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Takeaways from Wizards' loss to Boston Celtics in Game 2

Takeaways from Wizards' loss to Boston Celtics in Game 2

BOSTON – With a split in hand, the Wizards blew another double-digit lead, missed two chances to win Game 2 at the end of regulation and despite a 40-point game from John Wall succumbed to the Boston Celtics in overtime at TD Garden on Tuesday, 129-119.

The return home for Game 3 at Verizon Center on Thursday in a must-win situation.

Isaiah Thomas (53 points) exploded in the fourth quarter. He entered it with 24 and knocked down a series of three-pointers until Avery Bradley (14 points) put them ahead with a three at 102-99.

The Wizards took a 110-104 lead by allowed threes from Thomas and Terry Rozier (12 points) and Wall and Bradley Beal each missed chances to win to end the game in regulation.

Marcin Gortat (14 points, 10 rebounds) fouled out 41 seconds into overtime and Markieff Morris (16 points, six rebounds) fouled out on a reach-in on Thomas for a three-point play that gave Boston an insurmountable six-point lead with 67 seconds left.

Wall had his second 40-plus point game of the postseason and bested his initial playoff career high of 42 in a Game 6 closeout of the Atlanta Hawks. He missed his jump shot on the final play of regulation and Beal’s offensive rebound follow-up shot was short.

Morris (16 points) got Washington back after briefly losing the lead in the fourth. He made a jumper to put them back ahead 105-104, had a blocked shot on help defense that led to a bucket for Beal and then drained another jumper for a 109-104 lead with 3:09 left.

Morris was a matchup nightmare for Boston which couldn’t find anyone capable of marking him. Gortat missed two chip shots at the rim early that could’ve boosted his totals and Jason Smith (10 points, two blocks) was a spark early to get the Wizards out to a 13-point lead with a pair of three-pointers.

Thomas’ two foul shots tied the score at 114 to force the extra period.

Jae Crowder (14 points) couldn’t replicate his Game 1 performance from long range when he made 6 of 8 threes. Al Horford (15 points, 12 rebounds) was kept in check by Gortat and Avery Bradley (14 points) wasn’t a force though his three put Boston ahead 102-99 until Morris’ explosion.

The Wizards led 50-40 with Beal (14 points) and Otto Porter (13 points, nine rebounds) combining to shoot 0-for-3 from the field.

It was a physical game from the start with Wall, Porter, Beal, Thomas and Bradley coming up limp at different times. Wall fell hard on the left hand/wrist that he broke two seasons ago in the second round of the playoffs but shook it off.

Including the regular season, the Wizards are 0-4 at TD Garden.

[RELATED: Technicals handed out after Otto Porter's nose gushes open in Game 2]

--Beal and Wall isolated Thomas on switches and picked up two fouls on him less than three minutes into the first quarter. The Celtics successfully hid Thomas on Kelly Oubre (12 points), who hesitated to make his move on the 5-9 point guard and allowed help to come seal him from the rim twice on blocked shots. Oubre isn’t comfortable breaking down opponents off the dribble and doesn’t have a low-post game but would’ve been better off giving up the ball quickly and cutting to the rim where Thomas had no chance of defending him if he got it back going full speed. And he’s not adept at passing in traffic to pick apart the help to get his teammates easier shots just yet.

--Morris didn’t look any worse for wear with his left ankle. In fact, he picked up his first foul by tossing Horford, who hurt him in Game 1 by sticking his foot underneath him on his jumper, to the floor while chasing a loose ball. The Celtics tried to defend Morris with Kelly Olynyk who got roasted off the dribble every time on the face up and picked up two quick fouls. But Morris, who was saddled with foul trouble for most of the series with the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, had three by 5:35 of the first half. The Celtics tried to defend him with guards such as Marcus Smart on switches and that didn’t work either as Morris didn’t show ill effects of the ankle injury. But after Morris picked up his fourth foul he re-entered with 8:06 left in the fourth and picked up his fifth on a three-point play for Thomas just 22 seconds in.

--Bradley collected an airball from Thomas and put it back for a 61-60 lead late in  the second quarter but appeared to favor his side or back. He winced repeatedly and had to leave the floor. He came back and made a go-ahead three at 7:06 to put Boston up 102-99.

-- It’s difficult for Wizards coach Scott Brooks to keep Bojan Bogdanovic (zero points) on the floor because he has been a liability on both ends. He has trouble getting off his shots against quicker defenders and keeping up defensively with the cutters as they attack his feet. He played just eight minutes and shot 0-for-2.

--After the Celtics knocked down 19 threes in Game 1, the Wizards did a better job running them off the line and living with two-point jumpers instead. Still, they made 6 of 14 by halftime though they didn’t come as easily. Porter forced two misses by Rozier and the one that he did make came off of a contest with the shot clock expiring from the corner.

--Morris picked up his fourth foul at 7:47 of the third but ended up in a shoving match with Thomas. Both were hit with technical but Morris appeared unhappy with Porter having his nose bloodied.

--Amir Johnson started for Boston because coach Brad Stevens wanted his size vs. Morris. He lasted four minutes and didn’t start the second half. This was similar to what took place in a regular-season matchup when Johnson only played four minutes despite starting. When the third quarter began, Marcus Smart was on the floor in a three-guard lineup in Johnson’s place.

--With Wall off the floor and Brandon Jennings as his replacement, the Wizards were better running the offense with Beal on the ball. He automatically draws double teams and that helped even though he couldn’t find his own shot. Late in the second quarter, however, Beal was indecisive and out of sync with Gortat who wasn’t cutting to the basket quick enough and allowing Horford to trap the ball. Beal’s first made field goal didn’t come until 3:30 left in the half with a three-pointer. He had just four points – and four turnovers.

