BOSTON – The Boston Celtics have had plenty of time to study the Washington Wizards over the last two weeks. In doing so, they’ve apparently discovered Washington’s biggest weakness – a weakness that the Wizards hope to correct during tonight’s series-deciding Game 7 at TD Garden.
“They kind of found something that’s an Achilles (heel) for us,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal admitted Monday afternoon following Wizards shootaround. “We struggle with getting back in transition. We [get caught] ball watching a little bit and they’re taking off and getting easy layups and 3s in transition.”
The transition game was not Boston’s friend during the earlier part of the second-round series. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
The Wizards held a commanding, 39-18 advantage in fast-break points during Games 3 and 4. They were able to constantly capitalize on Boston’s plethora of turnovers, which led to easy buckets and a pair of easy, blowout wins on their home turf.
The Celtics, however, flipped the switch during Games 5 and 6. First and foremost, they curbed their turnovers. Then, on the defensive end, they did a sound job of contesting shots and then leaking out on the break while the Wizards were caught either crashing the boards or, as Beal said, ball watching.
The result: a 38-25 fast-break advantage for the C’s over the last two games – one of which was a blowout win at home, while the other was a one-point, Game 6 loss in our nation’s capital.
“It’s something they’ve seen on the film,” said Wizards point guard John Wall, referring to Boston’s leak-outs. “We came back here in Game 5 and they used that to their advantage, and they kind of did it last game too a little bit. When we made a basket, they were throwing the ball full-court for easy layups. Those are easy points that we have to try to take away.”
In order to take those points away, the Wizards will need to increase their awareness and hustle, and they may need to sacrifice their efforts on the offensive glass.
“When Brad drives, me and Otto (Porter Jr.) both have to do a great job of getting back,” said Wall. “It’s tough because Otto does a great job of offensive rebounding for us, but we have to eliminate transition points. That’s where they killed us at last time we were here.”
Wall is referring to Boston’s fast-break annihilation during Wednesday’s Game 5 blowout. The Celtics outscored the Wizards 15-0 in transition during the first quarter alone, and held full command of the rest of the game as a result.
This time, Washington will look to control the pace out of the gate, and it will attempt to do so by establishing a strong defensive presence from the start.
If the Wizards can do that, they may be able to win their first game in six tries this season at TD Garden.
“We’ve gotta have our best defensive game of the series here because we haven’t played defense one game this year that we’ve played here,” said Wall. “They do a great job of getting out in transition here and making wide-open 3s, and we just gotta try to eliminate those little things that they do well here at home.”
Meanwhile, Boston will look to continue to exploit the Wizards’ Achilles heel. If the C’s can continue to dominate the transition game, they have a great chance of eliminating Washington and advancing on to the Eastern Conference Finals.