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Celtics cement superiority over Wizards 116-91: Five takeaways


Celtics cement superiority over Wizards 116-91: Five takeaways

A four-game sweep of the Wizards is complete, as the Boston Celtics wrestled away the lead by halftime and put them away 116-91 to wrap up the season series in front off 11,753 at Verizon Center.

The Wizards (20-22) lost yet another chance to get back to .500 as the Celtics (25-21) used an 18-5 run between the second and third quarters to erase what had been a seven-point deficit. 

In his first game back since aggravating a right hip injury Jan. 13, Otto Porter (15 points, six rebounds) led Washington in scoring along with Jared Dudley (15 points). Marcin Gortat (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Ramon Sessions (12 points) were the only other players to reach double-figures.

Isaiah Thomas (23 points, nine assists) led Boston, followed by Evan Turner (18 points), Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk (13 points each) and Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley (11 points each). 

  • Nene started next to Gortat for the second game in a row. When Nene left at 6:18 of the first quarter, the Wizards were up 12-9 and Jared Sullinger had two fouls. When the Wizards made their best run of the first-half, it was with Nene as the long big in the second quarter. His ability go smother the pick-and-roll and contest forced Smart into some bad shots. With Tyler Zeller as his matchup inside, Nene gambled off of him and relied on helpside defense. Zeller isn't much of an offensive threat. As soon as Nene left the floor at 4:11 up 41-38, the Celtics went on a run. Sullinger had an open look at left Dudley look around to teammates after if to suggest where was the help on the coverage. Sullinger drained another jumper over Dudley and Thomas had jump shots off pick-and-rolls -- clean looks that Nene had been taking away -- for a five-point spurt to take a 53-49 lead into halftime. Nene was the only Wizards player with a positive plus-minus (plus-4). Gortat and Dudley each were minus-24.

  • Bradley Beal, who still is coming off the bench while on a minutes restriction, was struck in the face accidentally by Smart on a drive and had to leave with a bloody nose at 8:03 of the second quarter. His returned was listed as questionable by the team and they ruled him out midway through the third quarter.
  • The Wizards had 20 turnovers that turned into 28 points the other way. The Celtics were more careful with 11 that only translated into five points.  
  • John Wall (eight points) and Garrett Temple (two), the Wizards' starting backcourt, combined to shoot 3-for-18. Combine that with Beal's accuracy, and that's 5 of 24.
  • Thomas, who was a focal point of the Wizards, didn't even play in the fourth quarter. The Celtics still blew open a close game to lead by as many as 30 points. They opened the fourth by making 5 of 7 of threes -- all wide-open looks -- after being just 4 of 15 in the first three quarters.

MORE WIZARDS: Beal exits Celtics game after elbow to face, will not return

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John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

The Wizards in recent years have made a habit of trying to speak things into existence and then not having them actually come into existence. They have talked the talk and then sometimes haven't walked the walk.

A few instances come to mind, including Bradley Beal saying of the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers that "they didn't want to see us" in the playoffs. Beal also said in November that the Washington was the best team in the East, just hours before James scored 57 points in the Wizards' building.

John Wall has made similar proclamations in the past, usually about himself, including how he is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Now, these statements were all relatively normal for professional athletes who pride themselves in always feeling like they are the best player on the floor or the field. It's part of the mindset that makes them who they are.

But when those statements are made and then not backed up, they can be tough to defend, and especially for a Wizards team which last season seemed to overlook the lesser teams and suffered a down year because of it.

Wall insists all that is about to change. In his 1-on-1 interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall said the message this year will be much different, much more muted than it has been in the past.

"We want to go out with a different mindset and a different focus. We're not trying to go in and think we're a team that has already established something and got respect from people. We have to earn that respect and that means going out and competing every night against the good teams or the bad teams," he said.

That doesn't mean Wall isn't confident. His belief in himself hasn't wavered and, in fact, he may believe in his team more now than ever. That's because he is happy with the offseason the front office has produced.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green in free agency, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. All should help the Wizards improve between Howard representing an upgrade at starting center and the others providing much-needed depth.

When Wall was asked by Chris if this is the most complete team he has played with in Washington, Wall left no doubts.

"Yeah, for sure. I definitely think so," he said. "I think it gives us the opportunity where we don't have to play as many minutes. That's the key. At the end of the year, you kind of fall short because you're fatigued. Nobody uses that as an excuse. You play and try to get into the best shape possible. But if you're playing 24 minutes, the whole half, and then 24 minutes and the whole half, you kind of get tired at some point. I think those guys can take a little of the burden and pressure off of us at times."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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