Prior to Game 3 of the Wizards-Celtics playoff series, Boston coach Brad Stevens offered his assessment of the proceedings to that point. He said his team had been “pounded” in five of the eight quarters, even though Washington lost each game.
Make it nine out of 12. And a 2-1 series.
The Wizards battered the Celtics from wire-to-wire in a rounding 116-89 victory. If Boston stole Washington’s heart in the first two games, the Wizards snatched it back, punched the Celtics in the nose and kicked them in the rear.
The fight was over early but there’d be no standing-eight and Boston couldn’t throw in the towel. So Washington kept wailing away, leading by 22 points after the first quarter and 30 points late in the third.
Kelly Oubre Jr. had been ejected early in the second quarter for charging Kelly Olynyk like a corner blitz. Oubre took exception to a hard screen that included an elbow to the jaw. He eventually was joined by teammate Brandon Jennings and Boston’s Terry Rozier, who seemed on the verge of blows during a 60-second span in the fourth quarter when they received a pair of double technicals for excessive yapping and menacing behavior.
The night sparked memories of playoff basketball in the 1980s, when the term “flagrant foul” was redundant. The physical nature of the first two games was ratcheted up several notches, except this time the Wizards were the aggressors. Bad blood was on full display for two teams that … well, let the superstar point guards explain.
“We don’t like them and they don’t like us,” Boston’s Isaiah Thomas said after being held to 13 points and abused in the paint on several possessions.
“We’re just two teams that really don’t like each other,” John Wall said after notching 24 points and eight assists. “As long as guys out there are not trying to hurt each other. Nothing blatant, just some hard fouls like you used to see in the old days in the playoffs.
Despite being in an 0-2 hole as Washington returned home, Brooks was upbeat. The Wizards had two shots to win at the end of Game 2 and played well enough to win Game 1 as well. They had opened big leads on Boston in each contest before letting them slip away.
“It wasn’t the end of the world,” Brooks said. “We knew we could beat this team. We’ve beaten them many times in this building.”
Everything clicked Thursday. They crowded Thomas and contested Boston’s three-point shooters. They doubled the Celtics’ points in the paint, outscoring the visitors 56-28. They out-rebounded Boston (50-38) and took care of the ball (nine turnovers compared to Boston’s 16).
They got significant contributions from Otto Porter Jr. (19 points after a pre-game pep talk from former Georgetown coach John Thompson II), Bojan Bogdanovic (19 points off the bench) and Marcin Gortat (13 points and 16 rebounds).
Most of all, they set the tone and maintained it all night, using a 17-0 first-quarter run to effectively put the game away. Boston trailed by at least 19 points throughout the second half. The Wizards might not enjoy whipping any other team as much.
“We are similar in a lot of ways,” Beal said. “They are passionate about themselves and passionate about their team. They’re young, we’re young and we’re two up-and-rising teams in the East. Right now, one of us has to die.
Olynyk would’ve died last night if looks could kill. Oubre was incensed after being leveled by the screen. Olynyk was called for the foul but he wasn’t called for one earlier that Oubre didn’t appreciate. The second-year player was near tears – the rage kind – when he got and charged. You knew right away he’d be ejected and you can only hope he’s not suspended as well.
“When you get hit in the head a few times you might respond that way,” Brooks said. “I’m saying that’s the right thing to do. We have to control our emotions and let the referees make those calls.”
Sunday’s game undoubtedly will be called a little tighter. Thomas suggested that the refs let matters get out of hand. Stevens said it without saying it. Neither team wants to risk another player being ejected or perhaps suspended.
As long as dirty play isn’t involved, it’s refreshing to see two teams that aren’t fond of one another. I understand that today’s athletes are different, friendlier and more connected with opponents than in the past. But there’s nothing wrong with some good old-fashioned dislike on the court if it stays there.
“We just want to make sure that we just play basketball,” Brooks said. “When you play in the playoffs and you’re fighting for something special, you’re going to play with passion and I have no complaints on either team if they’re playing with passion and within the rules.”
Passion won’t be a problem with these two teams. Whoever controls it better and uses it their advantage will have the edge. The Wizards must figure out how to pull off the feat in Boston, at least once.
— Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.