WASHINGTON -- It's been well-established by now that these two teams don’t like each other.
The Washington Wizards see the Boston Celtics as a talented team with a bunch of wannabe bullies who play dirty. Boston’s players have a similar perspective on the Wizards.
And that’s why this series has been, and will continue to be, extremely testy.
You have two teams that aren’t the same, but in so many ways are mirror images of one another.
They are part of the come-up group: Teams that know they aren’t title contenders right now with Cleveland still sitting atop the East, but are steadily putting the pieces in place to be there sooner rather than later.
That’s why this series has been so feisty.
They aren’t just playing to win a game or move on to the next round. The foundation for what both believe will be a title run in the coming years is being laid right now.
Whichever team moves on to the Conference finals does so with the knowledge they'll be heavily favored to get bounced in four or five games by the defending champion Cavs.
And if that happens, that’s okay. Because for both franchises, getting to the conference finals will be a tremendous step in the right direction.
And for the loser of this series, it will raise many questions as to what the next step in their overall growth should be.
The Celtics have built this team primarily behind smart trades (Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder), draft picks with tremendous upside (Avery Bradley, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart) and the addition of key free agents (Al Horford, Gerald Green).
But can they continue to take the steady-as-she-goes route, or do they need to flip some of these young veterans -- and draft picks -- for an established superstar?
Danny Ainge has made no secret about wanting to add a proven All-Star sooner rather than later. But to this point he's been rebuffed by the likes of Chicago and Indiana, who weren’t willing to part with stars like Jimmy Butler and Paul George, respectively.
Washington has a pair of proven stars-on-the-rise in John Wall and Bradley Beal. Otto Porter Jr. has shown tremendous growth among their young pool of players, which also includes Kelly Oubre Jr. and Markieff Morris. The Wizards have strength in the middle with Marcin Gortat and, when healthy, Ian Mahinmi.
And like Boston, they too don’t have a clear direction if they fall short in this series.
Do you look to package some of that young talent and add a third All-Star-caliber talent to the mix? Or do you let your young players grow and develop, hoping their learning curve will be a speedy one?
These are the questions that both teams in some form will face in the near future.
For one of them, that future will be soon after this playoff series ends.
To this point, Washington has been the better team overall in terms of controlling the action. That's evident by the Wizards leading for 112 minutes, 12 seconds, compared to the 26 minutes and 49 seconds that Boston has led. Another 10 minutes, 59 seconds have been spent tied.
But Boston has shown a mental toughness for the most part in this series that the Wizards lacked, at least at the TD Garden.
And so as we trudge along in this physical, hard-played series, it remains to be seen if Washington’s talent can overcome Boston’s grit and determination, which carried the Celtics to victory in Games 1 and 2.
No one knows how this will all play out. But we do know one thing.
There is a mutual disdain among both teams that’s resulting in tempers flaring and technical fouls being tossed out like Halloween candy.
Which has made this a hell of series that’s only going to get better going forward.