The Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics went into the half of Sunday’s Game 4 knotted at 48, apparently on course for a nip-and-tuck affair in the second half.
The Wizards went on a 26-0 run in the third quarter to dismantle the Celtics, 121-102, for a second straight win at Verizon Center, evening the Eastern Conference semifinals at two games apiece.
The two teams head back to Boston for Wednesday’s pivotal Game 5 in the best-of-seven series after each held serve on their home courts.
“We just have to do a better job closing out quarters,” said Wizards point guard John Wall on the team’s chances of winning a game in Boston after losing there in the first two games. “We didn’t do a great job of taking care of the ball [in Games 1 and 2]. We know we have the ability to win there. We have to bring that same defensive intensity … [as] the two games we had here.”
Wall finished the game with 27 points, 12 assists and five steals. He recorded his sixth double-double of the postseason, the most by any player left in the playoffs.
He also logged 10 straight games with at least 20 points and seven assists, the longest such streak in playoff history. Michael Jordan is second with seven.
Shooting guard Bradley Beal led the team with 29 points on 11 of 16 shooting, 3 of 6 from three-point range.
The Wizards used their height advantage at home with a total of 112 points in the paint to Boston’s 66. In addition, the team had a two-game total of 95 rebounds, compared to the Celtics’ 69.
Washington controlled the paint partly because the Celtics prefer to play small and spread the floor with three or four 3-point shooters. Boston shot 14 for 31 from beyond the arc at 45 percent, but point guard Isaiah Thomas led the team in scoring with 19 points, but 17 of those came in the second half.
“When they are small, we have to dominate on them on the board,” said Markieff Morris, who scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. “There is no way little guys should be rebounding over us. We had that problem in the second game and that’s basically how they came back in the last two minutes.”
The Wizards played without Kelly Oubre Jr., who was suspended for Sunday’s game after a physical altercation with Celtics center Kelly Olynyk in Game 3.
Sunday’s contest was markedly different from the previous game, which produced eight technical fouls and three ejections. Only Thomas drew a technical Sunday for arguing a foul with an official in the fourth quarter.
Thomas expressed his displeasure with the lack of calls in the game because he didn’t attempt on free throw in the game. He ranks in the top five among players in the postseason in average free throw attempts and makes.
In Games 1 and 2 in Boston, Thomas shot 18 of 20 from the free throw line.
“They went a 26-0 run,” Thomas said. “We can’t have that on the road, but I cannot … be held and grabbed [on] … every screen and I don’t even shoot one free throw. I play the same way each night. That has to change.”
The Wizards’ bench held firm, led by Bojan Bogdanovic with 13 points and three rebounds.
“We played inspired basketball,” Brooks said of the team’s third quarter onslaught. “We were active. We were solid in our positioning. We have to continue to do that. With all that being said, we won our two home games. Now the series is tied. We are looking forward to going up to Boston.”
Neither team has won on the opponent’s home court this season, including the regular season.
The Wizards said they can beat Boston, but need to prove it as the series shifts north.
“We just have to stay together,” said Washington center Jason Smith. “There’s not too many Wizards fans in Boston. We just have to focus on our concepts offensively and defensively and we should be OK.”