The outcome of Thursday’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics was decided fairly early on. But a handful of in-game incidents kept the drama level high at Verizon Center and ratcheted up the tension between the two teams going forward.
As they had all series, the Wizards got out of the gate fast, but this time kept it up throughout the entire contest, using a 22-0 first-quarter run to cruise past the Celtics 116-89 to cut Boston’s series lead to 2-1.
But emotions exploded in the second quarter when Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. took umbrage with a Kelly Olynyk pick.
Oubre got off the floor and aggressively approached the Celtics center, who had been called for an illegal screen and was talking to the referee. Oubre shoved Olynyk, who fell hard to the floor as officials quickly attempted to separate the players on the floor and get them to their respective benches.
Oubre was assessed a flagrant 2 foul and subsequently ejected.
“I didn’t expect it,” Olynyk said of Oubre coming at him. “I was talking to the ref and he was right there.”
Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said he didn’t get a chance to talk with Oubre after the game, but emphasized the entire team must keep their emotions in check.
“We have to stay focus on playing basketball,” he said. “We can’t control what [officials are] doing. We just have to control within our game plan and stay focused.”
The rest of the contest was a chippy, technical foul-filled affair. Beside the Oubre-Olynyk dustup, Wizards center Marcin Gortat gave a shoulder bump to Celtics center Al Horford after he fouled Markieff Morris, who fell to the floor.
Early in the fourth quarter with the Wizards up 99-73, Washington guard Brandon Jennings and Celtics guard Terry Rozier were also ejected after jawing with each other during a series of plays.
As for the game itself, the Wizards played with energy and tenacity, giving up just 40 points in the first half. Unlike the first two games in Boston, the Wizards dominated the rebounding, 50-38, and doubled up the Celtics in the paint with a 56-28 scoring advantage.
Most importantly, Washington held Celtics star point guard Isaiah Thomas to 13 points on only 3 of 8 from the floor in 29 minutes. Thomas scored 53 points on 18-for-33 shooting in Monday’s overtime victory in Boston.
“They had three guys guarding me, so I really couldn’t do anything,” he said. “I’ll make the adjustments. It’s fine.”
His counterpart John Wall scored 24 points and dished out eight assists in 33 minutes.
Both Wall and Thomas admitted there’s no love lost between the teams, attributing the animosity and playoff atmosphere with the chippy and more aggressive play.
“We don’t like them and they don’t like us,” Thomas said. “That’s just what it is.”
Wizards backup center Ian Mahinmi, returning from a calf injury, made his playoff debut with two points and two blocks in nearly 10 minutes of action.
But the Wizards will have to wait and see if the league will suspend Oubre, whose 6’7″ frame and agility allows him to guard three different positions.
His absence would put pressure on Bojan Bogdanovic to contribute more defensively. Bogdanovic had no problem offensively with 19 points and 10 rebounds, including 4-for-7 beyond the arc.
Game 4 is Sunday, 6:30 p.m. at Verizon Center