WASHINGTON -- In Boston’s first-round series with Chicago, the Celtics caught an unexpected break when Rajon Rondo suffered a fractured right thumb in Game 2 and was out the rest of the way.
Washington’s Kelly Oubre Jr. won’t be gone nearly as long. He'll miss just one game, a suspension for his hard shove of Kelly Olynyk in the Wizards' resounding Game 3 victory on Thursday.
But in a series in which the home team has won every game, not having Oubre Jr. could indeed become one of those little things the Celtics can use to their advantage tonight in Game 4.
“The league did what it had to do,” said Jae Crowder, referring to Oubre Jr.’s suspension. “I feel he does help those guys a lot, especially off the bench. He brings a lot of energy. We have to take advantage of them having a guy down. That second unit is going to try and find themselves a little bit, without his energy. We have to capitalize.”
Isaiah Thomas has a different take on Oubre Jr. not being on the floor tonight.
“We’re not really worried about him or what they’re doing,” said the C's All-Star guard. “We’re just, we’re worried about the Celtics right now.”
And he should be, considering how the Wizards have outplayed them most of the way despite Boston holding a 2-1 series lead.
In the three games thus far, Washington has played with a lead for 112 minutes and 12 seconds. Boston has been out front for just 26 minutes and 49 seconds. The remaining 10 minutes and 59 seconds spent tied up.
For the Celtics to get a firmer grip on this series, they have to find a way to start games better.
Washington has averaged 39.7 points scored in the first quarter of this series, and has held an average lead of 16.3 points after the first.
Game 3 was the worst of all for the Celtics, as the Wizards had a decisive 39-17 lead after the first and coasted to a 116-89 victory.
Suffice to say, Boston has a wide spectrum of areas to improve upon at the start of tonight’s game.
“I don’t think it’s as easy as saying one or two things,” said coach Brad Stevens. “[The Wizards] were terrific defensively, forcing turnovers, getting out and running. They’ve rebounded almost fifty percent of their shots in the first quarter against us. Tremendous; they’ve really been great.”
Said Crowder: “We went back to turning the ball over early in the game. They capitalized on it. That’s what they do; they get out and run. If we take good shots and take care of the ball, we can control the runs, the transition points. I just feel we take that out of the game, we give ourselves a chance to be strong coming out of the first quarter.”
Which would give the Celtics the best chance possible to emerge with a victory, something no team has been able to do thus far in the playoffs against the Wizards on their home court.