5 Reasons Why the Wizards Beat the Celtics in Game 3 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

5 Reasons Why the Wizards Beat the Celtics in Game 3

Updated: May 5, 2017

With about six minutes left in the game, the ESPN cameras zoomed in on John Wall and Bradley Beal on the bench. There was no audio to be had, but it looked like they were partly talking strategy and partly sharing private jokes. They didn’t have a care in the world. And given that they were getting rest while the bench held onto a lead that hovered around 20 points, why would they?

This was in sharp contrast to how both Wall and Beal ended Game 2 in Boston. In that loss, Wall scored 40 points and had 13 assists, but he had five points and four turnovers between the fourth quarter and overtime. Isaiah Thomas scored 29 points for Boston during the span.

Beal’s overall Game 2 performance was even worse than Wall’s absence in crunch time. He airballed a game-winning shot in regulation and once again his bad body language that Randy Wittman despised so much reared its ugly head. Beal finished the night with 14 points on 4-for-15 shooting and six turnovers. But that’s old news now.

The Wizards defeated the Celtics 116-89 in Game 3 on Thursday night in a contest that was never closer than 17 points after the 2:22 mark of the second quarter. How were the Wizards able to pull this off? Let’s delve in, shall we?

#1) Toughness.

Markieff Morris accused the Wizards of having a toughness deficiency after their loss to the Celtics in Game 2. After Washington’s Game 3 blowout victory, Morris was asked if the Wizards were now tough enough. He still was not impressed:

“Yeah but it’s different when we’re at home. We got whole crowd behind us, they don’t have no crowd to get momentum, and we got all the momentum. I feel like we had the momentum the entire game from jump ball.”

Morris may not have been impressed but that doesn’t mean there weren’t impressive displays of toughness to be recognized … starting with Kelly Oubre.

Yes, Oubre probably should have used better judgement before rushing Kelly Olynyk and a referee, and yes a suspension now looms large over the remainder of this series. And while Oubre is always aggressive and feisty on the defensive end of the floor, it is rare to see him lose control of his emotions to that degree. Even Beal was surprised to see Oubre go from zero to 100 that quickly, “I thought they (Olynyk and Oubre) was cool, that’s what kind of threw me off … it really takes K.O. a lot (to get that angry).”

Despite Oubre’s poor decision, the reality is that Olynyk set a borderline dirty screen, and Oubre did not want to turn the other cheek or take solace in the fact that the referee called the foul. He pushed Olynyk (and the ref) and got himself ejected from the game, but he did so while the Wizards were up 21 points, and once he was gone, the Wizards pushed the lead to 26.

Just two minutes prior to the Kelly on Kelly crime, Ian Mahinmi found himself  in a minor donnybrook with Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko. Jerebko drove the lane and scored on a layup but afterwards he sneakily pulled Mahinmi down with him as he fell. He then popped up and got in Mahinmi’s face, but Ian was game and got right back in Jerebko’s face as well. A double technical was called.

From a distance that exchange looked pretty damned innocuous, but given that Mahinmi had only played three total minutes in the playoffs due to a calf injury, his ability to quickly catch on and enforce an aggressive tone was significant. In addition to his physicality, Mahinmi displayed toughness with his defense on the Isaiah Thomas-led pick-and-rolls and his rim protection. When he was out, Jason Smith, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat were tasked with that rim protection responsibility, which isn’t exactly their strength. Mahinmi filled that void seamlessly despite his month long absence.

#2) Bojan F. Bogadanovic.

Bogdanovic only played 8:22 in Game 2 and afterwards Coach Scott Brooks took the blame, saying he had to play him more. True to his word, Brooks made Bogdanovic the first man off the bench with 4:36 left in the first quarter, and by the start of the second quarter, he made Brooks look like a genius by scoring nine points on three shots — all 3-pointers. Bogdanovic finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes of play, which was particularly big considering Oubre was ejected, and no other member of the Wizards’ bench did anything of consequence. It was his highest output since scoring 20 points in a loss to the Golden State Warriors in early April. Who knows whether that hot shooting was an isolated occurrence or the start of an extended streak, but on this night, Bojan Buckets buoyed the Wizards to victory.

#3) The Neutralization of Isaiah Thomas.

