Below is my rapid reaction to last night’s loss against the Celtics that also appeared on ESPN.com’s NBA Daily Dime run-down, followed by two additional sections posted just to TAI. But first, a John Wall lob to Jan Vesely GIF…
Wizards 76 at Celtics 88.
MVP: Rajon Rondo treated the Wizards like orange cones from the tip, his 11 assists certainly the reason why Boston had 24 total assists on 34 field goals. Per usual, Rondo turned a blind eye toward offense for most of the night, until less than six minutes left in the game and Washington hanging around within 11 points. A couple of teardrops did the trick, sending the Wizards home drying their eyes from a 4-0 season sweep at the hands of the Celtics.
Night No. 2, Game No. 2 — this time the Wizards are in Boston to take on the Celtics. To the point: we have three questions about this evening’s game. TAI’s Dan Diamond, Arish Narayen and Kyle Weidie have the answers to those questions. 3-on-3 starts now… [UPDATE: as noted below, Ray Allen is out for the Celtics; Nene is also out for the Wizards with back spasms.]
#1) Seems like the Wizards of the Nick Young/Andray Blatche/JaVale McGee era always got up to play against these olde tymey Celtics, and likewise with Kevin Garnett often making Andray, who’s currently “NWT-Conditioning,” the target of his ire. Boston is back home after a 4-4 eight-game road trip; Washington is in the second night of their first 3-game, 3-night set of the season, and they are coming off two tough, blown-lead losses against Indiana and Atlanta. Do either of these teams play with energy? If at all, which one has more? And which player gives which team the advantage in this department?
DIAMOND: Boston has the edge here. Wizards may be hoping to catch them sleeping–but after two weeks away from home, at least the Celtics finally got to snooze in their own beds last night. I like Greg Stiemsma to be the energy guy for Boston off the bench; he’s been a solid banger for the Celtics in recent weeks.
NARAYEN: On January 2nd, in Boston, the Wizards were on the second night of a home-and-home versus the Celtics. Washington lost that game 100-92. Interestingly enough, the total in tonight’s game is 192. My sense is that there will be more offense than crisp defensive rotations in this game. I anticipate both teams playing with energy: Boston, because of an uneven road trip that saw them lose to playoff-bound teams (and get embarrassed in Sacramento); Washington, because of trying to forge a new team identity in the midst of two gutwrenching losses. I give Boston the edge, as the home crowd will likely rejuvenate those road weary legs. As for a specific player that will boost their team’s energy the most, it has to be Paul Pierce. Boston was already thin on reserves, and with the likely absence of Pietrus, Pierce will have to play major minutes.
[The DC Council -- After each Wizards game: setting the scene, rating the starters, assessing the bench, providing the analysis, and catching anything that you may have missed. Unlike the real DC Council, everything here is over the table. Game 16 contributors: John Converse Townsend and Kyle Weidie with first-hand coverage, and Rashad Mobley watching from afar.]
Close game, different locker rooms, opposite outcomes… but they are all professional basketball players. The Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics said WHAT?
Jordan Crawford‘s thoughts on the double-technical foul called on him and Paul Pierce midway through the third period… Pierces “thoughts” as well… Rajon Rondo‘s intricate and insightful opinion on the differences in John Wall’s game from Sunday’s contest and when these two teams met earlier this year on January 1 and 2… And other general game thoughts, i.e., Paul Pierce sentiment, from Nick Young, John Wall, Doc Rivers, Flip Saunders, and Ray Allen, with a camero appearance from Kevin Garnett.
[footage shot by TAI's Kyle Weidie and John Converse Townsend]
At every buzzer, there are key points you can look back on when considering the outcome — a game-changing instance, a slept-on moment, an initial reaction to the final score. Sure, in a contest of ebbs and flows, moments can be subjective, but it doesn’t make it any one less important than others. In a Wizards 94-100 loss against the Boston Celtics on Sunday afternoon, these were some of those moments…
On the surface, there is plenty to be encouraged about if you’re affiliated with the Washington Wizards. For the fifth consecutive game, they gave a strong team effort. John Wall continues to play aggressive but smart, JaVale McGee shows flashes of being a dominant post player, Nick Young continues a trend of giving a half of dazzling basketball, and Jordan Crawford is taking fewer bad shots. All these factors are keeping the Wizards close enough to win, until they inevitably fall short.
