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Takeaways from Wizards' blowout win over Boston Celtics in Game 4

Takeaways from Wizards' blowout win over Boston Celtics in Game 4

In Game 3, it was a 22-0 run that sealed the Boston Celtics’ fate in the first quarter. Sunday, it was 26-0 run in the third quarter of Game 4 as the Wizards drew even in the East semifinals the moment John Wall came alive.

Wall (27 points, 12 assists, five steals) missed his first nine shots before he caught fire to score 12 of their final 18 points before halftime to erase a 12-point deficit and inspire another surge in a 121-102 victory in Game 4. The series is tied 2-2 with the pivotal Game 5 at TD Garden on Wednesday.

Otto Porter (18 points, eight rebounds, four steals) was the early offense for Washington as he scored 10 of his points in the first quarter. Bradley Beal (29 points) started slow but began to find his shot and Markieff Morris (16 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, three steals) continued to be a matchup nightmare for Boston.

The Wizards’ defense suffocated Isaiah Thomas (19 points, six turnovers) after a hot start in which he made all three of this three-pointers in the first quarter. But they kept him away from the rim and forced others to make shots and for the second game in a row the Celtics failed.

Jae Crowder (six points) shot just 2-for-9, Avery Bradley (five points) was 2-for-9 and Marcus Smart (nine points) shot 2-for-7.

The score was tied 48-48 at halftime and Amir Johnson (seven points) had a personal 5-0 burst to put the Celtics on top. Then for the next 6:30, the Celtics went without a point as the Wizards blew the game open by forcing nine turnovers – five by Thomas -- and just 5-for-16 shooting.

Three of the Wizards starters, Wall, Beal and Morris, scored in double figures in the third quarter alone, accounting for 34 of their 42 points.

The Wizards are 5-0 at home in the playoffs.

[RELATED: Ted, Zach Leonsis wear Oubre jerseys to Game 4]

--After an offensive foul on Kelly Olynyk (14 points), chants of “Kelly Oubre” took over the arena. It was Oubre’s confrontation in Game 3 that led to his ejection and receiving a one-game suspension. Oubre will be back for Game 5.

--Thomas was used as a screener to get Crowder and Johnson uncontested layups. That’s how they got out to an early lead as the Wizards were so concerned with jumping the return pass to the guard that they forgot about the big slipping to the rim. But the ball pressure eventually caused Thomas to break. Marcin Gortat (six points, seven rebounds) was key in staying big in the middle and making the 5-foot-9 point guard finish over size. And the officials didn’t reward Thomas with whistles for jumping into bigs to get whistles. Thomas didn’t attempt a foul shot.

--The Wizards’ biggest edge statistically has been with rebounding. They were 38-38 in a Game 1 loss, had just a 44-41 edge in a Game 2 loss but were 50-38 in a Game 3 win. They were 45-31 in their second win in a row Sunday.

--Johnson was back in the starting lineup for Boston while Gerald Green, who started Game 3, didn’t play until the score was lopsided and coach Brad Stevens was desperate for answers. Johnson was a liability whether it was on the offensive end or trying to be the help big switching onto Wall on the pick-and-roll. It’s the biggest trouble spot for Boston, because of they go to three guards with Green or Smart they’re too small vs. Morris and he’s good enough defensively to stay in front of them away from the rim. If they go with Johnson, Morris can take him from the rim, face him up and beat him to his spots or get his in the post. Against Smart, he’ll post and get easy looks.

--Morris is unaccounted for when he pops to the arc for three-point looks. The Celtics kept giving him the looks and if he’s able to knock them down, they’re going to have trouble winning. Morris was just 2-for-4 but that’s good enough. Because they’re undersized in the middle, Boston commits bodies to contend with Gortat in the middle. They picked their poison, just as the Wizards have done with taking away Thomas and forcing other shooters to beat them.

--Thomas picked up a technical foul at 6:38 of the fourth quarter after being called for a foul on Beal. It was the only one of the game after the teams combined for eight in Game 3.

--Tomas Satoransky (five points) got the call with Oubre out to defend Thomas and did a credible job denying him the ball. He also made his only shot. Bojan Bogdanovic (13 points) had his second strong performance in a rowas he led the reserves. Ian Mahinmi (three assists) didn’t score but found cutters under the basket for layups. He played 13 minutes, three more than he did in Game 3 as he works his way back from a left calf strain.

[RELATED: Wall pulls off ridiculous spin move in Game 4]

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The case for Davis Bertans to make the NBA's three-point contest

The case for Davis Bertans to make the NBA's three-point contest

Since acquiring Davis Bertans from the Spurs in exchange for the rights to Aaron White, the Wizards have unlocked the sharpshooter's full offensive potential. 

In San Antonio, Bertans was known more as a spot-up, floor-stretching power forward. Now? He's one of the most feared snipers in the NBA with his ability to come off screens, get his shot off quickly and drill threes from just about anywhere on the court. 

Bertans should without a doubt be invited to compete in the NBA's three-point contest at All-Star weekend. Jordan McRae is leading the campaign charge and the Wizards recently started a campaign to get him there as well. 

