After four games, the Celtics and Wizards are tied, 2-2. Each has won two games at home in this Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series, which could easily stretch to seven games. For increasingly long stretches, though, the Wizards have gone on game-breaking runs that have left the Celtics staggering, culminating in a 26-0 stretch in Sunday’s third quarter.
The Celtics survived runs of 14-0 and 16-0 in Games 1 and 2 in Boston but, in Washington, a 22-0 Wizards run early in Game 3 and Sunday’s bloodbath proved too much.
“Two stretches killed us on this trip to DC,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “One in the first quarter the other day and one in the third quarter today.”
On Sunday, turnovers debilitated the Celtics and fueled the Wizards deadly transition attack.
While the Wizards were 10-of-13 from the field during the stretch, which lasted for five minutes and 59 seconds until Al Horford ended it with 4:42 left in the third, the Celtics took only five shots and committed eight turnovers. Isaiah Thomas alone had four. The Wizards turned those giveaways into 19 of their 26 points during the run, and John Wall and Markieff Morris each had two steals.
“If you turn the ball over against these guys, you’d prefer to drop kick it into the stands so at least you can set your defense,” Stevens said.
The Celtics’ best shot to beat the Wizards is in a half-court game of spacing, not in a track meet, so watching John Wall sprint up and down the court was an unwelcome sight.
Wall accounted for seven of the Wizards unanswered points during their run. His breakneck pace contributed to a few turnovers of his own, but the D.C. crowd grew more delighted with every runner and finger-roll. “M-V-P,” they chanted.
It was Wall who started the run, which came after the Celtics scored the first five points after halftime. His layup off a fast-break was followed up by two excellent defensive possessions by the Wizards, which led to back-to-back Celtics shot clock violations. The Celtics committed 15 total turnovers which led to 30 Wizards points throughout the game.
“They’re an offensive transition team so if you turn over the ball and things aren’t working on offense, they’re going to turn it into points because that’s what they do well,” Celtics guard Terry Rozier said. “So we have to just try to control what we can control, take care of the ball, make shots and, you know, get back.”
Stevens called timeout when the Wizards built up a six-point lead, 59-53. He’d hoped he could stop the bleeding but, when it became clear that he hadn’t, he was hesitant to call a second timeout.
“I probably should have, I probably should have used them all but you ideally would like to have those at the end,” Stevens said. “But if the end doesn’t matter you should use them all. You just kind of hope it matters.”
Bradley Beal added a 3-pointer, a fadeaway and a layup, Marcin Gortat had a reverse layup and Markieff Morris made a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws. The Celtics flailed and, at a certain point, it was difficult to tell if they had given up or were just drastically overwhelmed by Washington’s length and speed.
“That’s a lot of minutes,” Rozier said. “They just played harder than us and everything went their way.”
He didn’t think he’d ever experienced a 26-0 run on either side.
“If I have I can’t remember,” Rozier said.
It would seem hard to forget.
Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.