When the Celtics' starting lineup was announced before tonight's game, you figured the Wizards were getting their best shot. After seeing things unfold for 48 minutes, the Wizards did indeed get the Celtics' best shot. Boston put together a vintage third-quarter performance, eventually pulling away for a 107-96 victory.
There's very little the Wizards could have done to score on Boston in that third quarter. The Celtics unleashed their classic Thibodeau-style defense, sending a second defender to zone John Wall off every pick and roll and anticipating the Wizards' weakside motion to cut off any skip passes. Any play the Wizards run at this stage heavily involves Wall, so when a defense can cut off his best options that easily, it can be really hard to function. Major credit to the Celtics' scheme, especially the way they positioned their help defenders off the pick and roll.
But the defensive issues? Those were more disappointing. If it wasn't Jason Terry from the perimeter, it was Shavlik Randolph rolling down the lane. If it wasn't Brandon Bass from mid-range, it was Paul Pierce from deep. The Celtics were hitting some tough shots, but the Wizards weren't matching Boston's pristine execution for the full 24 seconds. For a team ranked in the top five in defensive efficiency right now, that was very uncharacteristic.
The end result? A old-fashioned Celtics victory where they slowly grind a team down and cause them to lose their poise. Wall fouled Randolph flagrantly after being annoyed about a non-call on the other end, but it may as well have been because the Celtics didn't give him any openings. Later in the third quarter, the Wizards committed a turnover and didn't bother to hustle back, letting Terry get a layup. That was the moment where they looked like a beaten team, which is discouraging considering how much they've tried to play through their emotions in this recent stretch.
Things were a litte better in the fourth quarter. A Martell Webster three with 3:58 left cut Boston's lead to 10 and gave the Wizards a sliver of hope. Washington had two chances to cut the lead to single digits, but Wall committed a bad turnover on the first possession and Webster missed a mid-range jumper from the corner on the second. Pierce hit a three from the corner with Webster in his face and that was the end of that comeback effort.
One has to wonder if it was worth playing Wall so many minutes in the second half given the circumstances. He did not come out of the game until the two-mark, even though the Wizards have another back-to-back starting Tuesday. Were all those minutes worth it, or would it have been better to give him more rest with the game not going the Wizards' way?
At least Jordan Crawford didn't do much.