Celtics

Bradley Beal 'wouldn't call it a rivalry' between Celtics and Wizards

Bradley Beal 'wouldn't call it a rivalry' between Celtics and Wizards

BOSTON –  In what will be the fourth and final matchup between Boston and Washington tonight, the narrative for most of this season has been about how much these two teams don’t like each other.

It sounds like a rivalry in the making, although at least one member of the Wizards’ core doesn’t see it that way.

When asked if this was a good rivalry, Wizards guard Bradley Beal said, “I don't know. I wouldn't call it a rivalry. It's two teams competing their butts off. We're neck and neck right now. It's a matter of who wants it the most.”

The Celtics (44-26) have the second-best record in the East, with the Wizards (42-27) just 1.5 games behind them.

Washington leads the head-to-head series two games to one, so the significance of tonight’s game can not be stated enough.

Because of that, it’s likely to be a hard-fought, feisty battle with tempers at times getting the best of players on both sidelines.

“It’s always gonna get chippy,” Beal told reporters. “It's always gonna be physical but that's not the type of game we're trying to make it. That's not the type of team that we are. We're clean. We try to play hard, keep it clean and try to come out with a win at the end of the day and they try to do the same so I don't call it a rivalry. It is what it is. People gonna hype it up but we just come out and try to get a win.”

That may be true, but there’s no mistaking that what we’ve seen between these two teams this season isn’t your run-of-the-mill matchups, with the competitive juices flowing more heavily than normal.

In Boston’s 117-108 win over Washington on Jan. 11, Jae Crowder and John Wall had a heated verbal exchange after the game that ultimately had Crowder putting his index finger on Wall’s nose which prompted a response from Wall as both players were soon separated before any punches were thrown.

Both players received league fines for their roles in the incident.

When the two met 13 days later in Washington, all of the Wizards players came to the game donning all-black clothing, a symbol of what they talked candidly about what was going to be a funeral-like night for the Celtics.

They backed up the talk by burying the Celtics 123-108 in a game that wasn’t that close.

“We both want to win,” Beal said. “We're both competitors. We're both tough teams. We don't take nothing from nobody so we stand on what we believe in and if you're not on our team, you're definitely against us and they feel the same way.”

But more than anything, this game is about potential playoff positioning.

Boston and Washington have separated themselves as the second and third-best teams in the East. So whichever squad comes out as the No. 2 seed, would have home court advantage in case they met in the second round of the playoffs.

And as we’ve seen thus far, the home team has won every game this season.

“I just think it’s a very important game,” Wall told reporters. “They're a whole game and a half ahead of us. Their team is trying to find a rhythm the same way we are since All-Star break. We've kinda both been up and down. We know what type of game it could be. A physical game, a very important game. We know we already beat them twice at home and they came here and beat us here so just try to find a way to try to win the season's series so you never know if you're gonna meet up with this team in the playoffs. They got a great team, a great coaching staff, some great players and a superstar in Isaiah (Thomas) and the guys, everybody else they know their role and it'll be a tough match up. I just feel like we got to come out and play defense and we'll be fine.”

And as far as doing anything special prior to the game like they did with the all-black attire in January … “Nah,” Wall said. “Just going out here and trying to play a basketball game and try to come away with a road win against a tough team.”

Marcus Smart upgrade to questionable for Game 5

Marcus Smart upgrade 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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