The tone was set by John Wall in the opening minutes. He hit the floor against the odds for a loose ball and rescued it from the often tenacious hands of Avery Bradley and Al Horford to feed Bradley Beal spotting up from three.
The lead was just 7-2, but the hustle and grit showed in Game 3 on the defensive end launched the Wizards to a 116-89 blowout of the Boston Celtics to close the series to 2-1 on Thursday night at Verizon Center. Game 4 is Sunday in Washington.
Wall (24 points, eight assists) led Washington followed by Otto Porter (19 points, eight rebounds), Bojan Bogdanovic (19 points), Marcin Gortat (13 points, 16 rebounds), Beal (11 points) and Markieff Morris (10 points).
After dropping 53 in Boston’s 13-point comeback to win in overtime Tuesday night at TD Garden, Isaiah Thomas (13 points) was kept under wraps as Wall blanketed him and the Wizards’ rotations were crisp on their switches. He shot just 3-for-8 which included misses on his only two shots from the three-point arc.
Horford (16 points) and Jae Crowder (14 points, seven rebounds) led an otherwise anemic offense for Boston.
The Wizards dominated the play inside by keeping Thomas out of the paint. They had a 56-28 edge on those points inside and thumped them on the boards with a 50-38 rebound edge.
-- Starts haven’t been a problem for the Wizards. They led 38-24 after the first quarter in Game 1, 42-29 in Game 2 and went on a 22-0 run in the first quarter to lead 39-17 going into the second quarter of this one. Unlike the first two when those leads were trimmed to five and three, the Wizards didn’t lose that cushion. They entered halftime up 63-40 and never were threatened.
--Porter asserted himself in the second quarter as the Celtics continued to tried to hide their biggest defensive liability, Thomas, on him. He had 15 points on 7 of 9 shooting by halftime as Porter kept getting the ball either on the catch or on the dribble going to the lane so he could knock down one-hand floaters or turnaround jumpers. At 5-9, Thomas is helpless to stop it.
--Ian Mahinmi (two points) made his first appearance in a game since April 10. He made what appeared to be a clean strip of Kelly Olynyk that was called a foul. Mahinmi tangled with Jonas Jerekbo and both were hit with double technical fouls. Mahinmi only played nine minutes but provided the rim protection if the guards were beaten off the dribble.
--After knocking down a pull-up jumper, Kelly Oubre (two points) lost his cool with Olynyk (one point) who flattened him with a screen that was called an offensive foul. Oubre bounced up quickly and charged Olynyk in front of the Wizards’ bench and slammed into him to knock him to the floor. Oubre was ejected with 9:12 left and the Wizards up 45-24. He played just five minutes.
--When Thomas leaves the floor, Marcus Smart (nine points) does a lot of the ballhandling and he was a disaster for Boston. He had six turnovers in his first 13 minutes because he tends to take steps or split his feet before his first dribble. It wasn’t allowed and with no pure point guard option behind Thomas, it’s a glaring weakness. Smart had two more to finish with a game-high eight.
--Brandon Jennings (four points) and Terry Rozier (two points) got into aggressive exchanges early in the fourth quarter. Rozier was called for two quick common fouls, then both players were assessed technical. Celtics coach Brad Stevens was given a technical and then when a timeout was called with 9:54 left Jennings and Rozier were hit with technical again. That resulted in both being ejected. Trey Burke made his first appearance for the Wizards since the playoffs began April 16.
--Jason Smith didn’t play until 7:20 remained with Mahinmi back in the lineup. He’s also been less than 100% since hyperextending his right knee in the first round. His three-point range is vital from the four or five spot but Mahinmi is the better defensive option vs. Horford and the better rebounder. Smith made his first shot with four minutes left in the game.