Washington Wizards: A Rivalry is Brewing

May 12, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) shoots the ball as Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) defends in the first quarter in game six of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
May 12, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) shoots the ball as Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) defends in the first quarter in game six of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

Washington Wizards face a tough test in Game 7 on Monday. We don’t know the outcome, but we do know one thing: A Wizards-Celtics rivalry is brewing.

When you think about the word rivalry, what comes to your mind?

The Lakers and Celtics of the ‘80s and the battles between Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Two teams that won eight of the first nine championships that decade – three against each other. The lifelong camaraderie built between Larry and Magic through arduous competition.

Or maybe the hatred that brewed between Hall-of-Famers Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan. Such hatred that prevented Thomas from competing on “The Dream Team” in 1992. A hatred present today.

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Though two contrasting sentiments, the features of a rivalry are the same. Two teams with disdain for each other, star players, hyperbolic antics, violent confrontations and most importantly, competitive games. Rivalries are rare, but the Wizards and Celtics have all the ingredients to produce one.

Star Players

Washington drafted John Wall with the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Wall emerged from Kentucky as an unfinished product. A ball of speed, who could defend and set his teammates up with crisp, accurate passes. He was known as “the guy who did the dougie.”

Seven years go by and he developed confidence in his jump shot. He channeled his speed and became one of the deadliest transition players in the league. And he improved these facets of his game while being a lockdown, pass-first point guard.

Boston traded for Isaiah Thomas in 2015, his third team since being drafted 60th in 2011. Neither the face of his franchise nor a consistent starter. Thomas fought to be the third highest scorer in the NBA (28.9 PPG). Scoring from inside and out, off the dribble and spot-up, IT is the man in Boston.


Both Thomas and Wall fight to be the best and their teams adopt their fighter’s mentality. On January 11, 2017, mental toughness became physical.

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Washington lost to Boston in The Garden. At the end of the game, Jae Crowder flicked John Wall’s lip (could’ve left a bum bump (NSFW) and Wall retaliated by slapping Crowder in the face.

Thirteen days later, the Celtics were in town and the Wizards arrived to the arena in all black, signifying the Celtics funeral. The Wizards added an element to a normal regular season game – and they won. These antics were premeditated and designed for the Celtics, only adding to the tension. It was only right these teams met in the playoffs.

All this build up led to a scrapping Game 3.

Kelly Oubre Jr. sprinted at Kelly Olynyk and met him with a truck stick: Ejected. Brandon Jennings and Terry Rozier mouthed at each other repeatedly, against the officials’ wishes: Ejected. These were only the highlights… Everyone was jawing from the players to coaches to the fans.


The Celtics – up 3-2 in the series – had an opportunity to eliminate the Wizards at the Verizon Center. Boston did not forget the ceremony honoring their death back in January. They attempted to bestow revenge, wearing all black to the arena.

It was a competitive game knotted at 89. Celtic All-Star Al Horford somehow banked-in a contested corner jumper with 7.7 seconds left. Up by two, the C’s knew who they did not want taking the last shot: Bradley Beal. Beal had 33 points, over one-third of the Wizards points, so Boston denied him the ball.

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Not a problem.

John Wall caught the inbounds, took note of the space Avery Bradley gave him, pulled-up from 25-feet with a hand in his face: Game over. D.C. celebrated and the series was tied.

Competitive Games

This has happened before. Wall has crushed Boston’s dreams since Dec. 8, 2014.

On this day, the Wizards blew a 23-point home lead to the Celtics. But it looked like Washington’s three-point lead would sustain after a Kelly Olynyk 3-pointer bounced off the rim.

Evan Turner, Celtic forward at the time, had his own plans. Turner snatched the rebound, sprinted to the corner, ascended, faded away and oh how pretty his shot was… Tie ball game. Overtime.

One overtime turned into two. Then John Wall turned into the Celtic Assassin.

Boston held a comfortable seven-point lead, 130-123, with 2:39 left. Wall detonated. He single-handedly goes on a 10-2 run and finishes the Celtics with a fast break, and-1 layup over rookie Marcus Smart. Wizards win 133-132.

Game 7

Both teams have won five games – all at home – against each other. There have been game-winning shots as well as 20-point beat downs. We’ve seen record-breaking performances and career-bests. But nothing describes evenly-matched opponents and the significance competition can have like these two words: Game 7.

You win or you watch.

Next: Friday Night John Wall Became Heroic

All year we watched the tension and the back-and-forth, but the only thing relevant to these teams is Monday night. The winner earns an opportunity to extinguish the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers. However, win or lose, the Washington Wizards have created a rivalry.