The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

This time around, the Wizards bully the Celtics for an uplifting win

Wizards 130, Celtics 111

Deni Avdija lets loose after a dunk during the Wizards' win over the Celtics on Tuesday night. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
5 min

The Washington Wizards don’t have to say their intentions for the rest of the season out loud. That three starters missed Tuesday’s matchup with the Boston Celtics — two days after three starters missed a loss at the Toronto Raptors — says enough about their level of concern for winning as the season winds down. The Wizards entered Tuesday’s matchup three games out of the Eastern Conference play-in tournament and arguably had greater incentive to protect their lottery position than to push for the postseason.

But big, brash Boston bullied Washington in their previous four meetings. Given a sliver of hope, who could dare tell Deni Avdija, Kristaps Porzingis and Monte Morris that the logical thing to do was to lose?

The Wizards trounced the mighty Celtics, 130-111, at Capital One Arena as Coach Wes Unseld Jr. rolled with a gaggle of young players hungry to earn responsibility, future free agents yearning to prove their worth and veterans eager for the fight. All of them, for the first time in a while, looked to be guys who just love to hoop.

“Winning, at the end, gives you swagger,” Porzingis said. “And we’ve been missing that lately, you know?”

Without Bradley Beal (knee soreness), Kyle Kuzma (ankle sprain) and Daniel Gafford (foot soreness), Washington led nearly all night, which kept quiet — relatively — the significant number of green-clad Boston fans invading the stands. It was the Wizards’ first victory over the Celtics since Oct. 30, 2021.

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The win didn’t mean much as far as the East race goes. Boston (52-24) is comfortably in second place and has clinched a playoff spot; Washington (34-42) remains in 11th, trailing the 10th-place Chicago Bulls by 2½ games. One victory does nothing to salvage what has been, with six games remaining, a disappointing season. But it was quite the boost for what had been a quiet locker room and a disengaged home crowd of late.

“We’ve had issues with this team,” Unseld said of the Celtics. “The fact that we played as well as we did, played with a level of physicality, played through the switching — a number of areas that have given us problems at times — and had success, it was a good night.”

The Celtics started the night getting to their spots with ease and generally playing well on offense — except for the fact that they couldn’t make a shot. As Boston kept missing, the Wizards grew bolder; Avdija hit a three-pointer over Marcus Smart to push their lead to five with 6:26 left in the second quarter before trash-talking him up and down the court. When Morris hit a fierce driving layup two possessions later and then a three in succession, he howled in front of Washington’s bench.

Corey Kispert’s three-pointer made it a 10-point game after that, and the Wizards found their groove.

“They were just playing uphill the whole game against us,” Porzingis said.

“It was a funny moment. I mean, the bench loved it,” Avdija said of his trash-talking. “… I was laughing with [Smart], and then [Kuzma] came, too. He was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah — you should talk s--- to him!’ [Smart] was saying he would get a tech if he did it to me.”

Everyone got in on the action as Washington closed the first half shooting 58.3 percent and had 36 points in the paint. The Wizards kept it up in the second as the Celtics struggled to close out shooters coming out of double teams and Porzingis dined out on mismatch after mismatch.

“Well, I mean, he’s 7-foot-3, so ...” Unseld said with a laugh.

The Latvian big man finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.

Avdija tied a career high with 25 points to go with 10 rebounds and five assists, and Morris rounded things out with 19 points and nine assists. Kispert extended his solid stretch with 15 points including a trio of three-pointers. The Wizards shot 54.5 percent from the floor and made 13 three-pointers to Boston’s 11 — well below its average of 15.9, which ranks second in the league.

Count it as another feather in the Wizards’ cap during a much-needed win — for the locker room, at least.

“It definitely gives us good energy,” Porzingis said. “We don’t ever think about anything else but to compete and win games.”

Here’s what else to know about the Wizards’ win:

Morris soars

After he sat out Sunday with groin soreness, Morris posted his highest-scoring game since Dec. 14. In that stretch, the point guard dealt with injuries, including back pain so severe that it required epidural injections.

Wizards guards flourished off the bench as well: Johnny Davis had seven points and eight rebounds, and Kendrick Nunn had 12 points, including two three-pointers.

Go-Go advances

The Capital City Go-Go advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals of the G League playoffs with a 101-87 win over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants at Entertainment and Sports Arena. The Go-Go will visit the Delaware Blue Coats at 4 p.m. Thursday (ESPN2).

Two-way guard Quenton Jackson led Coach Mike Williams’s squad with 22 points, and guard Devon Dotson had 21. Center Jay Huff added 16 points, 20 rebounds and six assists.