Washington held serve with a 27-point win in Game 3. John Wall led all scorers with 24 and the Wizards seemed to overwhelm the Celtics, who had won all three of their playoff road games.
The Wiz shot the ball a lot better than Boston did, but the two tell-tale statistics were rebounds and turnovers. Washington out-rebounded Boston, 50 to 38, and committed just nine turnovers. Wall and Trey Burke combined for 11 assists and just one TO.
But Washington was desperate and Boston perhaps caught off guard and both of those factors may play out differently in Game 4. The Wizards could let up just a bit with a win under their belts, and an easy one at that. The Celtics should be better prepared to steel themselves to handle the Verizon Center Crowd.
Either difference would go Boston’s way. Then again, the Celtics need something – a lot – to change in this one if they want a chance to close out this series in Game 5.
The game was already in hand when Kelly Oubre took exception to Kelly Olynyk‘s hard screen and shoved him, leading to an ejection. The NBA will, no doubt, review the altercation and decide whether or not to suspend Oubre. My guess it that it will not. Either way, it seems as though tension is still rising toward some clash even bigger than this one was.
If Boston is to be competitive in Game 4, it will more than likely come via an inspired defensive effort. The Celtics let the Wizards take the initiative on the perimeter and they can’t afford to let John Wall be comfortable, ever.
It starts with Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley and continues with Terry Rozier. Those three need to turn up the defensive pressure and, if not force turnovers, at least take the Wizards’ ball-handlers out of their comfort zones.
I’m not sure how Boston can improve the rebounding discrepancy, other than by playing better defense. The Celtics are just so bad on the glass and it gets worse when they go on the road. They have got to try to manage the mismatch; another -12 won’t be good enough.
Lastly there is Isaiah Thomas, who Washington managed to almost completely take out of the last game (3 for 13 shooting, 4 assists). It’s a wonder how Boston can stay competitive without at least 25 from its All-Star.
This feels like the kind of series that could play to the home team in every game; and if any team is to win on the road, it sort of feels like it will be Washington. But the Wizards better stay the more desperate team in Game 4, because they are.
We’ve got a great early number with Washington. I recommend getting on this one sooner, rather than later.
Free Pick: Wizards -4.5