WASHINGTON — The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards just plain don’t like each other. Just ask them. Anyway, actions speak louder than words and the intensity went next level in the already contentious playoff series. More importantly for Washington, its ability to defend Isaiah Thomas and maintain a lead improved dramatically.
John Wall scored 24 points and the Wizards took control with a 22-0 run in the first quarter for a 116-89 victory over the Celtics on Thursday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Wizards trail 2-1 in the contentious series after dropping two road games in Boston. The latest charged matchup included 52 personal fouls, eight technical fouls and Washington’s Kelly Oubre Jr. getting ejected in the first half for a Flagrant 2 foul.
“I guess just two teams that really don’t like each other,” Wall said of the mutual intensity. His postgame comment came shortly after Thomas’ turn at the podium.
“We don’t like them and they don’t like us,” Boston’s All-Star guard stated bluntly.
Early leads are the norm for Washington against Boston, but this time the Wizards avoided a letdown, pushing the lead to 30 in the second half. Otto Porter and Bojan Bogdanovic each scored 19 points.
Thomas scored 53 points in Boston’s 129-119 overtime win on Tuesday, but was held to 13 points on 3 of 8 shooting by waves of defenders in Game 3.
“They did a really good job tonight,” Thomas said of the Wizards. “They set the tone.”
The Celtics, who had won six playoff games in a row, shot 35.1 percent from the field and never pulled closer than 19 in the second half. Al Horford led Boston with 16 points.
Tempers between the teams run hot with incidents dating back to last season and throughout the six contests this campaign, including four in the regular season. The physical matchup went next level as three players were ejected.
The Wizards led by 14 and 13 points after the first quarters of Games 1 and 2, respectively, but ultimately couldn’t hang on. They went up several notches in their first home game of the series.
“We played hard. We’ve been in this situation. We had lost (leads) and then we lost the game,” Wizards center Marcin Gortat said. “We understood what we had to do and we were locked in.”
Tied at 12-12, Washington held Boston scoreless for over five minutes while hitting 7 of 9 shots, including three 3-pointers. One of Bogdanovic’s four 3-pointer’s capped the run as Washington led 39-17 after the first quarter.
“They’ve gotten the best of us (early) I think every time we’ve played them this year, “Horford said. “The fact that they were home I feel like they were able to hold onto the lead and put us away.”
With Washington leading 45-24 early in the second quarter, Boston’s Kelly Olynyk was whistled for a hard foul high on Oubre. Reacting to the aggressive hit, Oubre charged and shoved the big man to the ground while also making contact with an official.
“I think we’ve got to control our emotions,” said Wizards coach Scott Brooks. “We can’t respond that way, but when you get hit in the head a few times — we’re very competitive guys out there and two teams are very competitive. When you keep getting hit in the head, you might respond that way and I think that’s what (Kelly) did.”
Washington’s Brandon Jennings and Boston’s Terry Rozier were ejected in the fourth quarter after each received two technical fouls. Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Wizards coach Scott Brooks were hit with technical fouls.
Wizards center Ian Mahinmi (calf strain), in his first game since April 10, and Boston’s Jonas Jerebko were hit with technical fouls for a first-half skirmish.
Gortat had 13 points and 16 rebounds as Washington won the battle of the boards 50-38. The Wizards doubled up the Celtics’ scoring in the paint 56-28.
They also double- and triple-teamed Thomas.