"With the exception of Game 2, which resulted in an OT win for Boston, none of the games in this series have been close. The Celtics took an early 2-0 lead, but after a blowout loss in Game 3 and 26-0 run in the third quarter of Game 4, Washington looks like a solid pick to take this series. Game 5 is a must win for both teams, but even more for the Wizards, who will head back home for Game 6." -- line manager David Strauss
It’s time to be honest...the second round of the NBA Playoffs have been underwhelming. The Warriors and Cavaliers blitzed their overmatched opponents and the sweeps were as predictable as L.A. weather in June. The Rockets and Spurs tilt has featured several blowouts, and as is the case with most Rockets games, those contests constantly develop into flail, flop and free throw fests. It’s a tough watch, and now with Nene out for the season it’s also mired by a major injury that just might tilt the series.
But the Washington Wizards vs. the Boston Celtics? That’s been everything it was advertised as, and more. The John Wall and Isaiah Thomas matchup? Golden. Yeah, Isaiah saw Wall’s 40 in Game 2 and outlasted him in overtime with 53 and the win, but Wall has been no slouch in the series, tossing up 28 points a game to go with 12.3 assists. Isaiah hasn’t been the distributor that his counterpart has been, but he’s thrown in 29 points a game and carried the Celtics for stretches of each game.
The games have been decided by an average of 17 points each game, but that stat is misleading and doesn’t nearly depict how competitive and heated the series has been. Both games in Boston were one possession games with under three minutes to go in regulation, and one, of course, only went into overtime when Wall and Bradley Beal missed shots at the buzzer.
But it has been the chippiness that has made the series the best watch of the Conference Semifinals thus far. A quick breakdown:
- The Wiz and Celts feud runs back to last season, when then Wizards coach Randy Wittman got into a shouting match with Celtics forward Jae Crowder during a game.
- This carried over into this season when the Wizards wore all black “funeral attire” to a January game against Boston that the Wiz eventually won by 15.
- The rivalry has featured dustups with Marcus Smart for both Wall and Beal, a broken nose for Beal, a Pull Up The Shorts Aggressively “What you trying to do?” moment between Wall and Crowder
- A questionably dirty play by Al Horford that put Markieff Morris out of Game 1
- A cheap shot from Kelly Olynyk and retaliation from Kelly Oubre in Game 3 that was about as close as you’re going to get to a fight in the modern-day NBA.
So yeah, these guys don’t like each other, but what makes this series special is Wall and Thomas. Two players constantly dogged for separate reasons: Wall for his injury history and for some critics viewing him as being less than professional and not reaching his full potential, and Thomas for his lack of height, his porous defense and any other criticisms have made the chip on his shoulder the size of King Kong. But through their fight for a spot in the Conference Finals, they have morphed into the superstars their most confident supporters always knew they could be. Thomas’ 53 virtuoso performance was legendary, a moment that will live on in Celtics lore next to Larry Bird and Paul Pierce’s best nights in the green and white, but Wall is pushing his Wizards further than anybody has since Wes Unseld.
Scuffles are fun, and make for neat little video clips years from now, but watching two stars raise their games when it matters most, and make the leap into superstardom against one another is the stuff that lives on for generations. The Cavs and the Warriors may have a date with destiny in June, but right now the best show in town is the Wizards and Celtics, so enjoy it.
Game Odds: Washington Wizards vs. Boston Celtics, May 10th, 2017
- Washington Wizards +4½ -110
- Boston Celtics -4½ -110
- O/U 215 -110
- Washington Wizards +160
- Boston Celtics -190
An anti-social contrarian who hates everything you love, but loves everything you hate. I'm probably busy watching season 3 of The Wire, Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals or telling my kids to brush their teeth.