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What a Celtics insider says to expect from a Bradley Beal-Isaiah Thomas backcourt

What a Celtics insider says to expect from a Bradley Beal-Isaiah Thomas backcourt

Like the Wizards, A. Sherrod Blakely has seen Isaiah Thomas at his best. 

Blakely, who covers the Celtics for NBC Sports Boston, was at the arena on May 2, 2017, when Thomas scored 53 points to lead Boston to a 129-119 overtime playoff victory over the Wizards on what would have been his sister Chyna's 23rd birthday. Chyna was killed in a single-car crash shortly before Boston's playoff opener.

"I’ve never seen anyone ever elevate themselves under the absolute worst of worst circumstances the way he did," Blakely told Chris Miller on the latest episode of the Wizards Talk podcast. "That was a performance for the ages that I will never forget."

"I don’t think there are very many people in basketball or in life for that matter who could do their job at the level that he did while dealing with something that was that close, that personal, that touching, that impactful. And still not just do your job, but do your job at a level you’ve never done it before.”

Bradley Beal was also there that night as the Wizards' star guard, and now he and Thomas will share the court as teammates in Washington after Thomas signed a one-year deal with the Wizards Monday night. 

Blakely expects the pair to form a strong backcourt partnership, particularly in crunch time. 

“When you talk about the fourth quarter, I think a lot will be dependant upon the flow of the game," Blakely told Miller. "If Isaiah has it going, Beal has shown the ability to be a play-maker, something that until John Wall went out, people weren’t really sold on his ability to do that and do it at a relatively consistent level."

"I think him and IT will work well together because both of those guys understand that they both have that ability to deliver that fourth quarter dagger, but depending on how the game is going, one of them is probably going to be feeling it a little more than the other. And that’s the guy you really have to recognize and get him the ball. Isaiah loves the big shots obviously, but I never saw him as a selfish player."

Hear Blakely's full thoughts on Thomas coming to the Wizards in the player below: 

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The Wizards start and finish terribly in their loss to the Celtics

The Wizards start and finish terribly in their loss to the Celtics

The Washington Wizards lost to the Boston Celtics 107-96 on Friday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. As bad as things have seemed at times for the Boston Celtics this season, as disappointing as they have been compared to their preseason expectations, they are still in an enviable spot in the eyes of many teams. That includes the Wizards, who put up a fight on Friday night but were ultimately outdone due to a deficit in talent and a slew of timely mistakes.

The Wizards started and finished poorly, and it cost them. They outscored the Celtics 61-52 in the second and third quarters, but were outdone 55-40 in the first and fourth.

Turnovers were a major issue. The Wizards had 18 of them and the Celtics cashed those in for 24 points. Washington also shot 26.3 percent from three and that didn't help.

The loss stopped short what could have been some momentum from the Wizards' win over the Nets on Wednesday. But now they have lost 10 of their last 14 games overall. Just when they could be making a playoff push, they are fading fast.

2. Bradley Beal had the best month of his career in February and he picked up right where he left off in March.

Beal was brilliant against the Celtics, scoring inside and out and with efficiency. He put up 29 points on 52.2 percent shooting with 11 rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block.

Beal dissected a very good Celtics defense and did so after getting pushed around early by Marcus Smart. Boston tried to bully Beal, but he stood up to the challenge and eventually broke through with a big night.

All year Beal has shown the ability to counter defenses, even when they overload to stop him. Even against one of the best defensive teams in the game, he can still get his.

3. As Beal was tearing it up, NBC Sports Boston analyst Brian Scalabrine joined the NBC Sports Washington broadcast and dropped a take that set social media ablaze. Basically, he said the Ray Allen comparisons for Beal do not go far enough. He sees a lot of Kobe Bryant.

Yes, the White Mamba said Beal is like the Black Mamba. And that is quite the praise.

Scalabrine added some specifics about how Beal can get his shot consistently with smooth moves off the pivot and with turnaround fadeaways. Sure, in that regard he's like Bryant. But let's be clear, comparing Beal to Allen is already a nice compliment. He has some work to do to get in Bryant's realm.

There has also been a lot of talk about Beal and All-NBA. It will be tough, but he does have a chance. There are probably four locks at this point: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard. But for those final two spots, Beal is probably in the mix with Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons as the likely favorites.

If Beal were to get All-NBA, he would qualify for a supermax contract. A lot of money is on the line, and if he were to qualify for such a deal, it would have huge repercussions for the Wizards, who already have John Wall signed to a supermax.

4. And we thought the start of the Brooklyn game on Wednesday was bad. This time, the Wizards came out playing even worse.

