The Washington Wizards were starting to get into a groove for the first time in a while, four consecutive wins and looking for a fifth. The Boston Celtics have given many teams problems this season, but they have been a thorn in Washington’s side. The Celtics were able to top Washington, ending their four game win streak with a score of 119-117. Washington’s all-world point guard John Wall missed a difficult left-handed layup at the buzzer that would have pushed the game in to overtime.
As the score indicates, it was a close game and it got extremely entertaining down the stretch. The free throw line is where most of the action occurred, Boston’s Avery Bradley drilled a triple from the wing to give his team a 114-110 lead. On Washington’s ensuing possession, John Wall got fouled shooting a three pointer from the top of the arc by Boston’s Amir Johnson.
After missing his first attempt, Jae Crowder and Nene looked to be jawing with eachother. Then referee Tony Brothers issued a technical on Crowder, apparently it was Crowder and Wizards coach Randy Wittman that got into it. After the game, several reports stated that Crowder believed that Wittman was cursing at him and that’s what prompted him to respond, in turn it got him charged with a technical. As of today, there isn’t any clear cut video evidence of Crowder’s claim but that doesn’t mean that it should be dismissed. Gary Neal came to the line and hit the technical free throw, Wall still had two more attempts from Johnson’s foul. Washington’s point guard knocked them both down.
The Wizards would find themselves trailing 117-115, they were able to get a stop and Garrett Temple secured the rebound and was fouled by Boston. Temple calmly stepped to the line, converting both attempts to tie things up at 117. The Celtics called timeout to set up a play, and a great play it was. It may have seemed like a very simple read, but Isaiah Thomas brought the ball across halfcourt and gave the ball to Marcus Smart on the left wing. Smart then dropped a gorgeous entry pass to Crowder who had the youngster Kelly Oubre on him and converted the layup with 3.9 seconds left in the game.
Back to why it was such a great play. With Boston having their center inbound the ball, Olynk wasn’t in the paint on the offensive end as he trailed the play. That meant that Washington’s big wouldn’t be in the paint either as his man was on the perimeter and Olynk has proven several times that he’s a capable shooter from long distance and Washington knows from first hand experience. With no big in the paint, it left Crowder who was essentially the small-ball four (power forward) in this situation with a smaller small forward on him. Not in height, but in weight. Oubre fronted Crowder as Brad Stevens expected and then it was all on the passer. Smart made a great pass, Crowder sealed the youngster and that was that.
Only it wasn’t, with 3,9 seconds left Washington inbounded the ball and John Wall showed why he’s one of the most dynamic players in space in the league. The point guard raced the length of the floor, causing two Celtics to run into each other in pursuit( shades of Atlanta Falcons Michael Vick highlight run against the Vikings). He launched from the left block and maneuvered past Isaiah Thomas on his left and Olynk on his right to get off a left-handed layup. He did all of this in enough time, let that sink in as he beat the game clock. Sadly for Washington, the lefty layup was a bit too strong and after hitting off the glass, the ball fell off the front of the rim.
Leading the way for Boston were Thomas and Crowder, the diminutive point guard made a living at the line. Getting there 16 times and knocking down 15 of those tries. He also hit a tough fall away over Marcin Gortat down the stretch. Crowder did a lot of the little things en route to scoring the game winning basket, finishing with 22 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds.
Washington’s getting a bit healthier, but they really missed Bradley Beal and Otto Porter in this one. Gortat did return, but Gooden and Humhpries were out. Still, it was just yet another opportunity for John Wall to show why he is one of the top playmakers in the league regardless of Conference. While his missed layup at the buzzer may stand out, Washington wouldn’t of been around late if it weren’t for his contributions throughout the game. Wall put up a ridiculous line last night: 36 points, 13 assists, 7 rebounds, 7 steals and 1 block.
Last night’s loss may be tough to swallow today, but if he can continue this level of play they will be fine. Eventually, they may get Beal back on a regular basis and even on limited minutes he has shown he can be very productive. As they get healthier, Washington still has a chance to climb up those standings in the East. At this moment they sit 9.5 games out of first place and just two games behind the eighth seeded Celtics. If Washington were in the West, they’d be the owners of the eighth seed with their current record. There’s a ton of time left in the regular season, Wall and company should be fine if they can be healthy for the second half of the season.