Here are five storylines to watch for the Wizards vs. Celtics' second round playoff series, which starts on Sunday at 1 p.m.:
1. The Wizards and Celtics plain don't like each other
We will get into this more in a later post, but the Wizards and Celtics have developed a considerable rivalry over the last two seasons. It may not be the premier marquee battle of the Cavaliers and Warriors, and it doesn't have the history of Lakers-Celtics, but there is definitely some history between these teams. Last season, Marcus Smart broke Bradley Beal's nose and gave him a concussion. This season, John Wall was ejected from their first matchup on Nov. 9 for a flagrant foul on Smart. Then, there was the postgame confrontation between Wall and Jae Crowder on Jan. 11 in Boston, an incident that earned both of them fines. Then, of course, there was the funeral game where the Wizards wore all-black to their Jan. 24 matchup in Washington and proceeded to blow out the Celtics. There is some serious beef between these teams and it should be fun to watch them go at it.
2. Horford nearly signed with the Wizards over the summer
The Wizards entered last offseason with the goal of signing hometown superstar Kevin Durant, but like many teams couldn't make it happen. So, like many teams, they turned their attention towards Al Horford, the second-best option on the market. Horford was intrigued enough to meet with the Wizards, and according to some reports considered them as a finalist in his decision, but ended up choosing Boston instead. It has worked out fine for Horford, as the Celtics earned the No. 1 seed in the East this season, but the Wizards have also enjoyed a great year. What an ironic twist of fate that they will now play each other in the playoffs.
3. Matchup of top point guards
Wall will go up against one of his best counterparts at the point guard position in Isaiah Thomas, a 5-foot-9 force of nature who finished third in the NBA with 28.9 points per game. Thomas gets a lot of attention for scoring at his size and on the best team in the conference. That should provide an opportunity for Wall to prove himself on the national stage. If we know anything about John Wall, he will notice that dynamic and be motivated by it.
4. Wizards aim to make franchise history
The Wizards are in the second round of the playoffs, a place they have been three times in the last four years. But one more round would put them in a place they haven't been as a franchise since 1978-79 when the Bullets made it all the way to the NBA Finals. The Wizards won a division this season and had their highest win total (49) since that season, so why stop there?
5. D.C. sports history also on the line
The Wizards haven't been in the conference finals in a long time and neither have other D.C. sports teams. No D.C. major sports team (Wizards, Nationals, Redskins, Capitals) have made the semifinals of their league since 1998 when the Caps lost to the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals. That's the longest drought in North American sports for cities with at least three teams in the four major leagues. We at CSN have been harping on this fact for years and years at this point, yet no one has broken through. Will the Wizards?