery couldn’t give Washington much of a boost as their offense, so crisp in the first half, wavered significantly. (Side note: Last time Boston beat Washington, Wall, who averages 23 a game, was held to 8 points. In this game he scored 7 before Q4, ending with only 14. Sensing a pattern here.)
Washington is too good at team for the Celtics to slip their foot off the gas, and they never did as Q3 transitioned into Q4, even with the refs finding any excuse to pause the game (I’m including some bad calls that helped the Cs in my frustration here; bad officiating should be skewered across the board.) In a clear, deliberate strategy to keep a certain Celtics blogger from eating dinner, the game moved no more quickly as the quarter progressed, but even as Boston struggled to score, Washington couldn’t gain significant momentum. Only a series of D.C. 3s got them going, and that just cut their deficit to 11 instead of 20.
The Wizards bench started to click in the last stretch (aside from Bojan Bogdanovic, who’d been clicking all game), but even when the inexplicably-still-in-the-league Jason Smith started getting hot, he made enough dumb moves to almost foul out. D.C. got their deficit to two possessions at one point in the second-to-last minute, thanks to Boston defense that got a bit inconsistent. That’s why you have Marcus Smart, though, who got critical buckets and defensive stops to restore separation and help the Cs even the season series vs. D.C. with a W, 110-102.
A brief summary of the TERRIBLE CALLS: Amir “hanging on the rim” when his hand got stuck in it after a clean block, the inexplicable number of technicals called on both sides, Marcus Smart again being enemy of the refs…but, the Celtics outrebounded a team and beat them senseless on the defensive end, so who cares?
I’m not sure A.B. made a single notable mistake all night. This football pass out of transition to Amir for a rim-rattler is great.
Isaiah putback sorta-dunk? Yep.
Avery Bradley: 20 points on 50 percent shooting, plus 9 boards, 4 dimes, a steal and no turnovers. I think Avery’s totally fine, people.
Isaiah Thomas: 25-4-4 plus 2 steals and 3 turnovers. Not the greatest shooting night for the Little Guy–about 37 percent–but he made up for it at the charity stripe.