Wizards 118 – Celtics 102
April 16, 2014
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
“These are MY guards!”
And honestly, who wouldn’t boast about being the coach of an uprising backcourt tandem like the ‘House of Guards’? After the season these two, and especially John Wall had Cassell can gloat all he wants. Wall capped off a career year in which he accumulated career highs in both points and assists, a season where he more than doubled the total number of 3’s he made in his first three seasons combined, made the All-Star team, won the dunk contest, and most important of all, it was a season where he orchestrated his team’s run to the postseason.
But the hash tag #PlayoffReady could not have been any more applicable to this Wizards team last night. Yes, yes we all know the Celtics are some garbage but nevertheless they were the last thing standing between the Wizards and their final goal, to win the 5th seed. The Wizards, had tunnel vision set 5th spot – with some help, of course – and concluded their regular season campaign with a complete teardown of the TD Garden in Boston. Once the night was settled, the Wizards indeed were the #5 team thanks to Brooklyn tanking against Cleveland. This as you know by now will match the Wizards up against a fearsome Bulls team who are riding on the successes of sound chemistry and superb coaching.
Call it a tune up, call it target practice, call it an all out orgy if that’s how you please. The Celtics were exactly the matchup the Wizards needed before heading into the postseason. A chance for all the players to exploit and showcase their skill set one last time before the big dance and trust me, they were not going to shy away from that. They didn’t actually. The Wizards went on to score 118 points scored on just under 60% shooting, had six players in double figures, and scored 56 big points in the paint. They fired from all angles and thrived in every facet of their game. I mean, Trevor Booker had 20 fucking points in the first half. More on him later, though. Bradley Beal? A stone-cold killa. He and Booker have come on just fine down the final stretch of this season and it couldn’t have been more timely for both. Beal hit 10 of his 14 shots for 27 points but more importantly, he’s continuing to grow as a ball handler and it’s glaring now.
The rest of the team, well, like Trevor Ariza always tells us, they just did what they s’posed to do. A fun, decisive, 5th seed clinching victory against a beatable Celtics team, but in front of an engaged Boston crowd is an ample prerequisite for this Wizards team going into their first playoff series in so long.
The time is finally here. Let’s get it.
Bradley Beal – 27 points, 10-14 FG, 3 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 steals
When Beal was initially scouted in college by fans and critics it was majorly his disposition as a pure scorer and jump shooter that had us intrigued. Sure the Wizards were in dire need of that particular quality and sure the Wizards have been reaping the benefit of those qualities but what’s becoming of Bradley Beal is clearly so much more than that.
At the cute age of 20, Beal could experiencing a growth spurt in this league. His touch is sharp, his floor game is sculpting into a thing of beauty, and his activeness is worthy of a golf clap every time. Beal shot very well last night in Beantown and his comfort zone is essentially becoming anywhere on the floor simply he’s becoming so proficient in creating offense for himself.
But what’s drawing me here is the development in Beal’s game when he’s not looking to score. His defense obviously is a bit premature but his natural instincts and alertness show and prove his potential. Beal had two steals last night and averages 1.0 on the season. He can crash the glass, averaging just under 4 a game. He grabbed 7 last night which was one of many games this season in which he hauled in 7 or more boards. He’s been trusted to facilitate, even when Wall is on the floor. We’re seeing it more often than previous times where the offense goes into a set with Beal handling the ball and Wall on the wing in some role reversal type niche. The trust instilled in Beal by the coaching staff to maintain fluidity with the second unit is also very commendable. It’s obviously Beal’s threat as a scorer that keeps him on the floor while the other starters are resting. And it works because Beal has proven to make it work with either point guard. He noted it himself after the Heat game that not much changes in his game whether he’s playing with Wall or Miller.
I seriously cannot wait for a playoff takeover from the Panda. I might actually cry when it happens.
Key stat of the game:
Trevor Booker’s 20 first half points
Trevor Booker will be the team’s x-factor in the playoffs. Often throughout his tenure in DC, Cook Book has caught the brunt of Wizards fans’ frustrations, but I won’t say it wasn’t warranted. What I will say is that no player on that Wizards roster, besides John Wall perhaps, lays their heart out there on a nightly basis. And I mean, EVERY night. Trevor Booker defies analytics and advanced stats. What he brings to the game is not measured by numbers. Because they’re not supposed to. When you bring a fearless frame of mind to the game and play in constant pursuit, good things will happen. As mentioned before, good things are happening much more for Booker over these past few games and there’s no questioning his readiness for the big dance.
Game 1! Sunday night! 7PM! It’s finally upon us, playoff season. The Wizards head to the United Center in Chicago to face the Bulls for the opening game festivities. Contrary to most others, I’ve always felt the Bulls to be a slightly tougher matchup for the Wizards as opposed to Toronto. Two big advantages for Chicago that worry me: playoff experience and coaching. These are two factors that can benefit the Bulls in crunch time and clutch moments. How Thibs strategizes and gameplans is far advanced than Wittman and how the Bulls can adjust their demeanor to the emotions of the game is something the Wizards are not fond of. Nonetheless it’s glorious time for the Wizards and their fans. Let’s break the game 1 jitters and get this show rolling.