- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 24, 2016

There is legacy, if not rivalry. The Washington Wizards have not played a team more often than they have faced the Boston Celtics. Regularly in the 293 times the clubs have played, Boston has provided a paddling. Only three teams — the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat — have smacked the Wizards aside with greater frequency, but none have beaten Washington more times than Boston’s 184.

The Wizards have been in search of a nemesis. Recent playdates with the Cleveland Cavaliers stirred up some bitterness, though that has declined during the last season-plus. Geography is also not helping. The Atlanta Hawks? Too far, too reserved. Philadelphia 76ers? Too atrocious of late.

So, maybe, there can be something brewing with the Celtics, who return to Verizon Center on Monday. The league reworked the schedule this season to reduce the number of back-to-back games and strings of four games in five nights. That has produced some quirks. This is one. Boston is in Washington for the second time in nine days.

The quick return could help stir the environment. On Jan. 16, when the Celtics were last in Washington, things became, well, weird. The conclusion of the game featured multiple Boston fouls. One was a technical, some controversial and others the plain head-scratching variety before the Celtics‘ 119-117 win concluded.

When the buzzer sounded, Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas roared toward the Wizards‘ bench. There were other glares, then a postgame accusation. Boston forward Jae Crowder — who had been flattened on a pick set by DeJuan Blair and was inadvertently smacked in the face by Nene during the game — said Wizards coach Randy Wittman was yelling at him. Swearing, actually, and calling him “soft” among other things. It caused Crowder, who had been in conversation with Nene, to yell back. Crowder received a technical.

A he-said, he-said ensued.

“I think a lot of stuff he was saying was not true,” Crowder said, “and the manner he was saying it really got under my skin as well.”

Wittman was not available for comment after the game. More than a day later, he explained his side following a back-and-forth with reporters about what “swearing” is.

“Look, there was an altercation on the floor,” Wittman said. “He got knocked down. They looked at it, I believe to see if it was a flagrant. You guys can look at the tape. He came back out. I think Nene was the one that knocked him down.

“And he’s now getting into it with Nene and I’m trying to tell the official they need to … [that] something else is going to happen. He saw that and didn’t like it. That’s all it was. I’m standing right next to the official, so, if I’m doing something that shouldn’t have been done, the official would have noticed that.”

Thomas was asked afterward if something is brewing between the teams.

“I mean, it might be,” Thomas said. “Throughout the whole last couple of minutes they’re bench was talking mess, we were talking mess. It’s just two teams battling. If it is that, I’m all for it. I’ll ride with my guys in this locker room just like them dudes will probably ride with theirs. It was a competitive game, and I’m happy that we got the win.”

Of note here is the Wizards‘ problems with the Celtics this season. Washington can’t prevent Boston from scoring at a high rate. The Celtics are averaging 116 points per game against the Wizards this season. It’s the simple reason they are 3-0 versus Washington.

Perhaps recent rest will benefit attempts by the injury-riddled Wizards to stop the Celtics. Because of the weekend snowstorm, Washington has not played since Wednesday. Only the all-star break will provide a longer repose for the Wizards than the four full days without a game they just went through.

It was plenty of time to sit and thinks about the Celtics, who may be on their mind more than the usual opponent.

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