The Washington Wizards received a lot of attention for their decision to wear all black to Tuesday night’s home game against the Boston Celtics, and not because everyone thought it was supremely badass and cool. In simple terms, taking the funereal approach to a January contest against the No. 3 team in the East only looked warranted to the Wizards and their most intense fans. The minor tussle between the teams that followed Boston’s January 11 win — complete with Jae Crowder’s nose-booping of John Wall — was certainly notable and added to a prior history of bad blood, but it didn’t exactly seem to require a full-scale feud. Better to leave those extreme actions for the playoffs.
Whatever the rationale for the Wizards’ blackout, it was hard to argue with the results. Washington controlled the night from start to finish, opening up a 33-24 lead after one quarter and maintaining a similar margin throughout on the way to an impressive 123-108 win. The majority of the Wizards’ success came at the offensive end, where they shot 57.8 percent from the field and 45 percent from deep (9-of-20) with four starters scoring at least 16 points. The scoring also came consistently, with three quarters of at least 32 points and none with fewer than 25.
As in so many other games over the past few weeks, the bulk of the damage came from the Wizards’ backcourt stars. Shooting guard Bradley Beal was especially impressive, scoring 31 points on 12-of-18 shooting with five assists and several highlight-reel plays in the fourth quarter. Beal also didn’t just get hot from beyond the arc — he went just 2-of-5 on threes and succeeded most in transition and made five of his field goals inside of 10 feet.
Point guard John Wall, a near-certain All-Star selection when reserves are announced Thursday, was not far off. He posted 27 points (11-of-20 FG), seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals in the kind of performance that’s becoming typical for the 26-year-old. Now in his sevneth season, Wall looks every bit the franchise-changing talent he was touted as when Washington selected him first-overall in 2010.
Yet the Wizards have been about far more than their two best players in turning around a 6-12 start with a 19-8 run. In addition to boasting a top-10 offense, the Washington defense has been above-average following a dismal opening to the season:
— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) January 25, 2017
That improved defense showed up on Tuesday, especially in defending Celtics star Isaiah Thomas. The diminutive scorer put up 25 points but needed 19 field-goal attempts to get there, a reasonable trade-off for an opponent looking to contain one of the hottest players in the league. The Celtics succeeded in shooting better than 45 percent from the field but could not match the consistency of the Wizards’ attack.
Of course, that discrepancy could have occurred because the Wizards were lucky enough to face the struggling Celtics defense. With no rim protection and top perimeter defender Avery Bradley having played just two games since December 30, Boston has put forward one of the worst defenses in the league:
— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) January 25, 2017
The offensive excellence of Thomas has papered over some of those problems, but the underlying issues were exposed on Tuesday. Simply put, the Wizards scored too easily and faced few challenges in crunch time. The Celtics didn’t pose a worthy challenge.
Perhaps the Wizards just came into the game with more intensity. After all, the Celtics only got their noses booped in this fantastic piece of work:
However, the Celtics did leave the Verizon Center with some serious anger. Guard Marcus Smart got very upset on the bench late when he was not subbed back in:
Frustrated Marcus Smart exchanges heated words w/ Celtics coaches as Wizards finish off The Funeral victory… pic.twitter.com/tu2u4cP5Yx
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) January 25, 2017
For what it’s worth, Smart apologized on social media later in the night:
It remains unclear if Smart was also the Celtic who punched a hole in the visiting locker room wall:
— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) January 25, 2017
Maybe both teams will go with the blackout when they meet for the final time this regular season on March 20 in D.C. Based on Tuesday’s result, the Celtics could use an extra edge.
– – – – – – –