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Celtics stay on top of Wizards defeating conference rivals 110-102

The luck of the Irish overcame the dark magic of the Wizards in this must-win matchup between two of the best teams in the East.

Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In a must-win matchup that was both a possible playoff preview and a battle for the second-seed in the East the home crowd was rippling with anticipation as the rivalrous showdown began. Both teams started with intense energy on both ends of the floor, challenging each other on every possession. The result was a closely contested quarter where each side struggled to gain advantage.

The energy in the building turned to outright anger as the returning Isaiah Thomas picked up an early technical foul and Washington saw their lead increase. But as Washington took the early advantage and the crowd was silenced the Celtics had to figure out a way to answer back.

The answer came not from Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford but from Boston’s backup combo of Avery Bradley and Amir Johnson, who both played with passion in the opening bracket and helped to even up the scoreline.

Isaiah seemed a step slow in his early play, clearly still recovering, while Washington’s guards didn’t seem to have any issues.

Throwing everything he could at this Washington team, Brad Stevens went deep into his rotations early, subbing in Tyler Zeller, Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk and Jaylen Brown all in the opening quarter. Of the group Tyler Zeller was the surprise standout, scoring some buckets and pulling down boards with efficiency.

As the quarter ended Bradley sunk another quick shot, giving himself 11 for the quarter and leading all scorers, while the Celtics took a two-point lead to the break in front 30-28.

The Wizards came into the second quarter firing on all cylinders and quickly eroded the Celtics slim lead and took a two-point lead of their own. Unimpressed Stevens called a timeout to regroup and sent in young guns Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown who quickly turned around the game with their youthful exuberance.

A rough altercation between Rozier and Jennings led to a questionable double technical foul call at the mid-point of the quarter but only after a lengthy review gave the players a substantial break. The rest seemed to favour the Celtics who came back shooting and took a two-possession lead for the first time in the game.

Building on their lead from there on the back of some solid rebounding the Celtics went on a short scoring run to take a double-digit lead as the second quarter drew to a close. The last minutes of the quarter saw both teams play with urgency but it was Boston who were able to capitalise and maintain their lead.

Finishing the half in front the Celtics led the Wizards at the halftime break 58-47 after a strong half of good all-around team play. 10 of 11 Celtics who saw minutes managed to score with the team utilising a wide array of shooting options. Bradley finished the half with 14 points, Crowder had 10 Thomas had 9 and Horford had 8 and the Celtics almost doubled the Wizards’ rebounding total with 31 rebounds to Washington’s 16.

Maintaining their intensity through the break the Celtics stormed into the second half with some solid scoring and equally efficient defense. Within minutes the Celtics extended their lead by continuing to share the ball and cycling through scoring options.

Avery continued to excel by shooting lights-out and pulling down every available board, leading all scorers and all rebounders at the midpoint of the third quarter.

Jae Crowder put in an outstanding defensive performance, in one sequence stealing the ball twice in a row and then battling his way to the line for some free-throws.

Play became increasingly physical as the game continued and both teams showed a fair amount of dissatisfaction with the officiating staff. But Boston stayed in front throughout the third quarter with the chippy play only allowing Washington to slightly chip away at the lead.

But the Celtics maintained good positioning and finished strong off of the back of well co-ordinated team-play.

More fouls were issued on both ends of the floor, with Marcus Smart of the Celtics picking up the team’s fourth technical. Luckily the Celtics were able to convert at the line for the most part when given the opportunity.

Isaiah, in particular, found his form in the third, scoring 12 points and upping his total to 21 for the game overtaking Avery as the Celtics leading scorer with a buzzer-beating tip-in.

The third quarter ended with the Celtics clearly in control leading their conference rivals by a solid margin of 92-75.

The fourth saw the Celtics closing out the game cautiously, doing their best not to drop the lead they had worked so hard to get. But Boston’s caution struggled to match Washington’s passion as the Wizards worked their way back into the game.

What was looking like a blowout reverted to being a closely contested matchup as the final minutes saw play intensify dramatically. Yet despite Washington’s resurgence the Celtics were able to close out on top.

Marcus Smart sealed the deal on the game with some strong defensive play and a late game cobra clutch style steal effectively creating a 4-point swing in the game’s final minutes and propelling the Celtics back to a 10-point lead.

Standout play from the starting linuep, who saw extra minutes in this all-important contest, allowed Boston to overcome the Wizards’ attempt to move up the standings. Dominating the glass and defending as a team gave Boston the advantage throughout the game and allowed them to finish on top of their close conference rivals 110-102.