WALTHAM, Mass. — The Boston Celtics are reaching into their bag of puns to turn their fortunes around against the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards have routed the Celtics in the last two games of their second-round NBA playoff series thanks a pair of monster runs: 22-0 in Game 3 and 26-0 in Game 4. Leading the charge in both surges was point guard John Wall, who used his exceptional speed to burn Boston in transition.
So, how do the Celtics plan on stopping Wall in Game 5 at TD Garden on Wednesday? By “building a wall,” of course.
“His No. 1 strength, to me, is getting out in transition and making plays for himself and for his teammates,” Celtics guard Avery Bradley said after practice Tuesday. “The best way to guard him is as a team. One player can’t stop him. It has to be an entire team building a wall.”
Apparently head coach Brad Stevens spread that punny plan throughout Boston’s locker room. When asked about how to neutralize Wall, point guard Isaiah Thomas delivered virtually the same answer.
“You’ve just got to show a wall,” Thomas said. “… No one guy can stop him, but if you see two or three guys, kind of like what they’re doing to me, it makes you think twice a little bit; makes you back up.
“I think if we build that wall — he’s going to get his layups, he’s going to get his dunks now and then — but if we can control that part of the game, that’s half the battle.”
There’s a reason why Bradley and Thomas are harping on that strategy: It’s crucial to the Celtics’ success in Game 5. Washington scored 25 fast break points to Boston’s 12 in Game 4, which was more or less the difference on a night where the C’s actually shot better than the Wizards from 3-point range. Conversely, the Celtics outscored Washington on the fast break in Games 1 and 2, both wins.
In short: Negating the Wizards’ transition game will go a long way toward Boston getting back in the win column.
“If you give them the opportunity to get out in transition, they’re successful,” Thomas added. “If we just take care of the ball and get good shots on the offensive end, that limits them getting out in transition. That’s definitely a key of ours, and if we limit their transition, we’re going to be good.”
Thumbnail photo via Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports Images