BOSTON – The Boston Celtics struggled stopping Washington’s John Wall throughout most of Game 2 on Tuesday night.
Fortunately for them, their defense came alive when it mattered most as the Celtics rallied for a 129-119 overtime win.
With the victory, the Celtics now lead their best-of-seven series with the Wizards 2-0 as Games 3 and 4 move to Washington.
Boston owned the overtime session, with the dagger coming from – who else? – Isaiah Thomas who scored nine of the Celtics’ 15 points in overtime.
Wall had 40 points, but was scoreless in the overtime session while Thomas finished with a playoff career- high 53 points on 18-for-33 shooting.
Just getting to the overtime session was a victory of sorts for the Celtics who spent most of the game trailing.
Boston officially swung the game’s momentum in their favor after an Avery Bradley steal and subsequent dunk put the Celtics ahead 120-117 with 2:22 in overtime. He finished with 14 points.
The Celtics avoided losing home court advantage in a series that in the regular season at least, involved the home team winning every game.
But the Celtics were concerned about a potentially bigger loss – Avery Bradley.
He suffered a right hip pointer in the first half, started the second and went to the locker room early in the third for treatments. Bradley returned in the second half and wound up playing a pivotal role in the Celtics victory.
But while Bradley was getting treatments, the Celtics continued to battle back and made it a one-possession game following a 3-pointer by Thomas that cut Washington’s lead to 95-93 with 9:02 to play.
Out of the time-out, Bradley was back on the floor matched up with Wall.
His return paid dividends at both ends of the floor.
He did a nice job of limiting Wall’s penetration, and combined that with timely shot-making.
Bradley’s 3-pointer with 7:06 to play put Boston ahead 102-99, leading to another time-out by Washington.
The Celtics were able to hold on to the lead until the Wizards scored six straight to lead 109-104 which led to Brad Stevens calling a 20-second time-out with 3:09 to play.
It was the kind of surge the Celtics were on the short-end of the stick at the start of the game.
Boston spent most of the first quarter playing from behind, similar to how Game 1 played out when the Wizards dominated play most of the first.
The Celtics trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half, which was the scoring margin (42-29) at the end of the quarter.
Boston had no answer for Wall, who seemingly got to whatever spot he wanted to score from in the first, with ease.
He scored 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting in the first quarter which included 2-for-3 from 3-point range. He led the Wizards with 40 points and 13 assists.
Keeping the Celtics within striking distance early on was Thomas who continues to lead the Celtics’ scoring attack.
Boston began to chip away at Washington’s lead due to better offense and just as important, Wall on the Wizards’ getting a break.
With him on the sideline, Boston opened the second quarter with an 11-2 run capped off by a lob dunk by Al Horford with Thomas on the assist that cut Washington’s lead to 46-40 with 8:50 to play in the half.
The Wizards called a time-out, not only to try and slow down Boston’s mounting momentum, but also to get Wall back in the game.
His return paid off almost immediately for the Wizards as Wall scored on a driving lay-up just 21 seconds after re-entering the game.
And he had some help with Markieff Morris, questionable due to a left ankle sprain suffered in Game 1, made a short jumper that put the Wizards up by double digits (50-40) again. He had 16 points and six rebounds.
But as we saw in Game 1, the Celtics have proven to be a resilient bunch that finds a way to slowly but surely claw their way back into a game after putting themselves in a hole early.
That was indeed the case in the second as Boston continued to cut into the Wizards lead and were within 58-56 following a Wizards air ball that sailed out of bounds with just over three minutes to play in the half.
The Celtics eventually went ahead 59-58 when Horford hit his first 3-pointer of the game with 2:11 to play in the half.
The two teams went back and forth for the remainder of the half which ended with Washington scoring five of the quarter’s last seven points.