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Game Notebook 19, Wizards at Celtics: Bullied in Beantown

Celtics 101
Wizards 93

December 7, 2014 – TD Garden, Boston, MA


For most regular humans living in America, some of life’s most harrowing obligations are the elusive Sunday work days. Typically, a person called in to work on a Sunday will mope into his or her office unshowered in sweatpants, half-ass what they need to get done and leave the rest to worry about for Monday.

Apparently for basketball players who play professionally in the city of Washington, D.C., this seemingly also applies. Not the sweatpants part but moping and seeming out of sorts? Definitely.

For three quarters at an off-site location in Boston, the Wizards bowed down to excellent defense and botched opportunities. Like, what I mean to say is that if it wasn’t the Wizards’ offense breaking down due to something like a timely defensive rotation or paint clogging by the Celtics defenders, it was a mishandled pass or a missed open shot. By the end of the third quarter, the Wizards had only made 21 of 64 shots, missed seven free throws, and had 17 turnovers and only six fast break points.

Marcin Gortat struggled on Sunday. After several failed executions of the patented pick and roll with John Wall, Gortat experimented with a few plan B options of post-ups and hook shots, also of which came up short. Ultimately, Randy Wittman opted to sit Gortat out the entire fourth quarter in favor of a smaller lineup comprised of Paul Pierce at the 4 and either Nene or Kris Humphries as the big. The result: plenty of 3’s for the Wizards (6-11) and more forced turnovers (8).

The Wizards outscored the Celtics 34-24 in that final period and got within one point twice late in the game. But trailing 94-93 with under a minute left, but a John Wall turnover leading to an Avery Bradley three clinched the game for Boston.

The Wizards, per the usual prognosis of Dr. Bradley Beal, must be amnesiac to yesterday’s conundrum and gear up for tonight’s rematch in DC.

Moment of the Night

This was the hub of a back-to-back-to-back barrage of 3-point shots from Rasual Butler. With the game seemingly out of hand and the Hammer struggling, the Wizards opted for a smaller, more effective lineup that was able to rain from long distance.

Key Stat

John Wall: 17 points, 14 assists, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks. Wall struggled considerably in the first half, going just 1-4 with four turnovers. But despite the hampering defense of the Celtics and his teammates’ struggles, Wall found ways to make plays and took advantage of the 4th quarter momentum. Wall had nine assists in the second half including all of the three consecutive 3-balls from Butler.

Game Notes and Highlights

  • Early on, the Wizards’ struggles were mostly self-inflicted. While Boston’s defense was staunch, the Wizards botched a few plays on their own with passes that were mishandled or misfired.

  • But speaking of that Celtics defense, they were excellent. Their rotations were quick and blocked off many opportunities to get to the rim, which subsequently forced an errant decision.

Paul Pierce getting very Celtic with his first bucket at TD Garden as a Wizard.

  • More first quarter trauma included Wall mishandling the ball in transition. Later, Wall found Beal in transition with a nice pass to the wing but Beal just badly misfired. A second chance opportunity landed the ball back in Wall’s hands who put up a 3 of his own and missed it even worse than Beal. The team was just out of rhythm in every way while the Celtics chipped away at them slowly.

  • Boston game-planned for this one wonderfully. Their defense was prepped for every Wizards threat and they attacked it to the point of perplexity. If you normally turned on by Wall-Gortat pick and rolls, this wasn’t the porn for you. The Celtics hedged and recovered, they trapped into turnovers, they cut off baselines. This discombobulated the Wizards offense in total.

#NeneStep, though.

  • The Wizards continued to make things work. Like I mentioned above, if the Celtics weren’t hounding the offense, the offense was hounding itself. In the second quarter, Seraphin got knocked for an off-ball offensive foul but that’s typical. Elsewhere, Andre Miller found Rasual Butler making a sweet cut inside but Butler misses the layup straight up. It was torturous I tell you. TORTUROUS.

More silver linings: Andre Miller, the methodical Professor.

This Bradley Beal 3-ball was also helpful.

  • Fast-forward to the 4th quarter where the Boston Celtics have become infamous for late-game collapses. Five of their games this season have slipped away from them after blowing double-digit leads and with the Wizards breaking open the 4th quarter with a 14-3 run, the arena was held their breath in a collective gasp.

Rasual Butler’s 4th three-pointer of the 4th quarter brought the Wizards to within 1.

  • The small-ball lineup worked wondrously for the Wizards and gave John Wall the arsenal he needed to help get the game back in hand. All five of Wall’s 4th quarter assists were 3-point shots.

Kudos to the Wizards for finding a way to avoid living in total embarrassment of the first 36 minutes. Wittman’s lineup adjustment was a savior in the sense that it gave the Wizards a late chance, but costly in the sense that he made it so..well, late. Nonetheless, knowing a lineup such as the one that turned the game around for the Wizards against the Celtics exists and can be serviceable is probably the biggest and only positive to take out of this one. Redemption awaits tonight.

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