12/25 Game Preview: Wizards at Celtics

BOSTON -- The last time the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards played a basketball game was Game 7 of last year's contentious Eastern Conference semifinals.

Like the regular season meetings between the teams, the whole series was a war from the start -- one of those get-togethers that causes broadcasters to shout, "These two teams don't like each other."

They don't.

They play again on Christmas Day at TD Garden. And even though the Celtics have a rebuilt roster, the memories are still there.

Jae Crowder, now with the Cleveland Cavaliers, recently told the Washington Post, "We wanted to kick those guys' (butt) every time we saw them. We hated these guys. When we got matched up against them in the playoffs, we were licking our chops. We wanted those guys."

After one regular season game between the rivals, police were in the hallway outside the locker room in an incident that saw Crowder, reportedly trying to get to the Wizards' locker room, fined $25,000 and John Wall $15,000.

There was also Washington's John Wall ejected from a game for hitting Marcus Smart -- and Smart and Bradley Beal yelling at each other the next time they met, Beal earning a technical foul.

There was a regular season game in Washington where the Wizards showed up wearing black, as if going to a funeral. The Celtics did the same thing before Game 6 of the playoff series.

The Celtics won all six games, counting playoffs, at home, and lost all five in Washington. The Wizards have lost nine straight at TD Garden.

Asked after Saturday night's win over the Chicago Bulls about the intensity of the rivalry, Boston coach Brad Stevens said, "I don't get into all that stuff; I just know that that's a heck of a team.

"(Coach) Scott Brooks -- really good coach. They play hard. They exposed us in so many ways; that series could've gone either way. We probably won the series because we won home court. But I do think ... they have outstanding players. It was a tremendous series.

"A lot of our players aren't here, so when I talk in terms of a scout to our players now about Chicago (Boston's first-round victim last spring) today or Washington on Monday, a lot of them are looking at me like, 'What are you talking about?' So it's an interesting dynamic there, but obviously we have a lot of respect for them."

Wall, also speaking to the Washington Post, said, "I think it was a lot of no love between two teams. We didn't like each other. Maybe we respect each other a lot but we didn't like each other. That's the reason why we have almost damn near every game (between the two teams) on national TV because they thought it would be the same rivalry, but they're a different team."

The Celtics have only four players still around from that series. Two of the players gone are Isaiah Thomas and Kelly Olynyk, who combined for 55 points in Game 7.

"I got to experience what a game 7 was like last year and I hope it's that same energy again Monday," says Boston's Jaylen Brown.

In Game 1 of that series, Boston's Al Horford stepped on the ankle of Markieff Morris, whose brother Marcus is now a Celtic (but is injured and officially questionable for Monday), leading to an exchange before Game 2, according to the Washington Post:

"Morris walked over to Horford and calmly said: 'Don't let me find out you tried to do that on purpose. We're going to have a problem.'

"Horford responded, 'I don't play like that,' according to Morris. But it didn't matter. Less than two minutes into the game, the burly Wizards forward grabbed Horford by the waist and shoved him into the baseline seats, into the lap of Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis."

"I owed him that," Morris said recently. "He sprained my ankle. I still feel like he did that on purpose."

The Wizards (18-15) scored a season-high 130 points in disposing of the Orlando Magic and have won four of their last six. The Celtics, who had lost two straight and gone just 4-5 over their last nine games, exploded in the second half to run away from the Bulls.

Boston's Semi Ojeleye, who has back soreness after the Saturday night fall, is doubtful, while Shane Larkin, who has missed the last two games with knee soreness, is probable.