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On the NBA Beat Ep. 2.34: Wizards Must Overcome Road Woes to Advance, Featuring Chase Hughes & Michael Pina

Chase Hughes of Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic and Vice SportsMichael Pina deliver back-to-back interviews in which they delve deeply into the captivating Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics. While the Celtics lead 3-2, the home team has won every single game of the series. No love between the teams has been lost either.

Wednesday was a crazy day for D.C. sports fans as the Washington Capitals hosted a Game 7 in which they fell to the Penguins, sending the Caps home early for yet another summer. Also in the nation’s capital, the talented Nationals roared back from four runs down to defeat the Beltway rival Orioles on a walk-off single. That same night, the Wizards lost a one-sided road Game 5 to the Celtics. As the series shifts back to D.C., the Wizards hope to keep their home magic alive just long enough to get one more crack at that elusive road victory in a decisive Game 7. Our guests expertly detail what to look for the remainder of the series, beginning with Chase Hughes who is followed by Michael Pina in the final segment. Below, you’ll find a couple excerpts from each section:

Chase Hughes (5:02-6:05) on the tense recent history between the Wizards and Celtics:

“I knew that there would be some bad blood between these teams, because it dates back really to last season when Jae Crowder got into an argument with their [Washington’s] former coach Randy Wittman and accused him of using some obscenities. And then Bradley Beal had his nose broken against the Celtics and got a concussion and has always held that against them. Then all the bad blood this season, the confrontation between Wall and Crowder after that game in Boston, the funeral game that the Wizards had, and John Wall was ejected from a game for a hard foul on Marcus Smart…After that Wall and Crowder incident, the police had to intervene behind the scenes in Boston to make sure that they didn’t go after each other. We knew it was there, but the extent it boiled over in Game 3, I don’t think any of us could have predicted…There were eight technicals, three ejections, and of course, Kelly Oubre’s shove of Kelly Olynyk earned him a suspension, and that kind of highlighted it all. There was also Brandon Jennings and Terry Rozier, and they also have a history dating back to earlier this season.”

CH (9:37-10:44) on how the Wizards have adjusted to guarding superstar Isaiah Thomas and what the Celtics did in Game 5 to counteract those Wizards adjustments:

“They’ve made a few adjustments, most notably throwing two or three guys at him trying to double, triple-team him, especially when he gets into the lane, and defending without fouling, with their hands up in the air. They did obviously a really good job in Game 4. I think they’ve also done better, at least in Games 3 and 4, at making him work more on the defensive end and not letting him save his energy by backing him down with Otto Porter, Bojan Bogdanovic, and with Bradley Beal in Game 4 in particular, who got into a rhythm early because of it. But I think in Game 5 what Isaiah Thomas did a good job of doing as an adjustment was, first of all, he shot seven free-throw attempts, which is much more in line with what he averaged during the regular season, but also he got a little better at finding open guys once the defense collapsed on him. I think he had nine assists in the game and I think he did a very good job of finding open 3-point shooters. The Celtics made an adjustment, and it really worked to have him get into the lane and, I think, pass earlier than he probably was trying to pass in Games 3 and 4 before the defense can truly collapse, and they found a lot of open looks.”

Michael Pina (39:00-39:46) on the immense defensive value Avery Bradley has brought to the Celtics during these playoffs guarding Jimmy Butler in the first round and now slowing John Wall in the Eastern Conference semifinals:

“Obviously Avery Bradley is a much better defender than Isaiah Thomas, and I think that he’s done a tremendous job just slowing Wall down in those high screens. He’s so good at spinning below them and then meeting Wall on the other side; not too many guys can do that. Wall is one of the fastest players probably in NBA history. So I think the move to put Bradley on Wall was a big shift in the series and it harks back to the decision Stevens made in the first round when the Celtics put Gerald Green in the starting lineup and then were able to take Bradley off of Dwyane Wade and move him onto Jimmy Butler. Butler had a couple superstar moments in the last four games of that series, but, really, Bradley did a number on him and really showed his value to this team, and he’s doing it again.”

MP 51:17-52:23 on the strengths first-year Celtics forward Al Horford brings to the team:

“I love Al Horford so much. What he is and what he can do is one of the most desirable player types in the NBA right now, non-superstar: a big who can protect the rim, who can defend multiple pick ‘n roll coverages, he can blitz, he can sag, he can help and recover, and he’s a tremendous post defender as well; Marcin Gortat cannot move him. Defensive rebounding is a question, but he’s really stepped it up, I think, when they go small and he has to. And then offensively, he’s incredible. The Celtics aren’t shy about letting him bring the ball up in transition…the 1-5 screen ‘n rolls that he ran with Thomas in Game 5, his ability to knock down 3s and space the floor, his passing. Nikola Jokic is probably the best passing big in the league right now, but Al Horford is top 3, so you don’t find guys like this on trees, and it always made sense to me that they paid him a max contract.”

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Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod

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