So as we await word on whether Bertans will be invited or not, let's lay out his claim as one of the most prolific three-point shooters in the league and how he stacks up against everyone else. 

By the numbers

Bertans is shooting 42.4 percent on 8.7 three-point attempts per game, which is absurd efficiency at that volume. 

Of the 14 players that take at least eight threes per game, nobody is shooting at a higher clip than Bertans.

He's also second in the league in three-point makes per game (3.7), trailing only James Harden. For players who make at least three triples per game, Bertans has the third-highest shooting percentage on his looks. 

If that's not enough, Bertans leads the NBA in catch-and-shoot makes from deep this season (3.2). The three-point contest closer resembles catch-and-shoot opportunities rather than shooting threes off the dribble. If Bertans were to compete in such a setting, he'd feel right at home. 

Supreme confidence

Confidence is one of the most crucial traits of a great shooter, and Bertans has no shortage of self-assurance.

He could be 0-for-7 from three and 2-of-10 from the field, but that wouldn't stop Bertans from taking a 30-footer with the game on the line. 

Speaking of 30-footers, Bertans is more than comfortable launching shots from several feet beyond the three-point line. If he ends up shooting in the three-point contest, I wouldn't be surprised if he wanted to move the ball racks back a few feet just for kicks. 

After a game in which he made six threes against the Hornets, Bertans was asked if there was a three he felt was too deep for him to take. His response?

"I haven't found that yet."

The competition

Last year there were 10 participants in the three-point contest at All-Star weekend. With Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant hurt this season, you have arguably the three best snipers in the NBA all sidelined with serious injuries. 

Without those three, I'm not sure there are five shooters in the league better than Bertans, let alone 10. 

As of now, there have been three reported invites to the contest. Luka Doncic (32.7 3P%), Trae Young (37.3) and Duncan Robinson (42.9), though it's not yet clear if those players will accept. 

Bertans is in line for a nice payday this summer based on his play so far this year, but his recognition around the league shouldn't stop there. 

All you need to do is watch a Wizards game when Bertans hits a few threes in a row and look at how the defense reacts to him. They abandon their entire gameplan to run Bertans off the three-point line. 

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Wizards' three-point defense continues to stand out as a major weakness

Wizards' three-point defense continues to stand out as a major weakness

With the 30th-ranked defense in the NBA, the Wizards have more than one issue on that end of the floor, but lately what has stood out most is a familiar problem.

Three-point defense remains a major weakness for the Wizards, who have had trouble guarding the perimeter going back to last season. It killed them in their overtime loss to the Heat on Wednesday night, as Miami made 17 threes and shot 51.5 percent on their 33 attempts. 

We can focus on Bradley Beal's late-game misses, or the free throw shot disparity. But the biggest reason the Wizards lost to the Heat was their inability to prevent three-point shots.

Even the guys everyone knows can shoot found little resistance. Tyler Herro made 7-of-9 from long range, Duncan Robinson hit 4-of-7 and Kelly Olynyk went 2-for-3.

If your goal is to stop the Heat, who are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA, from making them, you circle those names at the top of the scouting report. The Wizards knew it was coming and still couldn't stop it.

This came two games after the Toronto Raptors made 22 threes against the Wizards, the third-most ever allowed in their franchise history. And on the season, the Wizards currently allow the ninth-highest three-point percentage (36.9) and the sixth-most threes made (12.3) on average.

Last season it was also an issue, as they gave up the fifth-highest three-point percentage (34.1). Much of their personnel is different, yet the same problems persist.

The Wizards may not be able to do much about it this season, barring major changes at the trade deadline. They are only going to be so good at stopping threes with Isaiah Thomas as their starting point guard. Backup Ish Smith, though much more mobile than Thomas, is also at a size disadvantage.

They are simply going to be limited by the way their roster is constructed. In the front office's defense, they had to change a lot last offseason and couldn't fix it all. They made the Wizards younger, more financially flexible and a more efficient offensive team. But they didn't do much to fix the defense and, in fact, it has gotten worse by almost every measure.

Defense will clearly be a major priority going into this summer, if their current pace continues. There will, however, be no easy fix for their three-point defense.

They will need to get a more defensive-minded point guard, assuming Thomas doesn't come back. Maybe John Wall can help their cause when he returns. He is a former All-Defensive selection with the size and length to be a good three-point defender. But he hasn't exactly been consistent in that department throughout his career.

These days, three-point defense is about much more than guards. Teams can roll out lineups with five players who can stretch the floor. The Wizards will need to add big men to their rotation who are nimble enough to man the perimeter.

Perhaps the best way the Wizards can plug some holes in their three-point defense is by their young forwards learning how to be more disruptive. Their two most recent first round picks, Troy Brown Jr. and Rui Hachimura, each have plus wingspans and have flashed solid defensive instincts. The Wizards need them to be able to step out and alter outside shots.

It will be a challenge for general manager Tommy Sheppard and the Wizards front office as they go into this summer trying to take the roster to another level. When healthy, the team has shown they can score. But they don't play defense anywhere close to good enough to be a winning team.

What they have to do is figure out a way to infuse the team with capable defenders without sacrificing much in the way of their offense. They won't be able to cure all of their ills overnight, but they could start on the perimeter.

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