Stephen A Smith, of all people, provided an uncharacteristically level-headed take on the Celtics’ playoff potential after they fell behind the Bulls in the previous round, and his words ring true after the drubbing that was administered by the Wizards in game three. The Celtics need to knock down shots, or they go home. Nothing fell in the basket for Boston in the first quarter while Washington scored 22 straight points. The Celtics starters, by the way, were deceptively not terrible in this game overall from an offensive standpoint, seeing as they hit 15 of 34 shots, although Isaiah probably didn’t sleep after missing four free throws. Defensively, they were eviscerated. None of them grabbed an offensive rebound. But, we’re moving past that.
Here’s what you, as a fan, need to do. Take all the stats you’re looking at, and throw them in the trash. This game concluded with about 10 awkward garbage time minutes that were reminiscent of when you go outside to shoot hoops with a friend to get out of earshot of their parents fighting. If you combine garbage time with Washington’s 22-0 run, the Celtics only played 33 minutes of actual NBA basketball in game three.
While the real x-factor for Boston is the bench, game three has added another wrinkle: surviving Fight Club. These teams were already chippy, but not three ejections in one game chippy. I don’t want to see the Celtics play without emotion, but some mental fortitude is required. Brandon Jennings hasn’t hit a contested shot since 2011. You can’t let a guy like that get under your skin. Markieff Morris is physical, almost dangerously so, and the Celtics, by design, are not. Their entire offense is jump shooting, slashing, and whatever Horford feels like doing. They can’t out-muscle Morris, whether it be a physical limitation or the realization of its pure pointlessness. This series is already cherished as a national treasure as it harkens back to a 1990s era gone by, but basketball games, including the first two games in this series, are still won by shooting. True toughness is standing your ground and doing your job. This Sunday, the Celtics need to be the Patriots.
Kelly Oubre’s game four suspension has just been announced, so let me use that to make my point: Washington lost a player, and Boston didn’t. Washington’s bench is weak, and Boston’s has played exceptionally well this postseason. There’s no need to out-muscle a team that’s getting their own players suspended. Follow the calm and collectedness of Al Horford (arguably the best Celtic in the playoffs right now) and Avery Bradley. This is a roster that’s built to cascade three-pointers from outside, leaving little reason to start throwing elbows inside. In summary, I’m just being a killjoy, but there’s no better statement game than a win.