Opening Statements: Wizards vs Celtics, Game 42 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Celtics, Game 42

Updated: January 25, 2016

Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics - Truth About

Teams: Wizards vs Celtics
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 2.5 points.

The Washington Wizards, just getting into the second half of their 82-game regular season slate (after what would have been Game No. 42 was postponed on Saturday due to the northeast blizzard), will attempt to beat the Boston Celtics for the first time in four tries this evening.

The previous three attempts resulted in sheer failure. The first two contests were in November, within the season’s first 15 games, and played in Boston. Washington lost both games by a combined 53 points, giving up 229 total points to Boston while scoring just 176 of their own over 96 regulation minutes.

The Wizards and Celtics met for the third time just 10 days ago in D.C. Before that match, both coaches said that they expected that evening’s outcome to be quite different, each admitting that the Wizards of mid-January were a different team from the mid-November 2015 version. Healthier, in any case. The Wizards lead the entire NBA in player games lost due to injury (186), while the Celtics rank 25th with just 41 games lost. The C’s have been relatively steady overachievers all season—and I say “overachiever” in the kindest of senses. Celtics coach Brad Steven does a great job of maximizing—eking—talent on the roster he has; a roster without a bona fide superstar (although one can easily make the case that Isaiah Thomas is at least an All-Star this season).

Streaking? The Celtics have lost four games in a row once and three games in a row twice this season. They have also won four games in a row once and three games in a row twice. And that’s it in terms of streaks longer than two. The Wizards, similarly, have two four-game winning streaks and one three-game winning streak, as well as two three-game losing streaks and one four-game losing streak. Boston holds down the 5-seed in the East, 7.5 games behind the first place Cavaliers; Washington sits in the 9th position, 1.5 games from the 8-seed and 9.5 games behind the Cavs (and thus just two games from the fifth-place Celtics).

Tonight’s game is rather important and these two teams just don’t like each other. At least such has been more evident with this particular Wizards opponent than any other opponent this season. The last meeting in D.C. on January 16 was as back-and-forth as any game the Wizards have had, and there was no shortage of chest-thumping moments between John Wall and Isaiah Thomas, Jared Sullinger and Marcin Gortat, and Jae Crowder and Nene; or, really, any mix of participants on the court.

The Wizards led at halftime, 61-54, and were fueled by a 17-4 first quarter run and a 9-1 second quarter run, which Boston answered with a handful of 5-0 and 6-0 runs. Early in the third quarter, Boston struck with a 14-0 run, but Washington answered with a 15-4 run. Midway through the final period, the Wizards charged toward the finish line with an 11-4 run, giving them a 101-95 lead with six-plus minutes remaining. The Celtics answered with a 16-5 run to take a 111-106 lead with just over 90 seconds left. Then, general madness prevailed.

Gary Neal hit a floater to keep the Wizards within three points with 1:23 left; Boston called timeout. Brad Stevens generally owned the results of ATO (after timeout) possessions, but this one did not control for Evan Turner, who turned the ball over—John Wall stole it and raced to the other end to make the tally 111-110, Boston up, with 1:11 left. The Celtics missed their next two attempts but got offensive rebounds both times, and Stevens then called another timeout. This time his play call limited dribbling and dramatically confused Washington’s defense. The result: an Avery Bradley, nail-in-the-coffin 3-pointer to put the Celtics up 114-110 with 31 seconds left.

But not all the nails were pinned. Celtics players undid the doing of their coach, starting with Amir Johnson fouling John Wall on a 3-point attempt with 23 seconds left. Wall missed the first free throw but Crowder picked up a technical foul for jawing with Randy Wittman, or Nene, or whomever, while Wall as at the free throw line. Neal stepped in and made the tech, and then Wall made this next two free throws, keeping it a one point game, 114-113, Boston.

Then, the foul game: Isaiah Thomas made two freebies to put the Celtics back up three, but then Marcus Smart, stupidly, fouled Wall with 15 seconds left, sending him to the line. As Wall was making his second free throw attempt, the Wizards took advantage of a loophole. Kelly Oubre, a là Cleveland’s Matthew Dellavedova, jumped on the back of Amir Johnson while players were lined up for Wall’s free throw attempt. This act, which seemed to be triggered by Jared Dudley telling Wittman about the situation from the sidelines, sent one of Boston’s poorer free throw shooters to the line while taking no time off the clock. Johnson made the first attempt, but missed the second. Then up two points, 117-115, Marcus Smart committed another inexplicably dumb foul, sending Garrett Temple to the free throw line for two attempts, which he made, tying the game at 117.

Enter Brad Stevens, again. This time his ATO play did something the Wizards were either not expecting or totally unprepared for. With the rookie Oubre on the muscular Crowder in the paint, the plan was (instead of running some high pick-and-roll staple as the Wizards expected like government cheese) to lob a pass over the rook’s head and into Crowder’s hands at the basket. And it worked.

Boston grabbed the 119-117 lead and the Wizards, having already exhausted four timeouts in the fourth quarter (three in a 1:17 span from the 1:38 to the 21-second mark), did not have a timeout to stop the clock and set up their offense with less than four seconds remaining. John Wall, nonetheless, raced to the other end of the court. He had a chance, he soooo had a chance, but he missed a layup at the buzzer. Game over.

Various Celtics flexed and shot mean-mugs toward Washington’s bench; hoards of Celtics fans in attendance departed satisfied, voices hoarse from “Let’s go, Cel-tics!” chants, and anyone involved with the Wizards franchise neatly tucked their tails between their legs as if they’d done so many, many times before.

And so now this thing happens again. The Wizards enter as desperate as ever, and will probably be playing in front of a blizzard-affected crowd that will be as sparse as ever (so, perhaps not that unlike the normal Verizon Center crowd). Washington, with Saturday’s contest versus the Utah Jazz postponed, has had four full days of rest between games. The Celtics won on Sunday evening in Philadelphia and will be playing their third game in four nights.

Throw all of that out the door, anyway. The prior results, the maybe-tired legs, everything. These two surprisingly evenly-match teams are fun to watch. So sit back, relax, and try to enjoy.

Kyle Weidie on EmailKyle Weidie on GoogleKyle Weidie on InstagramKyle Weidie on LinkedinKyle Weidie on TwitterKyle Weidie on Youtube
Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.