Through some of their most frustrating times of the past two seasons, every once in a while a version of the Wizards will show up on a given night that teases their potential. They will win a game that feels at the time like a turning point and an example of what they are capable of when they put it all together.
That version of the Wizards seems to show up more often to play the Boston Celtics than maybe anyone else. Though Boston has in some ways sped off into the distance, leaving their once-contentious and close rivalry behind, the Wizards still manage to give them their best shot, no matter the personnel.
Washington has won three of the past four regular season meetings between the teams, all since their memorable playoff series in 2017. The one win for the Celtics required overtime and John Wall was out with an injury.
The Wizards beat Boston last year with Wall and without him. One of their wins with him, on Christmas Day 2017 in Boston, was arguably their most impressive victory since the beginning of last season.
Last year, the Wizards won their second meeting in Boston as well. Bradley Beal dropped 34 points in double overtime game while Wall was sidelined with a knee injury.
The Wizards have remained competitive in the head-to-head battles with the Celtics, though Boston has been doing much better in the big picture. They were one win away from a berth in the NBA Finals this past spring, while the Wizards were at home, having lost in the first round as an eighth seed.
Since the 2017 playoff series, the Celtics have overhauled their roster to get even better. They brought in Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum, among others. The Wizards have mostly kept their core intact with their biggest change, the addition of Dwight Howard, currently having zero impact due to injury.
Perhaps most noteworthy about the Wizards-Celtics meetings the past two seasons is how the animosity between them has largely been lost.
The 2016-17 season saw them butt heads as bitter foes. With some of it stemming from previous history, we saw clashes with Wall and Jae Crowder, Beal and Marcus Smart, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Kelly Olynyk, Brandon Jennings and Terry Rozier, Ian Mahinmi and Jonas Jerebko and Markieff Morris and Al Horford. There was even a funeral game.
But many of those players have since moved on to other teams. and any spat with Morris is mitigated by the fact his twin brother is now wearing Celtics green. There is also Beal's hometown connection to Tatum. These teams probably couldn't hate each other even if they tried.
Since 2016-17, the Celtics retooled their roster to battle LeBron James, and now the Raptors, Sixers and Warriors. The Wizards, meanwhile, have had more pressing problems than one, direct rival.
Still, anytime these teams face off, it carries some significance. The best shot of Wall's career came against Boston. That 2017 series was the closest the Wizards have been to the conference finals since the 1970s. And each time they play in the regular season, it bears watching, knowing the history between them.
For two seasons the Wizards have been searching for the best version of themselves. Though that has been elusive, they usually seem to find it, if only temporarily, against the Celtics.
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