Three things to watch: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards
1. How much will these teams’ disdain for each other color the series?
Back in January, the Wizards wore all black for a figurative funeral while arriving for a game against the Celtics then buried Boston in a 123-108 win.
But the Celtics are still alive and ready for the next stage in a rivalry that has included:
- Marcus Smart hitting Bradley Beal with his forearm, causing a concussion
- John Wall and Smart having a heated exchange
- Jae Crowder telling Al Horford not to sign with Washington, because it couldn’t beat Boston
- Crowder and Wall getting into a postgame scrum
- Otto Porter saying the Celtics try to play dirty
- Brandon Jennings baiting Terry Rozier into pushing him over
2. Which team is actually better?
The Wizards outpaced the Celtics in my adjusted-for-playoff-rotation rankings before the postseason began. But getting a clear picture of who’s in the teams’ playoff rotations and counting the first round turns the tables.
Here’s both teams’ offensive, defensive and net ratings from the regular season to counting only lineups (regular season and first round) comprised of five players projected to be in the teams’ rotation this series:
1. Boston Celtics
- Offensive rating: 112.4 to 116.2
- Defensive rating: 109.8 to 110.4
- Net rating: +2.6 to +5.8
4. Washington Wizards
- Offensive rating: 111.7 to 115.6
- Defensive rating: 110.0 to 110.5
- Net rating: +1.7 to +5.1
Even with the flaws in these numbers – small sample sizes and no control for competition – the question of which team will put a better team on the floor in this series isn’t everything. Boston has home-court advantage, and that matters.
The complete updated playoff-rotation-adjusted ratings will be released Monday, after the first round ends.
3. How will the MVP-vote-getting point guards match up?
Both the Celtics and Wizards are reasonably deep, but good luck keeping your eyes off their star point guards. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall both received fifth-place MVP votes, tributes to their importance to their teams.
Thomas is Boston’s lone reliable scorer, and that brings a heavy fourth-quarter burden – which he has answered all year. Even when opponents know he’ll get the ball, they haven’t stopped him. Wall also drives Washington’s offense, though he does it with a more balanced passing and scoring attack throughout the game.
But Wall’s primary argument for superiority over other big-name point guards – including Thomas – is his defense. The 6-foot-4 Wall will have an opportunity to show that against the 5-foot-9 Thomas. Likewise, Thomas has a chance to pester Wall enough to show the defensive gap isn’t too wide.