Desperate Wizards say it's time to out-physical Celtics

Desperate Wizards say it's time to out-physical Celtics

WASHINGTON – Before this Boston-Washington series began, Celtics players talked about the need to be the aggressor, to play a more physical brand of basketball.
Two games into this series, both wins by Boston, that physicality they spoke of has indeed been the difference.
And if you didn’t know already, then you haven’t been listening at all to the Washington Wizards.
They come into tonight’s Game 3 matchup in desperate need of a victory to get back into this series, one in which they have played well but not well enough to win.
“Gotta win Game 3. That’s the most important game right now for us,” said Washington’s John Wall, who did not participate in the team’s shoot-around on Thursday morning due to a sore left wrist and right ankle that he said will not prevent him from suiting up tonight. “They have the series lead. They took care of home court. We have to be the more physical team in the last five minutes of the game. That last five-minute stretch, they’ve been the more physical team, getting offensive rebounds, attacking, getting to the free throw line. That’s something we didn’t do.”
While they collectively understand that increased physical play is part of the playoffs, they contend that the Celtics might go a bit too far and might be getting away with fouls that are not being called.
“That was my mindset in Game 2. You’re not going to get too many calls, so just play through it,” Wall said. “And try to finish plays, don’t look for the contact. Just try and play through it. One thing I can say is, they’re being more physical than our team. They’re not giving up easy lay-ups the way our team than we have. We have to bring a different approach.
He added, “It’s not trying to injure anybody. But play physical and smart basketball.”
Well here’s the thing.
In Game 1, Boston was called for 25 personal fouls compared to just 14 committed by the Wizards, which, not surprisingly, meant more trips to the free throw line for Washington (13-for-22) than the Celtics (12-for-15).
But in Game 2, the personal foul discrepancy was closer, with the Wizards being called for 29 while Boston committed 21.  And again, the team that committed more fouls sent the other team to the line more often with Boston going 26-for-34 from the line compared the Washington connecting on 17 of 22 free throws.
The fall-out after Washington’s Game 2 loss was Wizards coach Scott Brooks complaining about Boston’s physicality, and the fact that they were being a bit too rough on shooting guard Bradley Beal.
Beal double-downed on his coaches comments on Thursday afternoon, but added that he expected that from the Celtics having played them so many times this season.
“I get held coming off every screen; off pick-and-rolls I get held,” Beal said. “I get fouled a lot, but it’s the playoffs. You can’t complain about it. You can’t be passive. [We] can’t allow that to change our aggression. We have to push back, fight back; do whatever it takes. Sometimes we’ll be called for it. We have to put it in the ref’s hands a little bit.”


For the Wizards, part of that more aggressive game plan tonight will also involve being more physical, especially when it comes to defending Isaiah Thomas, who lit Washington up for a playoff career-high 53 points in Game 2.
“Deny him the ball a little bit, pressure him, get him to make somebody else make a play,” Beal said. “We know he’s a really good scorer; he’s capable of drawing a lot of fouls. We have to play smarter with him and get the ball out of his hands.”

WATCH: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans

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WATCH: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Pelicans in New Orleans. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 5:30  p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Pelicans preview: Can C's slow down Anthony Davis?

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Celtics-Pelicans preview: Can C's slow down Anthony Davis?

As the NBA trade deadline drew near, Celtics Nation was hoping tonight’s matchup between Boston and New Orleans would be Anthony Davis returning to where his pro career began.

He’s still with the Pelicans, doing what Davis has done for most of his career – dominate play.

But there’s a new twist now … he’s also winning. 

That’s why the 6-foot-10 Davis is no longer seen as a player that might be on the move anytime soon. 

He’s not just one of the league’s best players, but a bonafide MVP candidate whose stock as an elite player is even greater since New Orleans lost DeMarcus Cousins (ruptured Achilles tendon) for the season on Jan. 26. 

Since Cousins’ season-ending injury, New Orleans (39-30) has a 12-9 record with Davis averaging 31.1 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 2.3 steals per game in that span. 

Davis is also averaging 7.8 free throws per game which ranks fourth in the NBA, although you wouldn’t know he was among the league leaders in that category based on the postgame rant by his coach Alvin Gentry following New Orleans’ 107-101 loss to Houston on Saturday night. 

“A.D. (Anthony Davis) never gets a call,” a visibly angry Gentry told reporters following the loss. “He never gets a call. We talk about them holding him. We talk about them grabbing him on rolls. We talk about them coming under him on post-ups. He never gets a call; not one. And you know why? Because he doesn’t (bleep) complain about it. He just keeps playing the game.”

Regardless of how often he gets to the line, Davis is still putting up MVP-caliber numbers this season in Cousins’ absence. 

But it’s not like Davis’ stat line this season overall – 28.0 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.5 steals – didn’t stand out for all the right reasons, either.

However, Davis’ shine isn’t quite as bright now with the Pelicans losing four of their last five games which has dropped New Orleans (39-30) down to the eighth and final playoff spot and just 1.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers (37-31).

So, the Celtics come into town facing not only one of the better teams in the West, but a club that is absolutely starving for a win.

While Boston (47-22) certainly wants to come into the Big Easy and get a victory, its impact on the Celtics’ playoff hopes is non-existent. 

Boston has the second-best record in the East and trail Toronto (52-17) by five games with 13 remaining. They face the Raptors two more times this season, but even if they win both of those games and thus the head-to-head series, it likely won’t come into play because of Toronto likely finishing with the best record in the East. 

And behind Boston in the standings is Cleveland (40-29), another injury-riddled team that’s seven games behind the Celtics in the standing and has shown no signs of threatening to gain ground on Boston. 

So regardless of how the Celtics fare, it’s likely they will remain sandwiched between Toronto and Cleveland in terms of playoff seedings are concerned. 

And that might factor into who plays – and who doesn’t – for Boston in these final few games of the regular season. 

Boston’s Daniel Theis suffered a season-ending torn meniscus injury in his left knee, and Marcus Smart’s right thumb injury will keep him out for the rest of the regular season with the earliest he might be back being the latter stages of the first round of the playoffs, or sometime during the second round if the Celtics advance that far. 

Boston must also make sure Kyrie Irving and his sore left knee, are good to go for the playoffs. In addition, the Celtics must work Jaylen Brown back into the fold after he suffered a concussion that has kept him out of Boston’s last three games. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has made a point of not allowing himself or his players to use their injury situation as an excuse for not playing good basketball. 

But he knows good basketball for his injury-riddled roster, involves players elevating their play.

“We’re going to be in the process of really looking at ourselves and redistributing responsibility on our team without guys going outside of what they do best,” Stevens said, adding, “We’re going to have to figure out how to play our best basketball.”