John Wall has been establishing himself as one of the league's best playmakers for a few years now. Despite a slow start to 2015-16 he came into Saturday's game at the forefront of four straight Wizards wins. He maintained that dominance against the Celtics; but 36 points, 13 assists, and 7 steals wasn't enough to overpower Boston's excellent late game execution.
On the second leg of a back-to-back Wall led Washington against a Celtics team hot off their 117-103 beatdown of the Suns the night before. During that time he was pouring 28 points and eight assists on Indiana in a win for his team as well.
The C's came away with a 119-117 win in one of their most thrilling games of the season, as Wall's lay-up at the buzzer in response to Crowder's bucket inside off a timeout rimmed out.
Isaiah Thomas was fixated in a duel with Wall all night long, contributing 32 points and five assists of his own. Elsewhere the Celtics got 22 from Crowder, including what ended up being the game winner in the paint.
In similar fashion to Wednesday, C's jumped out to a 5-0 lead in their home whites, targeting their opponents in ugly red alternates inside the paint. Wizards would jump back into it before a back-and-forth shooting fest left the game at 13-9. Isaiah scored six of Boston's first 13, while Washington pushed the pace on the other end.
Wizards would go on a 16-10 run after the early deficit, seven of which came on the fast break, behind strong the strong guard play of Wall and Temple against the C's perimeter defense. Cutting, running, and creating; Wall found his teammates time and time again with five early assists, including an inside dish to Kelly Oubre Jr. that pushed D.C. ahead 19-17.
As the Wizards forced three turnovers in a matter of minutes, the pace kept increasing and the Celtics were taking the "D" out of Washington D.C., allowing their opponents to penetrate and pass with ease.
After their 5/6 start from the field, the C's hit just two of their next eight field goal attempts as their offense deteriorated under an array of turnovers. Washington's run extended to 28-15 and the C's registered just one point from the 4:41 to 1:24 mark.
At the end of the first Boston found themselves trailing 31-24. Washington's use of picks kept gradually bringing them closer to the basket on possession after possession with most of their baskets coming in or just outside the paint,
With Boston the second with Marcus Smart, Evan Turner, Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, and Tyler Zeller to pick up their pace, the Wizards scored seven behind the helpful inside push of Nene in the first three minutes.
But the entry of Smart began to yield some results. He would score six of Boston's eight points midway through the quarter while holding Washington to just two baskets from 9:49 to 5:55. Showing the assertiveness the team badly needed, his play helped bring the team within five points, scoring eight in his first 12 minutes on the court.
Past the four minute mark the pace picked up, as the Celtics got lay-ins from Crowder and Turner before Crowder came back to hit a three that Isaiah responded to with one of his own. But Washington kept up their scoring as well, with Wall pouring in six points in three minutes along with a three from Jared Dudley. The two teams played to a 13-13 tie before in the final 3:49, which was enough to maintain the Wizard's seven point lead at the half 61-54. Wall's stunning 18 point, six assist, four steal half was the difference.
Out of halftime, Dudley hit a three to extend Washington's lead to 10, but lit a fire under the Celtics. Breaking off for nine straight points from Bradley, Sullinger, Thomas, and Crowder off an I.T. steal; they drew within one point just three minutes in.
Wall would break up a 14-0 Celtics run with four straight and a steal to nod it up at 68 with 6:50 to go. Washington hadn't scored from 11:26 to 7:48, but that 7-0 run in the aftermath by the Wizards put them back up three in a hurry. By this point the game became one of swings largely dictated by how Wall was performing. Playing even at 8-8 to the three minute mark, the Celtics watched as Sullinger went to the bench with five fouls.
Inserting Olynyk helped the C's draw within three as he hit a jumper and Smart converted his shots on a three-point foul. Wall came back with a bucket, but Turner's floater at the buzzer cut the Wizards' lead to 86-83 at the start the fourth.
Entering the final frame with Smart, Bradley, Turner, Jonas Jerebko, and Olynyk boosted the C's to a 8-4 start and they drew ahead 91-90. But every Wall dagger from mid-range was a painful reminder of how unstable Boston's leads were.
With a snap of a finger it was gone again as Ramon Sessions hit two free throws and the 15th Celtics turnover was driven the other way by Wall for a vicious slam dunk and his 30th point. A possession later, he found Sessions for three and D.C led 97-93.
Scoring on three of their next four possessions, the Wizards maintained the pace they had been setting on the game while Crowder and Thomas tried desperately to pull ahead. Washington led 104-101 when Sullinger returned to the game, but he would last for less than a minute before picking up his sixth foul battling with Marcin Gortat.
After two straight stops, Amir Johnson got to the free throw line to give Boston a 105-104 lead, before Isaiah pushed them up three in the next possession. With 1:38 to go Isaiah hit a ridiculous fadeaway to push Boston up 111-106.
All the while Wall had been held scoreless since the 8:33 mark. But he returned with a vengeance with one minute to go, stealing his seventh ball of the night and bringing it back for a hard slam to propel the Wizards within one.
Coming back needing a bucket, Bradley heaved up a desperation three that Crowder got a hand on to tip out to Turner for a fresh 24. Out of the timeout Bradley set himself again and buried a three to make it 114-110 Celtics.
The next possession saw Wall attempt a three with Johnson in his face and draw a foul call, while Crowder got caught with contact from Nene underneath. No call was made on Nene and after Wall missed his first free throw Crowder was hit with a technical, giving Wall another one to make it 114-113.
In the ensuing scramble Isaiah and Wall each hit two at the line before the Wizards grabbed Johnson, who split his shots at the line. Crowder was called for a foul battling with Wall for the rebound. Temple went to the line and hit two free throws to tie it.
The Celtics had 13 seconds and orchestrated a masterpiece. Isaiah swung to Smart who lobbed the ball inside to Crowder who had all the positioning over Oubre. He laid it in, Wall missed a full-court drive to the rim at the buzzer, and the Celtics had their third straight win.
Up next for Boston is Dallas on Monday night.