May 2, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal (3) shoots defended by Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) during the fourth quarter in game two of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
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The Washington Wizards are down 0-2 returning to the Verizon Center this Thursday night. Here are three keys to getting a Game 3 victory.
The Washington Wizards entered the fourth quarter of Game 2 with a five-point lead over the Boston Celtics and looked to have things well in-hand. Then Isaiah Thomas happened, helping to send the game to overtime before leading Boston to a 129-119 victory in the extra frame. Thomas scored 29 of the Celtics’ final 45 points to end the game.
The Wizards scored 30 points as a team through the fourth quarter and overtime. They had no answer as Thomas went on to score a playoff career-high 53 points on what would have been his late sister’s 23rd birthday.
The Wizards led the game for much of the second half and were up 81-67 with 7:47 remaining in the third quarter. Point guard John Wall had 40 points, 13 assists, three steals and three blocks, which isn’t bad, but his counterpart Bradley Beal was a relative non-factor for much of the game.
Heading into a must-win Game 3, here are three adjustments the Wizards need to make to stay alive in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
May 2, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal (3) shoots guarded by Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas (4) during the first quarter in game two of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
3. Keep Bradley Beal engaged
Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal did finish with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists in Game 2, but he also had six turnovers and an abysmal shooting night. He made a lot of lackadaisical mistakes while shooting 4-of-15 from the field on the offensive end. To make matters worse, he was 1-for-9 from the three-point line.
The fifth-year guard has been a mixed bag next to stellar point guard John Wall in this year’s playoffs. The Wizards got through the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, but this series is more about strong guard play.
The Celtics won on their homecourt and hold the momentum currently, but the Wizards can still bounce back. They just need to get Beal out of his current slump. He is shooting just 27.5 percent from three in the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
Beal did have eight points for the Wizards in the fourth quarter, but he also had four turnovers. It was his worst shooting night from the floor (26.7 percent) in the playoffs. As the Wizards return home, Beal has to bury this game in the back of his memory.
May 2, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13) reacts during the first quarter in game two of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
2. Find their bench play
The Washington Wizards haven’t played terribly. Game 2 overall was an improvement before squandering a six-point lead in the closing minutes. On the bright side, they are 3-0 at home in this year’s NBA playoffs.
The Wizards just need their bench to wake up, or what’s left of it at least. They are still without center Ian Mahinmi, a player they could desperately use to clog the middle. Center Jason Smith is a bit banged up, as is forward Markieff Morris.
Forward Bojan Bogdanovic was 0-for-2 from the field in just eight minutes of play. Point guard Brandon Jennings was 0-for-2 in 12 minutes of work. The Celtics, on the other hand, had 33 bench points with guards Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier combining for 21 of those points.
The Wizards need to find their bench play, as the Celtics’ depth has dominated much of this series. In Game 2, the Celtics had 50 points in the paint, 21 second chance points and 21 fastbreak points, all totals higher than the Wizards.
When Wall and Beal go out, the bench will have to turn things up a bit or much like Game 2, the Wizards may find themselves out of gas once again.
May 2, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) reacts during the fourth quarter in game two of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
1. Match intensity or go home with another loss
Through two games, the Celtics have outplayed the Wizards as a whole, but stellar play with the Wizards starts with their dynamic backcourt. John Wall and Bradley Beal have to match the Celtics’ level of play.
The Washington Wizards’ other three starters finished Game 2 with double digits in scoring. Marcin Gortat had a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds). Otto Porter had 13 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
However, Wall and Beal took a combined 47 shots for the Wizards’ offense in Game 2. The strategy so far for Boston has been forcing the guards to take tough shots and as evidenced by the final shot in regulation, it’s worked to perfection.
Now is the time for Beal and Wall to start trusting their teammates on the court more. They combined for 11 turnovers in Game 1 and 10 turnovers in Game 2. The Celtics are a gritty team on defense, but so are the Wizards.
The guards need to step up, particularly on Isaiah Thomas on the defensive end, or their magical season could come to a halt very soon.
It didn’t help that both Gortat and Morris fouled out of the game either. Washington’s dynamic duo of Beal and Wall need to buckle down on defense and protect their bigs as they need them when things get tight.