Celtics

30 teams in 30 days: Can Wall, Wizards take the next step?

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30 teams in 30 days: Can Wall, Wizards take the next step?

The Washington Wizards were among the big spenders this offseason, choosing to reward its own rather than try and lure high-level talent from other franchises. 

That’s why despite having a team that on paper should be among the best in the East this season, you hear little about the Wizards being among the best in the Eastern Conference with most of the talk centering around Cleveland and Boston.

Now that’s understandable considering they were the last two teams standing last season in the East, and the two were involved in arguably the biggest offseason trade having just completed a four-player swap centered around Kyrie Irving coming to Boston while Isaiah Thomas was headed to Cleveland. 

While both Cleveland and Boston have tremendous talent, the one concern for both is chemistry – something the Wizards have down to a science now. 

By matching the four-year, $106 million offer sheet Brooklyn presented to Otto Porter Jr., Washington returns its starting five from a year ago as well as eight of its top nine players. 

And remember, they finished the second half of the season with a 27-14 record which ranked among the best records in the NBA over the final 41 games of the season.

That kind of success plus a strong showing in the playoffs, is reason enough for the Wizards to believe that they can pick up where they left off last season and be one of the top teams in the East. 

Leading that charge will be Wall, who seems to be overlooked at times when talking about the best point guards in the NBA despite being a four-time all-star. 

The Wizards certainly showed him lots of love with a four-year, $170 million extension that will take effect beginning in 2019.

Wall, who averaged a double-double of 23.1 points and 10.7 assists per game last season, believes he’s more than just one of the better playmakers in the NBA.

“I’m the best two-way point guard in the league,” he told Ballislife.com following a workout at the University of Miami this summer that included teammate Kelly Oubre Jr. as well as Cleveland’s LeBron James.

And while James and the Cavs are the standard all teams in the East are measured against, Wall is confident in himself as well as his teammates that their time to be among the elite teams in the East, is now.

“He’s LeBron James; that’s big brother to me,” Wall said. “But I’m working out with anybody like that, him, Kevin Durant or whoever I’m with, I want to be better than them because whenever I step on the court I feel I’m the best player, no matter who you are. That’s just my mindset.”

 Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Tim Frazier (New Orleans); Jodie Meeks (Orlando); Mike Scott (Atlanta).

Key losses: Bojan Bogdanovic (Indiana).

Rookies of note: None.

Expectations: 51-31 (First in the Central Division, 3rd in the East)

Marcus Smart upgraded to questionable for Game 5

Marcus Smart upgraded to questionable for Game 5

BOSTON –  Once considered a long shot to return by Game 7 of Boston’s first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks, Marcus Smart may be on the floor as soon as Tuesday night's Game 5 matchup.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said there was no update on Smart following the team’s practice on Monday, but the team has since upgraded Smart's status to “questionable” for Game 5 – the first time he has been listed as anything other than “out” since he had his right thumb surgically repaired last month.

In the past couple of weeks, Smart has increased his workload and made it clear that he was inching closer to getting back on the floor possibly ahead of schedule. 

Prior to Boston’s Game 4 loss, Smart discussed his potential return. 

“I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there,” Smart said at the time. “I’m just waiting for the OK.”

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It appears his most recent visit to the doctor went as planned with Smart now likely cleared to practice – and with that clearance, available to play. 

The return of Smart would be a huge plus for a Celtics team that has struggled mightily in this first-round series against Milwaukee from a defensive standpoint. 

During the regular season, Boston had a league-best defensive rating of 101.5. But against the Bucks, Boston’s defense has slipped to second-to-last among playoff teams which has heavily factored into the series now being tied at two games apiece. 

You can count Boston's Jaylen Brown among the Celtics eager to get Smart back into the fold. 

“When he gets in there he changes the whole game on defense,” Brown said. “He’s definitely missed so when he comes back that’ll make a lot of our jobs a whole lot easier.”

Stevens had similar sentiments about Smart. 

“Marcus is one of our most reliable players for the last four years,” Stevens said. “No question Marcus as been a huge part of us.”

Smart has appeared in 54 games for the Celtics this season, averaging 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds while playing 29.9 minutes per game.

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Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

BOSTON -- The NBA’s two-minute report on Boston’s Game 4 loss at Milwaukee revealed a trio of incorrect non-calls in the closing moments of play, two of which went against the Celtics in their 104-102 loss. 

With Boston ahead 100-99 with less than a minute to play, Jaylen Brown lost the ball on a driving lay-up attempt. 

No call was made on the play, one that Brown thought he was fouled on. 

The two-minute report confirmed “that (Khris) Middleton makes contact to Brown's arm that affects his driving shot attempt.”

Had the call been made, Brown would have gone to the free throw line with 43.5 seconds to play with the Celtics already ahead by one point. 

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But on the ensuing Milwaukee possession following the non-call, Malcolm Brogdon drained a 3-pointer that put the Bucks ahead 102-100.

With 47.9 seconds to play, the two-minute report also indicated that an offensive foul should have been called against Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-minute report indicated that, “Antetokounmpo extends his arm and wards off (Semi) Ojeleye's arm, affecting his ability to contest the shot attempt.”

And with 1:14 to play, Antetokounmpo was fouled by Jayson Tatum although no call was made. On the play, the two-minute report says that, “Tatum clamps Antetokounmpo's arm and pushes him, affecting his (freedom of movement) and ability to receive the pass.

On the ensuing possession following the non-call, Tatum hit a jumper that put the Celtics ahead 100-99 with 52.4 seconds to play. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been asked about officiating quite a bit in the last few days. And his response in each instance remains relatively the same.

"I'm not going to ever say anything bad about referees because they have a really tough job," Stevens said. 

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