[RELATED: VIDEO: Morris shoves Horford out of bounds early in Game 2]

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

The Eastern Conference standings are so closely bunched as of today that the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers. With roughly a dozen games remaining for each NBA team, much can and likely will change over the next several weeks.

That is common for this time of the year, but a closer look suggests we could be in for some chaos in the final stretch. There are lopsided remaining schedules and impending personnel changes which could all contribute to one of the wildest regular season finishes in recent memory.

The Wizards are smack dab in the middle of the East playoff race and have their own circumstances to navigate. Let's take a team-by-team look at the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, knowing the top two seeds are all but locked up by the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics...


3. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-29, 12 games left)

Monday was a crazy day for the Cavaliers. First, they announced their head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. He will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim as he hopes to heal up before the playoffs.

Then, news broke they were getting Kevin Love back from a broken wrist after missing 21 games. Love returned to put up 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The Cavaliers will be without their coach for an undefined period of time, but now have their second-best player back on the court. That makes their final part of the season extra fascinating.

The Cavs are the team to watch of this group. Even though this season has been filled with turmoil, they still have LeBron James. He and Love have helped form the core of the last three Eastern Conference champion teams. If they pick things up, it's not crazy to consider them among the favorites to get out of the East again.


4. Indiana Pacers (41-30, 11 games left)

The Pacers are mostly healthy as they only feature a slew of minor injuries to big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. But Indiana's remaining schedule is unusually tough and it could make the difference in where they end up.

With only 11 games remaining, the Pacers still have to play the first-place Toronto Raptors once and the Golden State Warriors twice. Six of their last eight games will be on the road. They also see the Heat, Pelicans, Nuggets and Clippers.

The Clippers are currently ninth in the West and battling to make the playoffs. The Pacers will play them twice.

Keep in mind the Wizards own the season series over Indiana and will have a playoff seeding tiebreaker if they end up with the same record. Also worth noting is the Pacers have been much better at home (24-13) than on the road (17-17) this season.


5. Washington Wizards (40-30, 12 games left)

Though the Wizards' schedule is finally letting up soon from the 13 straight playoff teams stretch they have had to endure dating back to February, they too have a tough road ahead. The Wizards still have to play the Spurs (twice), Rockets, Cavaliers, Celtics and Nuggets. Four of their last six games are on the road and they have three back-to-back sets in their final seven games.

That's brutal. They may not have to see the defending champions twice like Indiana does, but the Wizards don't exactly have it easy.

The Wizards will, however, get John Wall back at some point. The five-time All-Star is slowly but surely working his way back and could participate in a full practice by the end of the week. Ideally they will get some games under his belt before the playoffs, but any time an All-NBA player is coming back to your team it's a good thing.

The problem is that there is little room for error in the standings and head coach Scott Brooks will have to reinsert Wall into the lineup during a tough schedule and while Wall is on a minutes restriction. It will be a tricky task to balance his lineups. 


6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-30, 13 games left)

The Sixers may have the most ideal road ahead of these four teams, at least in terms of their schedule. They still have the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Cavs and Bucks. But none of those teams are the juggernauts that Golden State, Houston and Toronto are. And of their final 13 games, the Sixers will play nine against teams outside of the playoff picture.

Philly also does not have to reincorporate a major piece into their rotation, like the Cavs do with Love and the Wizards with Wall. Their biggest injury is to Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. If he does return this season, it will likely be in a minimal role, at least to start.

What could work against the Sixers is their inexperience and recent struggles against good teams. The Sixers are relying on very young players who have never been here before to carry the way. And since Valentine's Day, Philly has just one win against a team above the .500 mark, when they beat the Cavs on March 1. During those 14 games since Feb. 14, they have beaten up on the bad teams but lost to the Wizards, Bucks, Pacers and Heat (twice), basically all the teams surrounding them in the standings. 

Philly also lost their season series against the Cavs and Pacers, tied with the Wizards and are down 2-1 against the Bucks with one game to go. They may go to the finish line without a playoff tiebreaker against all the teams they would want one against.

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Oklahoma star freshman Trae Young to enter NBA Draft

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Oklahoma star freshman Trae Young to enter NBA Draft

After a sensational freshman season at the University of Oklahoma, point guard Trae Young plans to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, according to a report by ESPN.

Young will be one of the most fascinating prospects in this class given the extreme highs and lows of his one college season. He vaulted into the top 10 in most mock drafts after beginning his freshman year on fire, but then began to slip over the final months as his shooting percentage dropped.


Right now the Wizards are lined up to be in the late teens, so it's unlikely he falls to their range. But at this point it's difficult to predict where he will go, whether that is top five or later in the lottery.

It really could go either way. Some teams may see him as a Steph Curry-like scorer who can hit shots from unusually deep range. There were certainly times where Young backed up those comparisons.

Teams could see his flaws as a result of opposing defenses honing in on him because they could at the college level. In the NBA he may have more space and therefore be able to play to his strengths.


Or, teams could look at the fact he shot 36.1 percent from three on a whopping 10.2 attempts per game as a sign he is a chucker. He also led the nation in turnovers, commiting 24 more than the next guy. Young averaged 5.2 giveaways per game.

While Curry is the best-case scenario, Jimmer Fredette may be the worst-case. Fredette was the 10th overall pick in 2011 and now plays in China. 

Young will be an intriguing prospect in the draft because the ceiling is high and the basement is low. 

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