The Eastern Conference semifinals showdown between Boston’s Isaiah Thomas and Washington’s John Wall has been every bit as good as advertised, with the point guards trading shots in two thrilling contests to open their series.
Thomas and Wall have gone back in forth in an incredible duel in two games in Boston, with the 5-foot-9 Celtic prevailing both nights. Thomas went for 33 in Game 1 and a jaw-dropping 53 in Game 2, while Wall is averaging 30 points and 14.5 assists in the first two games.
“It’s fun. John’s a really good friend of mine, someone I’ve known since he blew up in high school,” Thomas said on Wednesday. “It’s fun to battle one of the top guards in the NBA and it’s fun to compete. Hopefully we win this series and it’ll be even more fun for me.”
Utah didn’t have a lot of fun against Golden State in their opener.
The Jazz didn’t offer much competition for the Warriors either. And If Gordon Hayward doesn’t give Utah some badly needed star power against Golden State, the Jazz probably won’t be able to put up much of a fight in the series.
Golden State has too much firepower for most teams in the league, especially when their opponent’s top scorer has an off night. Hayward scored just 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting and was 2 for 9 from 3-point range in a 106-94 loss.
“I don’t think there’s anything you look at and say Gordon needs to do this or that differently,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said Wednesday. “He’s been solid and more than solid. He’s been good and great for us at times this year and been one of the more consistent players certainly on our team and across the league.”
The Celtics and Wizards will play Game 3 of their tense series on Thursday in Washington while the Jazz look to rebound from a lopsided Game 1 defeat to the Warriors.
“Only thing we haven’t tried, we haven’t tried the triple team,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of his next move to contain Thomas. “We’ve tried to put two on him, we’ve switched, multiple defenders. He’s one of the best players in the game.”
A look at the games on Thursday’s schedule:
Celtics at Wizards, Boston leads 2-0. Game 3, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
NEED TO KNOW: The Wizards are a perfect 3-0 at home so far in the playoffs after going 25-6 in Washington since Dec. 1, including a 17-game winning streak. “We definitely have a good feel and a good comfort level on our home court, but we have to be able to play well here,” Brooks said. “They’re not going to give us the game just because we’re on our home court.” Washington went 2-0 against Boston at Verizon Center this season, too.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The start after the Wizards went up 16-0 in Game 1 and 16-8 in Game 2, leading Celtics coach Brad Stevens to tell his team in the huddle, “Hey we’re eight points better than last time.” While the Wizards are concerned about those leads slipping away, Stevens wants to avoid Boston getting “blitzed again.” ”You’ve got to be ready for that initial hit,” he said.
INJURY UPDATE: Wizards forward Markieff Morris was sore after playing on a sprained left ankle, but Brooks expects him to play Thursday night. Guard Otto Porter took a shot to the head, Brooks said, but finished the game and is OK. Center Ian Mahinmi probably won’t play with a left calf strain. Celtics guard Avery Bradley said he was sore but expects to play after suffering a hip pointer on a fall in Game 2.
PRESSURE IS ON: Washington guard Bradley Beal, who has to be better after shooting 4 of 15 and 1 of 9 from 3 in Game 2. “He just had a bad shooting night, and that’s going to happen,” Brooks said. “We have to figure out ways to get him cleaner looks and cleaner screens where he can get free.”
Jazz at Warriors, Golden State leads 1-0. Game 2, 10:30 p.m., ESPN
NEED TO KNOW: The Warriors cruised to a 106-94 victory in Game 1 thanks in large part to Draymond Green standing out over Jazz C Rudy Gobert in a matchup of two of the favorites for defensive player of the year honors. Green’s versatility against Utah’s ball movement was invaluable while Gobert occasionally had difficulty staying with guards when forced to switch on the pick-and-roll.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The Splash Brothers. The Warriors shot just 7 for 29 from 3-point range in Game 1, an uncharacteristically poor 24 percent. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 4 for 12, and Golden State still won easily. When the shots start falling, look out.
INJURY UPDATE: None to report.
PRESSURE IS ON: Gordon Hayward. Utah’s forward was sensational in the first-round win over the Los Angeles Clippers. The Jazz need an effort closer to the 40 points he scored in Game 3 of that series than the 12 he put up in Game 1 against Golden State.
AP Sports Writers Stephen Whyno in Washington and Josh Dubow in Oakland contributed to this report.
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