The Wizards held an 83-82 lead over Boston midway through the 4th quarter, but didn’t have enough answers to close out the game. The C’s cruised to their second road victory of the year, their second in Washington D.C., despite being without Rajon Rondo (who missed the game with a wrist injury) and Ray Allen (who left in the second quarter with a jammed ankle). That’s because Paul Pierce commanded much of the attention as the key piece in the Celtics’ offense, scoring 14 of his season-high 34 points in the final period.
The Wizards didn’t have an offensive crutch in the clutch, and it cost them. But Flip Saunders, in his post game presser, argued that a tough defense is just as important as a single reliable scoring threat in the closing minutes of a basketball game:
“You have to close out with your defense, that’s how you close out games, Close out with your defense and try to get some pushes up the floor and get some open floor stuff if you can. What you have to do is stay aggressive and flatten out the defense. The ball has to get below the free throw line extended. You can’t play late in games without a thrust to the basket, the ball getting down low. When the call is just a play above the top of the key, it puts too much pressure on you.”
[Andray Blatche takes a pre-game shot before facing the Celtics. - photo: K. Weidie]
Before today’s game, I asked Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers about what differences he’s seen in this Wizards team now from when they played the Celtics on New Year’s Day in Washington and the next day in Boston:
“The last three games they’ve play with a better spirit, quite honestly. You watch them and sometimes it just jumps off the screen. You can watch teams and their body language is better, they’re playing the right way, they’re running, they’re playing with a spirit, they’re playing with each other. It’s obvious over the last three games, watching them play. They’re moving the ball… They were the King of the Ball Stoppers.
“You know, this is the way Flip has always coached, and you can see it now. They’re actually listening and doing what probably — I know — he’s asked them to do since he’s been here. I don’t know what has prompted it, but they’re doing it.”
Doc Rivers came back to the Celtics this year because he thought Jeff Green would play better in year two, and the Big 3 had one more championship run left in them. Flip Saunders had every reason to feel optimistic about the Wizards after John Wall’s promising rookie season and dazzling summer, and a highly rated draft class. A month into the season, neither coach is feeling as optimistic. The Celtics are 5-9, and Danny Ainge has been given permission to blow the team up. At 2-12, the Wizards have the worst record in the league and find themselves on the wrong end of jokes and ridicule from the national media. This afternoon the struggling teams can take their frustrations out on one another, but before they do, TAI’s very own Rashad Mobley and Kyle Weidie, along with Jeff Clark from SB Nation’s, CelticsBlog, will answer three questions.
#1) Which team should be looking to make wholesale roster changes? The 5-8 Celtics, who are struggling through this truncated NBA schedule due to injuries, heart surgery to Jeff Green and aging? Or the 2-12 Washington Wizards, who have some key, young players with low basketball IQ, and a franchise player in John Wall who could be a flight risk if his supporting cast doesn’t improve?
CLARK: Timing is everything. The Celtics should (and will) make wholesale changes in the offseason, so why rush it? If there’s a deal out there to make that would bring us back something worth offloading one of the Big 3, so be it. But I don’t see it happening. For the Wizards, they have to pick a rebuilding strategy and stick with it. I think they could go the Celtics route and use their trade chips to bring in star players to put around John Wall, but easier said than done. So it seems like they’ll go the Thunder route and try to build through the draft. They better hope they can draft as well as Presti.
MOBLEY: Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld seem perfectly fine with letting their current rebuilding plan play out. They have a franchise player, a young draft class, and young veterans who are fighting (to put it mildly) through growing pains. Danny Ainge watched the original big 3 get old in the early 90s, and he brought in two of the second Big 3 five years ago. He’s itching to make a move that will keep the Celtics relevant, and given that Pierce and Allen can be final pieces on a contending team, he has to act now.
[The DC Council -- After each Wizards game: setting the scene, rating the starters, assessing the bench, providing the analysis, and catching anything that you may have missed. Unlike the real DC Council, everything here is over the table. Game 5 contributors: Adam McGinnis, Rashad Mobley and Sam Permutt.]