WASHINGTON – Technical fouls. Ejections. Long stare downs.
Ever since Boston’s Game 2 win, we’ve heard the Washington Wizards talk about being more physical, hitting first and all those clichés that percolate to the surface when a team has played well but not well enough to win.
Well the Wizards didn’t allow the Celtics to make their usual second half surge in Game 3 as Washington took over in a game that was never really close as the Wizards defeated the Celtics, 116-89.
And that physical play that has defined this series in many ways, really seemed to boil over in Game 3 with both teams being whistled for four technical fouls each, resulting in a pair of ejections (Boston’s Terry Rozier and Washington’s Brandon Jennings).
Wizards wing Kelly Oubre Jr., was called for a flagrant-2 foul (an automatic ejection) when he charged towards Kelly Olynyk and knocked him down after Olynyk was whistled for an offensive foul while trying to screen Oubre Jr.
Even the head coaches got into the act with Brad Stevens and Washington’s Scott Brooks each being whistled for a technical foul in the third and fourth quarter, respectively.
Boston still leads the best-of-seven series 2-1 with Game 4 at the Verizon Center on Sunday and Game 5 back in Boston on Tuesday.
Stevens went back to having Gerald Green in the starting lineup, but that did nothing to improve the horrible starts that the Celtics have gotten off to in the first two games.
Game 3 was no different as Washington opened with a 7-2 spurt with all seven points scored by Bradley Beal.
It only got worst from there with the Wizards rolling along to what was the most dominant performance thus far in this series by either team.
Washington’s game plan on defending Isaiah Thomas worked to near perfection.
After lighting up the Wizards for a playoff career-high 53 points in Game 2, there was a point in the game when it wasn’t a given that Thomas would even crack double digits scoring.
He would finish the game with 13 points on 3-for-8 shooting.
Not only did the Wizards seemingly swarm towards Thomas whenever he had the ball, but they made him work a lot harder than usual on defense.
Washington’s Otto Porter Jr. benefited more than anyone else when matched up with Thomas, shooting short jumper after short jumper over Thomas who is several inches shorter.
More than anything, the Wizards found that balance between being physical without crossing the line … most of the time anyway (see: Olynyk/Oubre Jr. incident).
Washington dominating Game 3 shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. They were one of six teams in the NBA this season to win at least 30 games at home.
And based on how they played in Games 1 and 2 in Boston, they certainly came into Game 3 feeling as though they could win and win convincingly.
The Celtics had to rally from huge deficits in both of their wins in Boston, something that Stevens acknowledged might have been fueled in part by the TD Garden crowd.
But there would be none of that in Game 3, a game that the Wizards dominated in every way imaginable.
The only bright spot the Celtics can take from the loss is that they still have a 2-1 series lead, and a couple days between now and Sunday’s pivotal Game 4 matchup to correct the many mistakes made Thursday night.