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Wizards walk the walk after talking plenty about Celtics

Wizards walk the walk after talking plenty about Celtics

The excitement couldn't be contained by the court, so as the Wizards exited with a season-high 123 points in a blowout of the Boston Celtics, second-year forward Kelly Oubre shouted -- though not in these exact words -- "I told you so."

It was just a regular-season game, but Paul Pierce would be proud of his old team led by a mid-20s backcourt.

The Wizards (25-20) were salty over what transpired 13 days ago at TD Garden. Then, the Celtics came back to win 117-108 but played what Otto Porter called "dirty" basketball. They responded by following through on a promise to wear all back at Verizon Center, with John Wall calling it a "funeral" game.

They knocked their nemesis dead behind a game-high 31 points from Bradley Beal and Wall with 27 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals. And Oubre locked down Isaiah Thomas, who burned them for 20 fourth-quarter points on Jan. 11, as he was held to four points on 1-for-7 shooting this time.

"We said it in the media and it kind of blew out of proportion," said Oubre, who had 11 points as three of his four made field goals came from the three-point arc. "Everybody was behind everybody. Me and John were the faces of it. We backed it up and got the win. The Celtics are a great team and a great organization. We just gave our fans something to look forward to when they come to the house."

Because of the chatter, it was a must-win game though there's still a lot of basketball to be played. Oubre helped create it following a 109-99 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday. All-black games are rare, but when they occur it's usually in the playoffs.

The N.Y. Knicks did it in a potential close-out Game 5 in 2013 and were humiliated by losing. Their coach at the time, Mike Woodson, was irate. Unknown to many at the time, the Dallas Mavericks had an all-black Game 6 for the NBA championship vs. the Miami Heat. Unlike the Knicks, they didn't let it be known but players packed only one suit for the trip when they cut short the run of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at American Airlines Arena. 

Like Pierce believed about the Toronto Raptors before the Wizards began a first-round series with them in 2015, these Wizards don't believe the Celtics are a better team. Pierce was correct. Despite their regular-season difficulty beating Toronto, they swept them 4-0. The jury is still out on this budding rivalry but the Wizards lead the season series 2-1. They beat Boston here on Nov. 9 by 25.

"The hype around the game obviously was probably bigger than normal but it wasn't moreso in the locker room," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "We were focused on scouting them like we always do and we felt that we made some mistakes down the stretch the last time we played them that we wanted to correct."

RELATED: TAKEAWAYS FROM WIZARDS' WIN OVER CELTICS

Wall erupted for 11 points in the third quarter, five coming after Boston had got the deficit down to 84-78. When the Wizards' lead was trimmed to 101-93 midway through the fourth quarter, Beal scored 11 of the Wizards' 13 points in a 3:30 stretch to put the game away.

Instead of Wall clashing with Jae Crowder at the end of this game, which is what happened in Boston and carried into the locker rooms, it was Marcus Smart who was arguing with his own coaching staff. 

The Wizards have won both games of a back-to-back for the second time in two weeks after not doing that previously this season. While this is only one win, given the importance they placed on this game they had to win. And though Boston laughed it off as silly, they treated it with extra importance, too.

"We are not (a tough team) and that's the problem," Smart said. "Last year, we were the team that guys hated to play against. Now this year everybody wants to play us because we are not doing everything that we used to do on the defensive end."

The Wizards have been on a roll. They scored 66 first-half points which marked the fifth time they've accomplished the feat in the last six games. Markieff Morris had his fifth double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Marcin Gortat made 7 of 8 shots for 16 points and eight rebounds. 

"It was a team thing. We just wanted to have fun," said Beal after making 12 of 18 shots. "It was nothing personal. Of course it was subliminal."

When Porter entered the locker room before the game, his Men In Black suit, complete with black shades, drew cheers from his teammates. They didn't fear the position they put themselves in, with the national attention to the outcome for this game greater than what they faced in a national TV game last week at Madison Square Garden. 

"It's going to be pressure. Yeah, I think it was," Wall said of the decision to wear all black. "They saw everything that we said and we heard what they said. I think it was just a great, clean game today. Nobody did anything dirty. To teams competed today and tried to get a win."

Morris sat at his locker Jan. 11 with disgust on his face. Not only had they lost the game but the Wizards allowed them to get under their skin. They returned the favor. 

"We just wanted to be professional about it," said Morris, who picked up his sixth technical foul after tangling with Crowder on the free-throw line. "We said a lot by wearing all black. Just wanted to keep it on the court, go out there and play hard and try to get the (win)."

The Wizards don't play again until Friday at the Atlanta Hawks, a team that was their most fierce rival after their East semifinals series two years ago. A win there and they go up 2-1 in that season series, too. They play the Celtics one last time, March 20 on the road. 

Any new motivational techniques on the horizon for the Wizards?

