Heading to the postseason, a potential matchup between the Celtics and Wizards was something to look forward to. Now that it’s here, they’ve underwhelmed.
On paper, the Celtics are better than the Wizards because of their record, but Washington caught fire during the middle of the season and never looked back. Both are led by All-Star point guards in John Wall and Isaiah Thomas, and the supporting casts play their roles well enough to enhance each squad. The best part of speculating this meeting was the inevitable pettiness. The Wizards don’t like the Celtics. The Celtics don’t like the Wizards.
Jae Crowder nearly picked Wall’s nose after a game on Jan. 11, forcing the two to get separated and fined by the league. Then, the Wizards decided to dress in all black for the rematch on Jan. 24. Isaiah Thomas thought it was cute. This series, there haven’t been any notable incidents outside of Kelly Oubre attacking Kelly Olynyk after being screened — legally, might I add. Oubre got suspended for one game, but that’s all. It’s very old-school the way these two teams don’t like each other, but that doesn’t mean the contests have been competitive.
The home team has won each meeting, and, since the Celtics have home-court advantage, they have the 3-2 series lead after Wednesday. Additionally, each win has been by double-digits, and 12 points or fewer have decided only two. The Wizards won Game 3 and Game 4 by 27 and 19, respectively, and Boston walked away from Game 5 with a 22-point margin of victory.
Because of how evenly-matched these two are, we’d expect their games to be more like Houston and San Antonio‘s. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Both Washington and Boston go through stretches where they just forget how to play on both ends of the court, and that’s usually the difference-maker.
For instance, Wednesday night had the Celtics torch Washington in the first, 33-21. In Game 4, the Wizards exploded for 42 points in the third and held Boston to just 20. Huge quarters have been an underlying theme for the entirety of the series. Even Game 2, the slimmest winning margin by either team, was won by Boston because the Wizards collapsed. After leading 45-29 after the first, Washington couldn’t hold back Thomas, who had the most legendary game of his young career by going for 53 points on what would’ve been Chyna’s 23rd birthday.
Read: Isaiah Thomas’ 53-Point Outburst Was All-Time Great
You have to take the bad with the good. For the most part, the stars have come out to play. Both Wall and Thomas have put up great numbers, and the series would be borderline unwatchable if neither were playing at this level:
- Thomas: 27.2 points, 6.2 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 48.4/47.2/81.6
- Wall: 26.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.4 steals, 1.8 blocks, 41.6/31.0/87.9
The beauty of these games is that Wall’s separated himself from the other point guards in the East. It’s no longer a debate about who’s the best at that position, and he’s also doing his part of being the second-best player in the conference. It’s clear that Wall’s been Washington’s swiss army knife, but not being able to win on the road has hurt them.
Thomas was someone looking to take the point guard crown away from Wall. He hasn’t been able to do that, but the Celtics need him to go and score. And that’s what he’s been doing. Al Horford and Marcus Smart have done a great job being secondary orchestrators for Thomas, and Horford, specifically, has been Brad Stevens’ most versatile player. He’s averaging 16.4 points on an incredible 69.4 percent shooting, but he’s made his mark on the glass, on defense and in the assist column. In addition to his point total, Horford hauling in 6.8 boards, handing out 5.6 dimes and swatting 1.6 shots a night.
Washington may not have a do-it-all player like Horford, but each guy does something to complete the team. Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are sharing duties as complementary scorers and are at 19.4 and 15.8 points a night. Porter’s also been outstanding on the glass and in the passing lanes and is second on the team with 40 total boards and 10 steals. Marcin Gortat is the only Wizard that’s more active on the glass, and he leads all players with 57 boards, averaging out to 11.4 a night.
The pace has been right around where both teams played during the regular season at 95.8 possessions a game. Just because they get out and run doesn’t mean they play both ends efficiently, and shotty defense has been a huge reason why both the Celtics and Wizards have been able to go on huge runs against each other. Boston’s allowing 110.8 points per 100 while Washington’s at 112.8. In the regular season, the Celtics were drastically more efficient than their current opponent, sitting at number 12 in defensive efficiency whereas the Wizards were 20th. When we shrink the sample size to post-All-Star, the Celtics jumped to seventh, while Washington tanked to 27th, ahead of the Timberwolves, Cavaliers and Lakers. Boston’s ineptitude on this end is far more shocking than the Wizards, and we must give credit to Washington for capitalizing.
Also Read: Manu Ginobili Is Making an Impact at Almost 40
If the trend continues, this series is going seven games. Boston has to pull out a win on the road in Game 6, and unless they harness the momentum they have, it’s unlikely for them to down the Wizards. Conversely, it’s possible that Washington lapses in their elimination game. We also can’t rule out the chance of a massive collapse by either team. As boring this series has been, no lead is safe, and that’s been the fun factor. Whoever plays a cleaner 48 minutes is going to have the odds in their favor.
Then, once they decide a winner, they get to see Cleveland in the Conference Final. What a prize.
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