The Washington Wizards squandered double-digit leads in two consecutive contests against the Boston Celtics in their Eastern Conference semifinal series. Now, they return to their home floor for today’s Game 3 in an attempt to get their first win of the series (8pm ET Thursday on ESPN).
The biggest story of the first two games has been the greatness of Celtics star point guard Isaiah Thomas. IT has dropped 33 points and 53 points in the two contests, including an amazing 29 points in the fourth quarter and overtime of Game 2. His counterpart, John Wall, has been very good himself (30 points and 14.5 assists per game), but not nearly as efficient as Thomas.
Washington has to find a way to limit Thomas’ effectiveness at home, while also getting more production from its bench. If the squad can do both of those things, it has a chance at winning.
Certain storylines will affect the outcome of today’s game more than others. Let’s examine some of those and then make some picks and betting predictions regarding the outcome of the game.
Will John Wall Give More Effort on the Defensive End Against Isaiah Thomas?
Wall has a reputation as one of the best defensive point guards in the league. He usually uses his super athletic 6’4” frame to disrupt dribbling and passing lanes while putting in strong effort.
Against the 5’9” Thomas in Games 1 and 2, Wall’s defense left much to be desired. IT has exploded for 43.0 points, 6.5 assists and just 2.0 turnovers per game in the series so far, and Wall is doing very little to stop him.
I understand Washington’s offense relies on its superstar floor general quite a bit, but Wall must allocate a bit more of his energy to the defensive end. Maybe he can let Bradley Beal create a little bit more to rebound from his poor Game 2 (14 points on 4-of-15 shooting with six turnovers).
Can the Energy from Boston’s Reserves Translate to the Road?
Say what you will about Isaiah Thomas’ herculean performance on Tuesday night, but Boston’s fantastic performance when it went to bench-heavy lineups was a huge difference-maker.
Jaylen Brown, Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier all played with excellent intensity, and got great results. The foursome combined for 33 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists on 11-of-21 shooting with a combined plus-minus of plus-48. All four also contributed plenty of positives in Game 1.
With many of those guys being relatively inexperienced when it comes to playoff basketball, will they find it within themselves to maintain that performance at the Verizon Center?
Will the Wizards Pound the Glass Harder?
Washington is a mediocre rebounding team. Boston has proven to be a terrible team on the glass, though. The Wizards do have a slight rebounding advantage so far in the series (plus-1.5 boards per game), but that’s probably not enough.
The Celtics play plenty of small lineups that have very little strength on the glass. For example, they sometimes trot out Kelly Olynyk at the five together and Jae Crowder at the four, though both guys traditionally play a position down from that.
In fact, none of the Celtics’ players are really stud rebounders. When the Wizards take shots, they at least need to have their two big men (usually Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris) crashing the glass every time.
Our Preview’s Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards Game 3 Predictions & Picks
We know Washington is very dependent on home-court advantage in any given game. The Wizards had a net rating of 7.1 points per 100 possessions better on home than on the road during the regular season, and that number has ballooned to 20.0 in the postseason.
The momentum caused by Boston’s home crowd in Games 1 and 2 was almost palpable, causing huge Celtics runs that the Wizards didn’t have the heart to stop. I think that changes dramatically tonight.
- The odds you can find at the USA betting sites have Washington largely favored by 5.5 points on the spread, but one is still at 5pts. The Wizards are desperate and too evenly-matched with the Celtics to fall in a 3-0 hole, and I think they will win this contest handily. Bet on Washington -5pts @ -115 with Bovada. It is -5.5pts for -110 with the likes of 5Dimes, MyBookie and BetOnline.
- The posted over/under on the total points to be scored in tonight’s game is 218.5. The Wizards should lock down on defense a bit better than they did in Games 1 and 2, but the regulation total for those contests was an average of 231 points. Don’t overthink this — bet the over 218.5pts @ -110 odds with 5Dimes, MyBookie or BetOnline. The mark is 219pts with Bovada.