WASHINGTON -- It hasn’t even been nine months since the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards waged a wickedly contested, high-intensity battle in the playoffs that left us all wanting more of that good stuff in the regular season.
But the nasty vitriol spewed by both teams in the best-of-seven playoff series that went the distance isn’t there anymore.
Boston’s roster looks nothing like the one that the Wizards despised in the playoffs.
And Washington, while still among the better teams in the East, has been slowed by injuries and inconsistent play, with seemingly more questions being raised (are they better without John Wall?) of late than solutions discovered.
Oh, did we mention the NBA trade deadline will come and go just hours before tip-off tonight, which means this rivalry might have a few new players in the mix soon?
We already know there will be at least one new face on the Celtics’ roster -- Greg Monroe.
The former Georgetown standout agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with the Celtics shortly after he came to terms on a buyout with the Phoenix Suns.
NBC Sports Boston reported that Monroe was on a flight to Washington, D.C. early Wednesday morning to meet up with his new team.
The Celtics didn’t sign the 6-foot-11 center immediately because they wanted to stay as flexible as possible up until the trade deadline, with their two primary targets being Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams and the Memphis Grizzlies’ Tyreke Evans.
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Williams came to terms on a three-year, $24 million extension with the Clippers on Wednesday which pretty much sealed his return to the Clippers – neither side makes that kind of deal with the intent on parting ways less than 24 hours later.
Evans remains in play with several teams expressing interest in the 6-foot-6 wing. Boston and Philadelphia are considered the front-runners, with Miami and Denver also under serious consideration.
The implication of a possible trade getting done is the dominant theme heading into tonight’s game, a game that has tremendous value for both teams.
Boston (39-16) has had a relatively slim lead in the East for weeks now, and it’s down to just one game after the Toronto Raptors rocked the Celtics 111-91 in Toronto on Tuesday night.
And in facing the Wizards, Boston is looking to avenge a 111-103 Christmas Day home loss to Washington.
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Meanwhile, the Wizards (31-23) will try and continue their surprisingly strong play in the absence of John Wall, who is out for at least another five weeks after undergoing knee surgery on Jan. 31.
Boston knows the Wizards will be without Wall, who was named an NBA All-Star for the fifth straight season.
But their concerns lie from within, even more so after Tuesday’s humbling defeat at Toronto.
“We got our butts kicked by a really good team who physically overwhelmed us from a speed and physicality standpoint,” said coach Brad Stevens following the loss to the Raptors. “We need to do a better job … the one thing you never do as a coach is chalk it up to one of those nights. Maybe you do at the end of the year when you look back at the whole season. We have to compete at a better level physically.”