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Game 4 Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

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It’s not a playoff series until somebody’s feelings get hurt.

That said, the Washington Wizards/Boston Celtics matchup is a playoff series now, officially.

In a Game 3 where the Wizards came out furious following their blown lead and overtime loss in Game 2, it was clear that both teams were pretty emotional. This was most apparent when one Kelly (Olynyk) set a hard screen on another Kelly (Oubre, Jr.), which knocked Oubre to the floor. Furious, Oubre jumped and threw a pair of forearms into the chest of Olynyk, who dropped to the mat with all the speed and heft of a WWE wrestler.

Oubre was chucked, of course. You’re not allowed to People’s Elbow your opponents in the NBA. And that wasn’t even the end of it. Brandon Jennings and Terry Rozier got chippy in the 4th quarter, too, with Rozier earning a silly offensive foul shove-off and a technical foul in back-to-back transitions. Before it was all over, both Jennings and Rozier had been ejected.

For those who like angry postseason hoops, Game 3 was a game that came with its fair share of drama.

But it showed that the Wizards, despite coming into Game 3 down 2-0, weren’t ready to lay down. They have, for significant stretches of this series, looked like the superior team, and Game 3 didn’t change that impression one bit.

One thing we did see in the first three quarters of Game 3, before the starters hit the pine with the Wizards’ second unit nursing a 25-point lead, was John Wall looking like the greatest point guard alive. He was the most explosive player on the floor all night by 15 percent. Every layup, though contested, was an exercise in athletic poetry. Nothing came easy, but Wall sure made it look that way.

With the series now at 2-1 and Game 4 slated to take place in D.C., it seems absolutely likely that Washington will continue to flex its muscles against a smaller, less physical Boston team. On nights when the Celtics are knocking down 19 three-pointers, they’re going to be incredibly hard to beat. On nights when they shoot 10-for-32, and when Isaiah Thomas scores only 13 points, there’s just no way they can win.

Boston isn’t going to minimize the rebound differential most nights. They’re not stronger or bigger than this Washington team. They have to be on. It’s really as simple as that. Even then, wins aren’t guaranteed.

Washington, meanwhile, is going to let Wall run wild. Gortat is going to tap back rebounds. Beal, if we’re lucky, will keep flopping in ways that would make Misty Copeland proud. The Wizards have their groove back, and now it’s Brad Stevens’ turn to make adjustments.

Who Wins Game 4?

This is a new series, and the Wizards are going to make sure they make things as hard on Boston as they can. Game 4 won’t be any less physical, and that works in Washington’s favor. This one’s going back to Beantown tied up at two games apiece.

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About Joel Brigham

Joel Brigham

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.