"If that's what you all want, we'll give it to you all," Morris said. "Wear all white next game."

RELATED: 5 (10) MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM WIZARDS' BIG WIN

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Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

We can begin free agent watch with the Washington Wizards way before July 1.

This isn’t about players. Coaching changes can happen whenever.

News broke Saturday out of Houston that the Rockets would not retain associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik. Considered one of the league’s top defensive minds, Bzdelik’s relationship with Scott Brooks along with comments made by the Wizards head coach at the NBA Combine makes this transaction interesting.

Bzdelik, 66, gave Brooks his first NBA coaching job when the then Denver Nuggets head coach hired the former player in 2003.

"I'm thankful for coach Bzdelik," Brooks told the Houston Chronicle in 2016.  "He gave me my first NBA coaching start. One of the best coaches I've ever been around. He has great understanding of the game, both ends of the floor.”

Fast forward to Thursday inside Chicago’s Quest Multisport facility. Amid 5-on-5 games involving 2019 draft prospects, players holding court with media members and the general convention vibe that comes with the NBA Combine, Brooks spent a few minutes chatting with reporters.

Among the non-draft or general manager search topics, whether any changes to the coaching staff were forthcoming.

"I’ve talked to Ted. I definitely talked Ted,” Brooks began his reply, referencing Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. “I have a lot of respect for our organization. I have to get better, first and foremost…Will the staff remain the same? Every year, staffs change. Every year staffs change. We're probably going to make some changes. I don't know if it's for sure. Everything is still up in the air.”

Brooks also noted change could come from members of his staff seeking opportunities elsewhere. Tony Brown, Brooks’ lead assistant during his three seasons with the Wizards, became a coaching free agent following Washington’s 32-50 season, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller.

Two days after Brooks’ comments came news of Bzdelik’s exit in Houston.

Bzdelik, a former Bullets assistant from 1988-94 and three-time college head coach, retired following the 2017-18 season. He returned to the Rockets in November following Houston’s slow start. The associate head coach is credited with guiding the team’s defensive improvement as the Rockets rose up the Western Conference standings.

The Houston Chronicle reported Bzdelik, whose contract expired after this season, remained uncommitted to returning. The Rockets announced Saturday they would not renew his deal.

The Wizards do not want a repeat of their defensive struggles. Only the Atlanta Hawks allowed more points per game than the 116.9 Washington surrendered last season. The Wizards ranked 28th in opponent field goal percentage (48.0) and 27th in 3-point shooting percentage (37.0).

It’s unclear how the Wizards fix those defensive concerns based solely on personnel. The current roster with five healthy players does not include any forwards or mobile big men. Point guard John Wall is expected to miss the majority of the upcoming season following February’s surgery for a ruptured Achilles. Wall, an erratic defensive presence in recent seasons, was previously selected to the NBA’s all-defensive team in 2015.

Coaching strategies could become the primary driver of change on the defensive end. The man who brought Brooks into the coaching fraternity would make for an obvious addition if both sides are interested.

"The accountability that [Jeff] taught me with the coaching staff and the players is second to none,” Brooks told the Chronicle in 2016. “I learned about work. I learned how to transfer my playing career into a coaching career with his help."

News of the next front office leader likely comes before coaching staff tweaks.

Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly was offered the same position with the Wizards Saturday after Denver granted Washington permission to meet. In the interim, the Wizards sent a contingent of scouting personnel along with Brooks to Chicago as the team conducted player interviews and watched scrimmages.

“Ted is going to make a decision and I trust that I going to be the best for the program moving forward,” Brooks said Thursday. “As of right now, (interim GM Tommy Sheppard) is doing a great job leading the group. We all feel comfortable with what’s going on. Hopefully, things work out and we move forward as an organization. We all have to get better, myself included.”

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Five things to know about Wizards general manager search candidate Tim Connelly

Five things to know about Wizards general manager search candidate Tim Connelly

The Washington Wizards have reportedly offered their vacant general manager position to Tim Connelly. The news was first reported by the Athletic.

Here are five things to know about him...

1. Connelly is a Baltimore native who transferred to Catholic University in D.C. during his junior year in college, graduating from there in 1999. 

2. Connelly began his NBA front office career with the Wizards, starting as an intern in 1996. He spent a decade with the organization, holding such roles as assistant video coordinator, head scout, and director of player personnel. 

3. After leaving the Wizards, Connelly spent three seasons serving as the assistant general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans. 

4. Connelly joined the Nuggets organization in 2013 as the executive vice president of basketball operations. He was promoted to President of Basketball Operations in 2017. Connelly has been part of a Denver front office that has drafted the likes of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris over the last five years. 

5. Connelly has six siblings, including four brothers: Joe, Pat, Dan and Kevin. All four of them have also worked in basketball in some capacity, Joe, Pat, and Dan all following Tim into the NBA ranks. 

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