Short-handed Wizards aim to even series vs. Celtics
WASHINGTON — The Washington Wizards turned up the physicality and turned in another strong start in their Game 3 win over the Boston Celtics Thursday night.
They hope to level the Eastern Conference playoff series at two victories apiece on Sunday despite being short-handed entering Game 4.
Wizards reserve Kelly Oubre Jr. was suspended one game, the NBA announced Saturday, “for charging and making forceful and unwarranted contact” with Celtics center Kelly Olynyk during the second quarter of Washington’s 116-89 rout. The Flagrant-2 foul along with eight technical fouls overshadowed a dominant performance by the Wizards on both ends of the court as they cut the Celtics’ series lead to 2-1.
Article continues below ...
John Wall scored 24 points for the Wizards, who took command with a 22-0 run in the first quarter.
Unlike their two losses in Boston, Washington didn’t lose its large margin. Instead the Wizards extended it as they led by 30 points in the second half. Yet it was their tone-setting start that turned the game.
Washington defended aggressively on Boston guard Isaiah Thomas, who scored 53 points in Tuesday’s 129-119 overtime win. With the series shifting to Washington, the 5-foot-9 Thomas found scant room to roam, finishing with 13 points on only eight field-goal attempts.
The venue may have changed but the animosity, which has built over two seasons, remained.
“I guess just two teams that really don’t like each other,” Wall said of the mutual intensity.
Whether the Wizards like it or not, they will play Sunday without Oubre, a key contributor off the bench. The second-year forward charged Olynyk moments after the Boston big man knocked him down with a hard pick. Whistled for a foul on the play, Olynyk was discussing the call with an official when Oubre ran his way.
“He should be suspended,” Thomas said Saturday following Boston’s practice on the campus of Georgetown University. “If you do that, that should be automatic. So we’re not really worried about him or what they’re doing. We’re worried about the Celtics right now.”
Wizards coach Scott Brooks praised the toughness his squad showed — Washington won the rebounding battle 50-38, held Boston to 35.1 percent shooting and doubled up the Celtics’ paint points 56-28 — but also emphasized cooler heads must prevail.
“I think we’ve got to control our emotions,” Brooks said after Game 3 in relation to Oubre’s aggression. “We can’t respond that way. … When you keep getting hit in the head you might respond that way, and I think that’s what he did. I’m not saying that was the right thing to do. We have to focus on playing basketball; we can’t control what they’re doing.”
What the Wizards did to Thomas was two-fold.
Defensively, Washington sent several players at the All-Star guard. Unlike in the opening two games, those players kept Thomas from finding a rhythm and Boston’s attack suffered.
Offensively, the Wizards didn’t let Boston hide Thomas especially when he guarded bigger players like 6-8 Otto Porter.
“We watched a lot of film and just tried to figure out how we can make adjustments,” said Porter, who had made his first seven field-goal attempts and scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half. “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.”
Boston had two days between games to come with a counter that allows the East’s No. 1 seed to return home with a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.
“We’ll make adjustments as a team,” said Thomas, who is playing with a heavy heart following the death of his younger sister last month. “I’ll watch film (and) make adjustments. … and see where I can pick them apart.”
Washington will be without Oubre, who averaged 6.3 points and 20.3 minutes in the regular season.
“It’s the consequence for my actions,” Oubre said Saturday, according to CSNmidatlantic.com. “Right now, just looking forward to the next game I’m able to play.”
His absence means more playing time for Porter and Bojan Bogdanovic, who had 19 points and four 3-pointers in Game 3.
“We have to take advantage of them having a guy down,” Celtics starter Jae Crowder said. “Their second unit is going to be finding themselves a little bit without him, so we just have to capitalize.”