Playoffs 2017: East Semifinals -- Celtics (1) vs. Wizards (4)

Washington Wizards start fast again, but maintain momentum at home to get Game 3

Celtics-Wizards get edgy with multiple technical fouls, ejections

Lang Whitaker

WASHINGTON D.C.— After falling down two games to none in Boston, Washington forward Markieff Morris said his Wizards team wasn’t “playing tough enough.”

How’s this for tough? Tonight’s Game 3 featured 52 fouls, eight technical fouls, one flagrant foul, three ejections, and finally, almost three hours after it started, it ended with a resounding 116-89 win by the Wizards, cutting Boston’s series lead to 2-1.

“I feel like we’ve been right there with them,” said Morris. “Tonight we took advantage of our home crowd and we just kept putting it on them.”

The Wiz opened Game 3 of their series against the Boston Celtics much like they began Games 1 and 2: With the pedal pressed all the way to the floor. After the first dozen minutes, the Wizards had raced out to a 39-17 lead.

Of course, after twelve minutes in Game 1, the Wizards led 38-24, and at the same point in Game 2, they had a 42-29 lead. They ended up losing each of those games when they found themselves unable to sustain their production on both ends of the floor. But in Game 3 the Wizards struck an aggressive, physical tone from the start, and managed to keep it going all night.

“When you play with in the playoffs and you’re fighting for something special, you’re going to play with passion, and I have no complaints on either team if they’re playing with passion and within the rules,” said Washington coach Scott Brooks, who was one of the technical foul recipients in the second half.

If the Wizards needed a spark following their hot first quarter start, it came with 9:12 to play in the second, when Celtics reserve center Kelly Olynyk was called for an offensive foul after setting a screen on Wizards forward Kelly Oubre. As Olynyk went to referee Monty McCutcheon to complain about the foul call, Oubre jumped to his feet and sprinted into Olynyk, sending him sprawling. Oubre was ejected, with perhaps future punishment looming in the days ahead.

“I was talking to the ref and [Oubre] was right there,” Olynyk said after the game. “I didn’t expect it.”

Olynyk wasn’t the only one surprised by the confrontation.

“I thought [Oubre and Olynyk] were cool,” laughed Wizards guard Bradley Beal, ‘That’s what kind of threw me off. It really takes K.O. a lot [to get mad], because I always see him shake hands and talk before the games, so it kind of threw me off. But it’s the playoffs so I do understand, I understand K.O. wholeheartedly and I support him.”

If the Wizards missed Oubre, they didn’t show it: By halftime they had a 23-point lead, and in the second half Boston never got closer than 19 points. After scoring 53 points in Boston’s Game 2 overtime win, Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas was held to 13 points in 29 minutes on Game 3, and he missed the start of the second half after a replacement tooth came loose.

“They had three guys on me so I couldn’t really do anything,” Thomas said. “I’ll make the adjustments, it’s fine. They were very aggressive on pick-and-rolls and me coming down on screens and things like that. And we didn’t adjust in the game. I don’t think we did a good job of screening and getting not just myself open but anybody else on our team on the offensive end. So, we have to do a way better job on that. But, other than that, they did what they were supposed to do. They hit first, they set the tone.”

With a win at home in Game 4 on Sunday (6:30 pm EST, TNT), a series that has seen wild scoring swings from both teams could end up tied heading back to Boston. While each team has shown flashes of what made them so good in the regular season, the one constant has been that neither squad is particularly fond of the other.

“It’s just competitive man, that’s what I always bring it back to,” said Beal. “I don’t think anyone is dirty out here. I don’t think anyone is trying to make it a fistfight or anything like that. We are two competitive teams fighting our tails off for our team and protecting our teammates. That’s all it is. We are similar in a lot of ways. They are passionate about themselves, they are passionate about their team, they are young, we are young.”

“We don’t like them and they don’t like us,” summarized Thomas. “That’s just what it is—two teams competing. Whatever bad blood we’ve had in the season carried over to the playoffs. We’re just competing and trying to win. They did that today.”

Lang Whitaker has covered the NBA since 1998. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here or follow him on Twitter.

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