If fans ever lament the loss of old-time playoff basketball, the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards have hopped into a time machine. The tensions percolated throughout the season, but they reached a fever pitch in Game 3.
With the Celtics leading the series 2-0, the Wizards stormed out to a 20-plus point in a game that quickly turned physical. Kelly Oubre was ejected–and could face a possible suspension–for charging Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk and knocking him to the ground.
The game, which the Wizards won 116-89, featured eight technical fouls and three ejections. As the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors cruise in relatively tame matchups, the Celtics and Wizards are recreating a different era of basketball. Both teams hate each other and it’s not a secret.
"I guess that’s playoff basketball," said Boston guard Isaiah Thomas. "We don’t like them and they don’t like us."
The two teams are eerily reminiscent of the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons. The games have played out with a serious nature.
The series has proven to be the most exciting of the playoffs thus far, mainly because of the stakes. Both the Cavs and Warriors are on cruise control, and the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets have yet to play a competitive game.
While each game between the Celtics and Wizards has been decided by double digits, the contests have been seesaw battles. The Wizards have jumped out to early leads, relinquishing them twice. In Game 3, the Wizards pushed back–both literally and figuratively.
"We can’t respond that way," Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said. "When you keep getting hit in the head, you might respond that way and I think that’s what [Oubre] did. I’m not saying that that was the right thing to do. We have to focus on playing basketball."
The tone of the series should make for must-see TV in the remaining games. Celtics guard Gerald Green has already intimated that Boston will be physically ready for another battle in Game 4. Since the two teams are evenly matched, the series should provide plenty of fireworks in the coming days.
The physicality has elevated the games past a John Wall-Isaiah Thomas matchup. "I guess just two teams that really don’t like each other," Wall said. "We’re two teams that are trying to compete and trying to win this series."