Celtics laugh in the face of travel concerns, sweep season series against Wizards with 116-91 win
Fresh off a comfortable win over the bottom-feeding 76ers and riding a three game win streak, the Celtics sat alone in fifth place in the eastern conference mere weeks after a four game losing skid had seen them drop out of the playoff picture completely. And while there were several challenges, both on and off the court, that could have caused the Celtics to stumble in pursuit of their latest win on a an increasingly impressive resume, the C's were able to pull out another solid road win over the Washington Wizards, 116-91.
Despite the Celtics recent success, a same-day travel schedule on back to back days threatened to doom Boston as they faced a road showdown with a Washington squad that very nearly beat Boston in their recent matchup (one which turned rather heated, as Jae Crowder received a technical for jawing at, of all people, Wizards head coach Randy Wittman).
The ill effects of the consecutive travel days seemed in full effect in the opening quarter, as the Celtics offense looked sluggish in the opening frame. Isaiah Thomas, continuing his campaign to become Boston's lone all star representative, notched nine points in the opening quarter to keep the C's afloat, and their usual solid defense -- especially on John Wall, who was unable to penetrate either off isolation or the pick and roll after shredding the Celtics for 34 points and 12 assists in their previous tilt --allowed them to cling to a small 22-20 lead after one.
Boston continued to struggle on the offensive end entering the second stanza, especially Jae Crowder, who followed up a 20 point outing against Philadelphia with a bit of a dud, missing several wide open threes and finishing the game only 1 of five from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Washington's role players, especially Otto Porter and Jared Dudley, did just enough to keep Washington in the game while wall continued to struggle to even get to the rim, much less score.
Despite the low point total and less than stellar percentage (the C's were below 40% for much of the first half), the Celtics actually executed the offense quite well in the first, but simply missed open shots and allowed the Wizards to keep it close. The second half, however, flipped that script entirely, as some blistering shooting by the Celtics opened up what would eventually become a 20 point lead in a game they lead by only four at half. Thomas continued to dominate on offense, finishing the game with 23 points and 9 assists in the win. Of special note in the half was Evan turner, who had his usual mid-range game working to perfection in an efficient outing that saw him register 18 points on only 11 shot attempts.
The game ceased to be a contest early in the final quarter, as the Celtics carried a 14 point lead into the fourth and ballooned it to twenty mere minutes into the final frame. Boston was so comfortable with its lead that rookie Terry Rozier, who rarely sees the floor besides for the Maine Red Claws, was on the floor before the clock fell below the four minute mark. Yet another encouraging sign was the play of Marcus Smart, who, after receiving a good deal of attention for his season long struggles from three (only 20% from downtown for the year), has come on of late, as an efficient double-digit performance against the Sixers was joined by a ten point performance on 5-11 shooting.
With the win, the Celtics swept the season series against a Washington team that many expected to contend for a top four spot in the east. Boston remains only two games back of Atlanta (who has lost two straight) for the fourth seed and home court advantage in round one, and will play the woeful Denver Nuggets at home Wednesday before welcoming the Orlando Magic, a team which walloped Boston on the road early in the season, to TD Garden on Friday.
Photo courtesy of ESPN.com Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com Follow Brenton on twitter @BBTruth8294