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Wizards top Celtics for best win of season behind big games from their stars

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Wizards top Celtics for best win of season behind big games from their stars

The Washington Wizards beat the Boston Celtics 111-103 on Christmas Day. Here's analysis of what went down...

Even match: The Wizards believe they are better than their record would suggest and that certainly appeared true in their Christmas Day matchup with the Boston Celtics, owners of the best mark in the Eastern Conference. Washington (19-15) more than held their own in a back-and-forth battle with one of the NBA's heavyweights and emerged with their best win of the season so far.

The reason for that is because the Wizards' stars showed up. Bradley Beal caught fire early and John Wall and Otto Porter followed his lead. Beal looked like the best player on the court in the first half with 15 point and four rebounds. He finished with 25 points, eight rebounds, two assists and a steal.

Wall went off in the second and fourth quarters. He had 21 points, 14 assists and five rebounds. Porter was dominant at times in the second half and ended up with 20 points, six rebounds (three offensive), a steal and a block.

It was just one game, but life was a lot easier for Wall and Beal against the Celtics without Avery Bradley on the floor. The Celtics traded him to the Pistons over the summer and his presence was missed because the Wizards' backcourt at times could not be stopped. Boston tried everything and aside from holding them to 0-for-9 from three, it was a struggle.

The Celtics still have options with two physical guards in Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart and two uber-athletic wings in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. But the inexperience of Brown and Tatum was taken advantage of, in particular. That was never more evident than on a play late in the fourth quarter when Wall blew by Tatum for an easy layup with a simple hesitation, stop-and-go move.


Wizards-Celtics is still fun: This game reaffirmed several things. The Wizards, despite their inconsistency this season, remain a talented group capable of keeping up with the best teams in the NBA. We also learned that there is still plenty of fun left in the Wizards vs. Celtics matchup.

There was a point in the third quarter where Wall and Kyrie Irving were trading buckets. That included Irving splitting two defenders and going up and around Mike Scott at the rim with a reverse finger roll off the glass. Irving had a nice game with 20 points and five assists, but Wall's versatility helped him and the Wizards win out. He scored, but also set others up for easy looks.

Oubre came to play: The last time the Wizards played at TD Garden, Kelly Oubre, Jr. was given just six seconds of playing time as head coach Scott Brooks tightened his rotation in a decisive Game 7. Oubre used that as motivation throughout the summer and so far this season has looked like the team's most improved player. On Monday, he served a clear reminder of that.

Oubre provided a spark for the Wizards quickly with nine points in the first half. He had a steal that led to a dunk for Beal on the other end. He had a pair of dunks and even scored on a Eurostep, fadeaway combination that we had not seen from him before. Oubre finished with 16 points and five rebounds (three offensive). He shot 7-for-13 from the field.

Oubre's athleticism can be a big factor in the matchup between the Wizards and Celtics. Boston has two crazy athletic young wings in Brown and Tatum and many teams don't have an answer for that. In Oubre, the Wizards have at least one guy who can match them in size, speed and length.

Bench didn't hold up: Despite Oubre's contributions, the Wizards' bench didn't do a great job turning the page from their disaster of a showing in Game 7. Aside from Oubre, they managed just four points. It is a very different group, but the Celtics' depth continued to give the Wizards' second unit problems in this one. Their second unit outscored that of the Wizards 43-18.

Up next: The Wizards are off Tuesday before moving on to Atlanta to play the Hawks on Wednesday night. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.


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John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

The Wizards in recent years have made a habit of trying to speak things into existence and then not having them actually come into existence. They have talked the talk and then sometimes haven't walked the walk.

A few instances come to mind, including Bradley Beal saying of the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers that "they didn't want to see us" in the playoffs. Beal also said in November that the Washington was the best team in the East, just hours before James scored 57 points in the Wizards' building.

John Wall has made similar proclamations in the past, usually about himself, including how he is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Now, these statements were all relatively normal for professional athletes who pride themselves in always feeling like they are the best player on the floor or the field. It's part of the mindset that makes them who they are.

But when those statements are made and then not backed up, they can be tough to defend, and especially for a Wizards team which last season seemed to overlook the lesser teams and suffered a down year because of it.

Wall insists all that is about to change. In his 1-on-1 interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall said the message this year will be much different, much more muted than it has been in the past.

"We want to go out with a different mindset and a different focus. We're not trying to go in and think we're a team that has already established something and got respect from people. We have to earn that respect and that means going out and competing every night against the good teams or the bad teams," he said.

That doesn't mean Wall isn't confident. His belief in himself hasn't wavered and, in fact, he may believe in his team more now than ever. That's because he is happy with the offseason the front office has produced.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green in free agency, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. All should help the Wizards improve between Howard representing an upgrade at starting center and the others providing much-needed depth.

When Wall was asked by Chris if this is the most complete team he has played with in Washington, Wall left no doubts.

"Yeah, for sure. I definitely think so," he said. "I think it gives us the opportunity where we don't have to play as many minutes. That's the key. At the end of the year, you kind of fall short because you're fatigued. Nobody uses that as an excuse. You play and try to get into the best shape possible. But if you're playing 24 minutes, the whole half, and then 24 minutes and the whole half, you kind of get tired at some point. I think those guys can take a little of the burden and pressure off of us at times."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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