Washington didn't make a field goal until the 6:15 mark of the first quarter. They trailed by as many as 15 points in the frame.

But, just as they did against the Nets, the Wizards stormed back. They took their first lead with under two minutes to go in the first half and outscored the Celtics 25-19 in the second quarter to get back in the game.

Starting slow was a huge problem for the Wizards earlier this season. If you recall, it was fixed in large part due to the promotion of Thomas Bryant to the starting lineup. Now, he's back on the bench and they are coming out sleepy. 

Coincidence? Maybe not. His energy certainly seems to help set a tone early in games.

5. This was another one of those games that reminded us that Troy Brown Jr. has the talent of a first round pick.

Though he seldom plays, Brown often does at least something to impress when he gets the opportunity. In this game, he made a few plays that make it worth questioning why he doesn't have a consistent role in the rotation.

Brown came in midway through the first quarter and promptly knocked down a pull-up jumper in Jayson Tatum's face. He continued to look the part running the Wizards' offense with crisp passes and decisive ball-handling.

Brown made one play in particular that looked well beyond his 19 years. He used a hesitation move to get to the rim for an and-1.

Brown finished with seven points, four rebounds, a steal and a block. He is going to make his share of mistakes, but it's not like the rest of the Wizards' rotation is playing perfect basketball. Brown should get more run, especially if the Wizards slip further in the standings.

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Wizards can learn from how Celtics targeted Jayson Tatum pre-draft

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Wizards can learn from how Celtics targeted Jayson Tatum pre-draft

Even before the 2017 NBA Draft, Jayson Tatum knew he was going to be a Boston Celtic.

“The Celtics were always going to pick me,” Tatum said in August of 2017, two months after Boston had traded the No. 1 overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for the No. 3 pick (plus a conditional future first-round pick) with which they selected Tatum.

“We think there’s a really good chance the player we’ll take at three is the same player we would have taken at one,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said at the time.

The Sixers used the No. 1 pick on Markelle Fultz, who had been linked to Boston before the draft. But Tatum knew differently.

“Philly thought Boston was going to pick Markelle, so Philly traded the pick and gave Boston a pick for next year,” he said. “So Boston was like, ‘Well, we can still get the player we want, a next year’s pick, and then we can get the player we wanted for less money.’ So Boston still got all that they wanted, and Philly had to give up something.”

Boston, which hosts the Wizards Friday night at TD Garden, has certainly got all that it wanted from Tatum, and possibly more. After his All-Rookie campaign in 2017-18, during which he helped the Celtics reach the Eastern Conference Finals, Tatum is averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in 2018-19. At 20 years old, he’s a key contributor on one of the best teams in the conference, starting every game for Boston so far this season.

The Wizards have just one of their own first-round draft picks since 2013 still on the roster: Troy Brown Jr., Washington’s 2018 selection. The Wizards could not only use an injection of youth like the one Tatum brought Boston, but also a player similar to Tatum after trading Otto Porter before the trade deadline: a wing scorer with the ability to create their own offense.

With John Wall set to miss the rest of this season and the majority of next year with a ruptured Achilles, the Wizards need another dynamic playmaker on the perimeter alongside Bradley Beal who can get their own shot. Tatum does this in spades for the Celtics, scoring in a variety of ways. Porter showed flashes of this skillset during this time in D.C., but did not attack with aggression on a consistent basis.

If they're searching for a Tatum clone, the Wizards can start by looking at the current crop of freshmen phenoms at Duke, where Tatum starred in 2016-17. The Blue Devils have not one, but two slashers with NBA star potential: RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish. Barrett is the more polished scorer, leading the ACC with 23.3 points per game, but Reddish is (at least hypothetically) the better outside shooter and athlete, with a wingspan over seven feet long.

Either player could help the Wizards from the get-go next season, but it could take some luck to get them: both are expected to be off the board after the fourth pick, and Washington currently has less than a nine percent chance to land a top-four pick per Tankathon.com. Those odds could certainly improve, however, if Washington continues to fall in the standings.

For another wing option with tremendous upside, the Wizards could look 10 miles down the road from Duke to Chapel Hill and Tar Heels forward Nassir Little. The problem with Little is he, unlike Tatum, has not lived up to the hype in his freshman year at UNC. However, he undoubtedly possesses many of the tools which Tatum has, too: good athleticism, aggression and the ability to score multiple ways. 

This not to say any of these players will turn into Jayson Tatum. But if the Wizards feel as good about Barrett, Reddish or Little as the Celtics did Tatum, they should follow Boston’s example and be willing to do whatever it takes to get the player they want.

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