No matter how much better the Wizards are than the Boston Celtics when it comes to their seeding or win total, each season they pose a stiff test because of their style of play under coach Brad Stevens.
They meet for the first time this season tonight (CSN, CSNmidatlantic.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, 7 p.m. ET).
"They're a great team," said John Wall, who went 2-1 vs. them last season, including a double-overtime victory in which he scored the Wizards' last 10 points. "They're a young team that's talented, they're kind of like Orlando.
"They're always going to play hard no matter what. Brad Stevens is doing a great job of getting those guys committing."
After opening the season with a victory vs. the Philadelphia 76ers, the Celtics (1-3) have been beaten by the Toronto Raptors, San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers. Isaiah Thomas has scored 27 points twice and led them in assists each game.
But Marcus Smart (toe) and Amir Johnson (ankle) could be unavailable. Stevens called Johnson "50-50," according to CSNNE.com. Avery Bradley (wrist) played through discomfort in Wednesday's 100-98 loss to Indiana.
Just because the Celtics could be depleted, this game is rarely a layup for the Wizards (3-1) given their recent history. Like the Charlotte Hornets, who pose a similar challenge to the Wizards because they tend to play disciplined defensively no matter how big any deficit, the Celtics don't give up. And almost every time it's a different player who rises up.
Do the the Wizards play down to their competition, having a lapse after their 102-99 victory vs. the Spurs on Wednesday, or can they put the Celtics way emphatically for their first comfortable win of the season? All four games have gone down to the wire.
This will be the first game of a back-to-back, before traveling to play at the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, and could allow coach Randy Wittman to rest some of his key players and go deeper into his bench to allow the likes of DeJuan Blair, Garrett Temple and rookie Kelly Oubre to get time.
It's in games like these where the Wizards can preserve themselves over the course of an 82-game season, avoiding two grinding contests on consecutive nights, especially when the second one is a playoff team who eliminated them in the conference semifinals last season.
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