In the first round, it wasn’t a series until the road team won. In the second round, the opposite is holding true. The Wizards returned to their dominant Verizon Center form to humiliate the Celtics 116-89 and narrow the series to a 2-1 Celtics lead.
The Wizards took advantage of Celtics mismatches in the paint and completely destroyed them, targeting the Isaiah Thomas mismatch on Otto Porter Jr. to basically walk into a 25-point lead. The Wizards went on a 22-0 run in the first quarter to establish a blowout and hung tight the rest of the way. Porter hit his first seven field goals, taking Thomas onto the block and hitting fading jumpers from the middle of the paint effortlessly.
The Wizards ended up destroying the Celtics in the paint 56-28, with an impressive 82.2 defensive rebound percentage and a 30.2 offensive rebound percentage.
The tension that built in the first two games boiled over Thursday. The stench of blood was palpable when Jonas Jerebko and Ian Mahinmi enjoyed a combative snuggle session that ended with some sweet nothings.
Jerebko and Mahinmi getting into it— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) May 5, 2017
Fan calling Jerebko "a bum" pic.twitter.com/un7wP6vFmB
The train derailed starting with Kelly Oubre losing his mind and shoving Kelly Olynyk through a separation by referee Monty McCutchen, earning a flagrant-two ejection and a possible suspension for Game 4.
“If you keep getting hit in the head, you might respond that way,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said in his post-game press conference.
“We don’t like them and they don’t like us,” Thomas said. “Whatever bad blood we’ve had in the season is carrying over to the playoffs.”’
John Wall repeated the same sentiment, saying the teams really don’t like each other, but it’s important that guys are not trying to hurt each other and just play physical basketball.
But eventually, after several head-on collisions, things finally fell apart. In the fourth quarter, Brandon Jennings and Terry Rozier got frisky for a few plays, eventually ending in multiple technicals and bizarre ejections for both players.
Even Brad Stevens was hit with a rare technical.
"I strongly disagree with your assessment of this situation! Expect a strongly worded letter to your manager!!" pic.twitter.com/ZQuDjljxRa— John Karalis (@RedsArmy_John) May 5, 2017
Ironically, Marcin Gortat said after the game that it was the Celtics who were the instigators.
There was also some basketball played in between the eight technicals called in Game 3. The Celtics put Thomas on Porter, and that didn’t work out quite well. The Wizards tried using Thomas’s man as a screener in the first two games and that didn’t work frequently enough. They tried occasionally setting up high post-ups and that had diminishing returns.
But Game 3 saw Washington using creative slip screens and other maneuvers to post Porter on the low block on Thomas. Thomas is strong enough to prevent many players from backing him down too far, but that has no effect when he’s already in the paint. Porter would work a dribble to the middle and hit fadeaway after fadeaway to expand the Washington lead. By the time Stevens made adjustments, it was too late.
With Gerald Green back in the lineup, Marcin Gortat had a field day as well. When Al Horford would shade off him to help IT with a soft double team on the post, Gortat would have free rolls to the rim. John Wall was clicking perfectly and would hit Gortat on the money.
“If they go small, I have to dominate,” Gortat told reporters. “I have to dominate the paint.
Dominate they did.
Stevens: “They set the tone. 1-12 or 13 or however many people played on both teams. Hats off to them.” #Celtics— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) May 5, 2017
This game had everything, from mismatch post-ups to multiple ejections to legendary flops committed by human beings not named Marcus Smart.
Three angles of Bradley Beal's picturesque flop pic.twitter.com/qOYwBcERL9— Kelly Woubre Jr. (@World_Wide_Wob) May 5, 2017
Stevens implored his team to chip back with an eye toward winning this series, rather than the game.
“Games like this, you find out what you can take with you, right?” Stevens said in the huddle as shown on the ESPN game broadcast. “So, no matter what, we come all the way back and get over the top? That’s great. But we’re taking something from this quarter to apply to Sunday regardless. Play the right way all the way through.”
But they were completely defeated both emotionally and physically. Stevens came out of it with his hands up in despair, admitting everyone failed and then doing his best Marshawn Lynch impersonation for the rest of his presser.
Reporter asks if he needs to address team keeping emotions in check:— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) May 5, 2017
Stevens: “That’s a good question………….They played well." https://t.co/dZ1tF7Cqro
Gerald Green got the message.
“We gonna beat they a** in Game 4,” he told reporters.
It’s a game that will put the Celtics’ backs against the wall, even if they maintain the series lead. They are up 2-1, but the Wizards reminded Boston that while they had a mediocre road record, they dominate at home, with the second-biggest win differential between home and the road in the NBA this year.