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Though rivalry has changed, still plenty of storylines in Wizards-Celtics Christmas Day matchup

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Though rivalry has changed, still plenty of storylines in Wizards-Celtics Christmas Day matchup

Most of the central figures that made the Wizards-Celtics rivalry one of the best and most heated in the NBA are now no longer part of it. Jae Crowder was traded from the Celtics to the Cavaliers. Kelly Olynyk left via free agency to play with the Heat. Even Jonas Jerebko departed to play for the Jazz and Brandon Jennings left Washington for China.

Going through a timeline of why the Wizards and Celtics learned to hate each other isn't really even a worthwhile exercise, as most of the events do not apply anymore. But enough players remain in the matchup to leave potential for the rivalry to continue. There are plenty of storylines to monitor as the two teams prepare to lock horns for the first time this season at 5:30 p.m. on Christmas Day.

Celtics knocked them out

Though the Celtics swapped out many of their best players from last season including Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley, it is still the same team that eliminated the Wizards from the 2017 playoffs and the Wizards have not forgotten. The Wizards were one game away from their first Eastern Conference Finals berth since 1979, but Boston edged them in seven games.

That will definitely be on the minds of Wizards players on Monday.

"That's the team that knocked us out last year, so we're going to feel some type of way about it and come out with that mindset. We'll be mad and keep that same memory in the back of our head," guard Bradley Beal said. "I was beyond mad. If you can find a word that is worse than mad, that's what I was."


Kelly Oubre, Jr. in Boston

Olynyk is gone from the Celtics, but Kelly Oubre, Jr. is still on the Wizards and Boston fans surely haven't forgiven him for shoving Olynyk to the ground in Game 3 of their second round playoff series. Oubre was suspended for Game 4 and was then treated to boos and chants of 'f––– you, Oubre' in Game 5 in Boston. Citizens of Beantown love booing opponents much like they do clam chowder, the Dropkick Murphys, Sam Adams beers and Tom Brady.

Expect them to keep booing Oubre any chance they get. Let's just hope they keep it clean. Either way, Oubre won't be fazed. Remember, of getting booed he said "it makes me feel like I'm alive."

Markieff Morris vs. Al Horford

Some of the Celtic's best villians are gone, but one of the Wizards' biggest enemies is still there. Al Horford, who stepped under Markieff Morris' shot in Game 1 and sprained his left ankle, remains a key cog in Boston. Morris can't stand the guy and isn't exactly the forgiving type. He thought Horford did a dirty play and held it against him the rest of the series. Don't be surprised if Morris has some words for Horford on Monday beyond "Merry Christmas."


Markieff Morris vs. Marcus Morris

The Celtics made many moves this past summer including one that significantly changed the rivalry in a unique and interesting way. They acquired Marcus Morris, twin brother and best friend of Markieff. Now these teams can't possibly hate each other that much. Markieff talked about that dynamic this week and admitted things will be much different now.

Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier

If Wizards fans are searching for Celtics players to hate, look no further than their backcourt and Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, who both have played roles in the Wizards-Celtics rivalry already. Both are tough, physical guards who are likely to continue being agitators against the Wizards.

Smart has had run-ins with both Beal and John Wall. Beal suffered a broken nose and concussion after colliding with Smart in 2016. Last season, Wall was ejected for a hard foul on Smart in a game in Washington.

Smart is even playing the part of rivalry denier, which is oh-so-annoying. He's taking a page right out of LeBron James' playbook by saying the Wizards and Celtics never had a rivalry in the first place. Wizards fans won't like that.


John Wall vs. Kyrie Irving

There's a new matchup to watch in Wizards-Celtics that offers plenty of intrigue, as both teams have All-Star point guards and former No. 1 overall picks. The Wizards have Wall, a four-time All-Star who went first in 2010 and the Celtics have Kyrie Irving, a four-time All-Star who was the top pick in 2011. 

The two play very different styles. Wall is much bigger and is more of a distributor. Irving is one of the best scorers in the NBA.

Wall and Irving should bring out the best in each other each time they face off.

"It's always been a great battle competing against each other," Wall said. "We are great friends off the court but on the court we are trying to take each other's head off and just trying to win the game."

Bradley Beal vs. Jayson Tatum

There is another close friendship between these teams in Beal and Jayson Tatum, two St. Louis natives who went to the same high school. Beal is five years older, but the two are very good friends and talk to each other all the time.

"I told him and he knows that we're not going to be friends when the ball goes in the air," Beal said.

Beal even has a bet to pay up on when he sees Tatum in Boston:

"I owe Jayson Tatum a gift, for a bet I lost. Duke and Florida. I got to give him his gift tomorrow. He asked for a pair of red bottoms so he's trying to break my pockets a little bit," Beal said.


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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

Here are five plays or moments from the Wizards' 109-102 win over the Pacers on Saturday night that are worth revisiting... 

1. The Wizards took care of business against the Pacers on Saturday night and in doing so earned an important advantage in the playoff race. They won the season series and therefore own a tiebreaker for playoff seeding and currently that would mean home court advantage in the first round if the playoffs began today.

The Wizards took control early and part of that effort were five first-half assists by Bradley Beal. He ended up with 19 points, but some of his best plays were passes.

On this one, he executed a perfect pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat:


2. This was another pretty pass to Gortat. Tomas Satoransky, who had 12 points and eight assists, fed Gortat with a nice reach-around pass on a play that featured some impressive ball movement overall:

3. This was a great moment. The Wizards had a member of the military surprise his niece on the court. She literally did not see it coming:


4. These last two plays are dunks by Kelly Oubre, Jr., who finished with 16 points. On this play, he cut through the and threw down with authority:

5. This dunk was set up by a beautiful pass from Ramon Sessions. It traveled about three-quarters of the court and Oubre did the rest:

The Wizards now have three days off before their next game as they sit fourth in the Eastern Conference. Things are trending positive for the Wizards as the playoff race heats up.

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