On Boston’s first offensive possession, Isaiah Thomas was matched up against Wall at the top of the key. Wall, who was torched for many of Thomas’ 53 points in Game 2, met him at halfcourt and got in an extra low defensive stance. The Celtics ended up scoring on the possession, but Wall made sure it was Avery Bradley — via a step back jumper — and not Thomas who scored. That turned into a recurring theme.

Thomas had just 13 points on eight shots at the conclusion of the game, and much of that can be attributed to the Wizards’ commitment to keeping the ball out of his hands. Wall and Oubre (before his ejection) did their best to corral Thomas, and when that was not an option, Gortat, Mahinmi and Morris were adept at trapping Thomas and forcing him to give up the basketball. Washington’s players attributed their defensive adjustments to the assistant coaches and watching film, and it worked.

Thomas had 13 points through three quarters, and at the conclusion of the game, he still had 13 points. When the Celtics bench cut the lead to 19 points with 6:30 left in the game, Coach Stevens could have subbed Thomas in to work some of his 9.7 fourth quarter points per-game magic, but he opted not to, since Thomas had not shown any indication that he was “on” offensively, which was a direct result of the Wizards’ defense.

Usually opposing players are reluctant to giving the other team credit for their inability to make an impact, but Thomas gave credit where credit was due:

“They had three guys on me, so I couldn’t really do anything. I’ll make the adjustments, it’s fine, but they were very aggressive on pick-and-rolls and me coming on down screens and things like that. And we didn’t adjust in the game.”

When questioned about the effectiveness of Washington’s defense on Thomas, Stevens joked, “I can say they played great all night!” But he also credited the Wizards’ disruptive presence in the passing lane as well as their aggressiveness.

When Isaiah Thomas was on defense, he was unable to hide on Otto Porter or any other Wizard as he so successfully did in Games 1 and 2. Wall and Porter in particular backed Thomas down and either scored or passed to an open teammate once a double team finally came. Even when the Wizards did not score, Thomas could not simply rest on defense — he had to expend precious energy, which may have contributed to his low scoring output.  Speaking of Porter…

#4) Ot-to Por-ter.

Prior to Game 3, Otto Porter had a heart-to-heart conversation with John Thompson III — the former head coach of Georgetown University who coached Porter for two years. Thompson implored Otto to be aggressive, and Otto responded with a nine-point (4-4 FGs), two-steal performance in the first quarter. He finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, and three steals in 37 minutes of play.

Most importantly, when the Celtics attempted to mask Isaiah Thomas’s defensive liabilities by putting him on Porter, Otto made him pay seemingly every time. He didn’t rush his shot or get himself in foul trouble by playing bully ball. Porter just used the dribble and his body to work himself into position for the best shot available, and converted when he had to — something he attributed to film study. And after the game, Brooks, Beal, Wall, and Morris praised Porter’s ability to take advantage of Thomas in the post. Porter was able to impose his will on the outcome of the game, despite going 0-for-3 from the 3-point line — an area where he excelled during the regular season. Here was Porter on his ability to post-up against Thomas:

“We watched a lot of film and just tried to figure out how we can make adjustments, especially with Isaiah guarding me, or whoever is guarding me trying to attack that side. If they double-team me then I need to look for a shooter. It was just was a good adjustment that we made.”

#5) Bradley Beal’s first half.

Bradley Beal scored 11 total points on 12 shots on Thursday night, which was three points fewer than the 14 points he scored during the Game 2 loss to the Celtics. But, unlike that night when his points and misses had no positive effect on the final outcome of the game, Beal’s early scoring set the tone for the Wizards. He shot 2-for-3 and scored seven points in the first quarter, and five of those points were scored in the first 75 seconds of the game, giving the Wizards a nine-point lead.

He didn’t maintain that sharp shooting stroke throughout the game, and if the Wizards have visions of winning this series, they will surely need Beal’s shooting stroke to be a factor for more than 30 minutes, not 12. Still, given Beal’s putrid performance in Game 2, his seven points in eight minutes of first quarter play went a long way in setting the tone for the remainder of the game.

Even John Wall, in the heat of the battle, found time to pay his proper respects to Beal’s mother.

Here’s what Beal had to say about his aggressive start:

“I just wanted to get off to a good start, a good rhythm. John (Wall) and I talked a lot, a little bit and that was something that we wanted to get going early. I gotta make sure I have some clean ones, some open ones and just be aggressive. I just came up and made the first seven points. I feel like I ain’t made ‘mmm’  since. It was good, it was a good start.”


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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.