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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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Dwight Howard opts into second year of contract with Wizards

Dwight Howard opts into second year of contract with Wizards

The Wizards are set to have Dwight Howard back for a second year, as the veteran center informed the team of his plans to exercise the $5.6 million player option in his contract for the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed.

Howard, 33, indicated to Wizards brass in his exit meeting last week he was likely to opt in to the second and final year of his deal, but there was some thought he would wait until closer to the June 29 deadline. The reason why is Howard's continued recovery from the back surgery he had in November, a procedure that kept him sidelined for the final five months of the season.

But Howard has now made his intentions known, giving the Wizards a clearer picture of their offseason. With him in the mix, they essentially have five players under contract next season. They technically have six, though Jabari Parker's $20 million team option is essentially a lock to not be picked up.

Howard appeared in only nine games in his first season with the Wizards. He missed all of training camp and their preseason schedule with back issues, played for just over two weeks in November and then went down for the year. He had the surgery, a lumbar microdiscotemy, on Nov. 30. 

Though his time on the floor was brief, he put up solid numbers with averages of 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds. The Wizards missed his rebounding in particular, as they finished 27th in the league in the category and 28th in rebounds against.

Howard will certainly hope for a better showing in Year 2 with the Wizards, though there may be no guarantee he actually comes back. The Wizards are currently searching for a new general manager, and that person could choose to go in a different direction if ownership permits them to.

Keep in mind last summer Howard was traded soon after Mitch Kupchak took over the Hornets' front office and the Nets bought him out immediately after acquiring him. Howard's $5.6 million salary is relatively inexpensive, as Brooklyn paid $18.9 million to part ways.

Time will tell if Howard's career continues in Washington, but for now he is slated to come back next season for a second year with the Wizards.

ESPN's Zach Lowe first reported the news of Howard opting in.

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How John Wall's injury affects the Wizards' many decisions this summer

How John Wall's injury affects the Wizards' many decisions this summer

With the 2018-19 season in the rearview for the Washington Wizards, we at NBC Sports Washington are analyzing the five biggest questions of what should be the most consequential offseason they have had in years...

NO. 4: HOW WILL JOHN WALL'S CONTRACT AFFECT ROSTER CONSTRUCTION?

Though there are several events this summer that could ultimately define the Wizards' offseason, one storyline will hang over everything and factor into just about every decision made by the front office and whomever ends up leading it as the team's new general manager. That is the future of John Wall, who is set to miss at least most of next season due to a ruptured left Achilles, in what will be the first year of his supermax contract.

Wall had surgery on Feb. 12. Even if he returns one year after going under the knife, he will still miss roughly 50 games next season. When he does come back, there are no guarantees he will be the same player. He turns 29 in September and a ruptured Achilles is a very serious injury, especially for a guy whose game has traditionally been reliant on speed.

The Wizards, of course, hope Wall will regain his peak form, but even if that happens it is unlikely to be the case right away. It may not be until the 2020-21 season until the Wizards get a true read on Wall post-surgery and how much value he can provide while making the money he is due. 

Speaking of the money, Wall will still take up a considerable chunk of the salary cap despite not playing. He is set to earn 35 percent of the cap next season, which right now is projected at about $37.8 million. Though that could technically fluctuate based on the final cap number, the percentage is what matters. The Wizards will basically have to build a roster with only 65 percent of the cap at their disposal.

There is an argument that Wall's injury is one of the biggest roster-building obstacles in NBA history. Supermax contracts, ones that allow players to make a contract that begins at 35 percent of the salary cap, are a new concept. And no one else has suffered such a serious injury while getting paid that type of money. 

It may not be quite what the Brooklyn Nets overcame in the fallout of their infamous trade with the Boston Celtics, the one that resulted in a net loss of three first round picks. But it's a bad situation, one that will require some creativity from whomever is tasked with pulling the Wizards out of it.

The long-term ramifications will depend on how Wall plays when he returns, but the short-term effect will clearly be felt. First, the Wizards have to have an insurance policy at point guard and a good one if they hope to compete for the playoffs. Maybe that is as simple as re-signing Tomas Satoransky, but regardless they have to shore up that position, knowing Wall's status.

Second, the Wizards need to find bargains to fill out the rest of their roster. They will have to find some cheap players simply to reach the 13-player minimum with Bradley Beal's max deal also on the books. Beal will earn roughly $27.1 million next season.

The biggest question as it pertains to Wall may deal with the NBA Draft on June 20. What if the Wizards get some luck in the May 14 draft lottery, but not enough to get the No. 1 pick (i.e. Zion Williamson), and Ja Morant is the best player on the board? Morant, of course, is the Murray State superstar who lit up the NCAA Tournament in March.

Morant is dynamic and has serious star potential, and he plays point guard. Wall was already asked about the potential of the Wizards drafting a point guard with a high pick. He said he would be fine with it, but that when he returns that draft pick can "be a great back-up" to him.

If the Wizards picked Morant, or even Coby White of North Carolina, it would arguably be the smart move to make. They need to select the best player available, no matter the position. 

But if they do take a point guard, that will present a unique dynamic to their locker room, especially if that player turns into a star. What if Morant comes in and lights it up as a rookie? How will Wall deal with that? And could you then put Morant on the bench when Wall returns, as Wall suggests they would?

Those are hypothetical scenarios that can be addressed if they actually enter the equation this summer and beyond. But there is no question that, even as Wall is sidelined with an injury, his presence will loom over the Wizards in many ways.

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