The Washington Wizards get a huge win over its rivals, the Boston Celtics. The 111-103 win was the Wizards first in Boston since April 16, 2014. Behind a star-studded performance from John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter, the Wizards’ big three outplayed the Celtics’ big three of Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford to claim a much-needed win.
Here are the biggest takeaways and moments of the win.
1. John Wall Took Over the Fourth Quarter
Wizards head coach Scott Brooks took any restrictions off Wall, and the four-time NBA All-Star responded. Facing one of his biggest rivals, Kyrie Irving, Wall outshined the Celtics point guard with a masterful performance. Wall pushed and controlled the pace of the game scoring 21 points while dishing out 14 dimes and grabbing five rebounds.
What’s more impressive is Wall committed just one turnover in 39 minutes. He also did a great job on the defensive end. Primarily locked on Irving late in the game, Wall and his help defense limited Irving to five points in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Wall took over the fourth quarter with seven points and six assists. He went a stretch of scoring or assisting on eight consecutive Wizards’ field goals, totaling 17 points.
His command of the fourth quarter and ability to have a full-length outing was a great sight for the Wizards and its fans. He was coming off missing nine games with a knee injury that required PRP injections. His first six games back, he was on a minute’s restrictions that seemingly affected his aggressiveness. On Monday, the leash was off, so to speak, and Wall responded with arguably his best performance of the season.
2. Narrative Remains the Same with Wizards’ Bench
The players may have changed in Boston — and the Wizards to a degree — yet Monday’s game played very similar to much of the last season’s playoff series. The Wizards starters dominated the Celtics starters 91-60 just like they did last year. However, the Celtics were able to stay in the game with adjustments from their head coach Brad Stevens and its overachieving bench, which outscored the Wizards’ bench 43-20.
This season, the Wizards bench had been such an improvement from last season’s in large to the emergence of Kelly Oubre and the signing of Mike Scott. Yet, in Boston, the bench regressed to its old ways. Oubre seemed unaffected with 16 points, five rebounds, and assists. However, the rest of the Washington reserves were not so fortunate. Scott who had been shooting 72 percent from the field in his last 10 games, shot just 1-of-5 from the field.
The Celtics’ bench led by the likes of Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart, two players on the team last season, seemed to understand the nature of the game. Their collective efforts that included Daniel Thies combined for 38 of the Celtics’ 43 bench points. And ultimately forced Brooks’ hands to make adjustments.
Moving forward, the Wizards need a better effort from the bench especially at TD Garden. These two teams may very well meet again in the playoffs, and through a seven-game series the bench will need to pick their play in order to win the series — something it failed to do last season.
3. Brooks Made His Best Adjustment of the Season
Brooks has gotten a bad reputation for his lack of adjustments, both with the Wizards and his previous tenure in Oklahoma City. His lack of adjustments was one of the biggest blames of the Wizards falling short versus the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, last season. On Monday, he rewrote the narrative with an adjustment that led to their comeback win.
With the bench struggling, Boston regained the lead at 87-85, outscoring the Wizards 11-5 to start the fourth quarter. Brooks turned to his starters, primarily Wall and Beal with 9:11 remaining. Then he went small with Oubre, Porter, and Markieff Morris — Morris was playing the five-position. Boston held the momentum momentarily to build a 95-90 lead.
Then Brooks’ gamble paid off, as the Wizards went on a 12-0 run to regain the lead and take command of the game late in the fourth quarter. The highlight of the sequence was Wall stealing the ball from Irving and then racing down the court drawing attention from two defenders. Beal leaked ahead, and Wall threaded the needle with a beautiful pass that led to Beal dunking with authority.
Wall threads the needle to Beal to cap off the @WashWizards 12-0 run!
— NBA (@NBA) December 26, 2017
The small lineup gave the Wizards much-needed athleticism on the floor. That led to eight offensive rebounds in the frame as Porter, Oubre, and Morris hustled to nearly every missed shot. Moving forward, Brooks seemingly understands the Wizards’ best offensive — and defensive — lineup is the five he finished the Monday night with.
That adjustment along with Wall’s improving health will go a long way to Washington getting back on track and contending in the Eastern Conference.
4. Wizards Understood the Moment
The hustle plays, Wall’s fourth quarter closing, and role players like Oubre stepping up all played a huge factor in the win. It showed, along with Brooks’ adjustments, everyone learned from their mistakes a season ago.
Unlike in Game 7, Wall wasn’t tired in the fourth. He had the energy to take over when his team needed him the most. Oubre wasn’t losing focus and letting his emotions take over. Even when he took a huge shot to the chin from Smart, he did not let that deter him earning the trust of his head coach. Remember he didn’t play in Game 7’s loss.
On Monday, he was on the floor playing 32 minutes and playing down the stretch when his team needed him the most. He ignored the boos from the raucous Boston crowd, and played his game. Beal leaned on Wall’s lead, and took his spots at the right moment. He made a couple of great extra passes. And when he saw the opening he took it hard to the rim to the tune of a game-high 25 points.
His biggest two points may go unnoticed. Late in the fourth quarter with Boston losing grip of the game, Stevens turned to one of his biggest Wizards’ stoppers in Smart with just over four minutes remaining. On the ensuing possession, Beal took a pass from Wall and drove hard at Smart, drawing a blocking foul and making the layup. Beal would make the free throw to complete the three-point play that put Washington up 100-95.
The next possession Wall got the pivotal steal on Irving and the rest is history. It was a different attitude that we had seen in the Wizards over the past couple of seasons. They understood the moment, they understood how to close.
5. No Avery, No Answer for Wall
Losing Gordon Hayward to what appears a season-ending foot injury may have changed the thinking of the Celtics. However, their biggest loss may have been having to trade Avery Bradley to make room for the additions of Irving, Hayward, and Tatum. Last season, he along with Smart gave the Wizards’ dynamic backcourt duo fits on the defensive end.
Bradley wasn’t there on Monday, he is now a Detroit Piston. That may have played another factor in the duo of Wall and Beal taking over the fourth quarter. It was no question that through the changing pieces of Boston, they lost some of its defensive I.Q. in the process. Washington exploited that. And moving forward in the rivalry, that could play big on the outcome of a playoff series between the two teams.