- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 7, 2017

Once his teammates left the practice floor the last two weeks, Ian Mahinmi was given a chance to begin his workouts. This has been his lonely path for much of this season. He played just 31 regular-season games, his fewest in seven years.

Finally on Thursday, a mobility-filled afternoon workout earned him clearance to get back on the court for the first time since April 10. He played 10 action-packed minutes in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between Washington and Boston. Mahinmi scored, had two blocks, a steal, a turnover, a rebound, an assist and a technical foul.

“Had a lot of winning basketball plays,” Washington coach Scott Brooks said.

Mahinmi, who could receive a slight increase in minutes, is expected to play again Sunday night in Game 4, which tips off at 6:30 in Verizon Center. The Celtics lead the series, 2-1, despite many numbers that suggest the Wizards should be in front. For instance, in the three games, Washington has led by 10 or more points 42.4 percent of the time.

The more Mahinmi, the better for Washington. He and the second unit had found a rhythm right before he strained his left calf April 10 in the second-to-last regular-season game. Mahinmi was also playing with the starters for certain stretches. He is Washington’s best counter to pick-and-roll, something key for the Celtics and the league. It’s also something that backup point guard Brandon Jennings cannot defend. Mahinmi’s presence in part makes up for Jennings’ defensive flaws.

Two days off between Games 3 and 4 have benefited Mahinmi. He felt good the day after Game 3. The extra time off can only improve his situation. In the days before Game 3, he was trying to convince Washington’s medical staff, and himself, that he was ready to play.

“It was definitely a fight between me and the trainers, back-and-forth,” Mahinmi said. “I tried on the court without [the media] watching a couple times and it didn’t go the way I wanted it to. So, I had to come down to a realization I wasn’t ready to go yet. Finally, [Thursday] was the first time I really went at it halfcourt. I was like, ‘You guys, you can’t keep me out.’ There was a lot of back-and-forth, then I got a call from Steve, my trainer, like all right, we’re going to let you go tonight.”

Mahinmi knows he is stuck around the 10-minute mark, for now. He vacillates between ambitious and realistic when discussing his possible time on the floor.

“Honestly, I can’t go 20-25, right now,” Mahinmi said. “It’s more around 10-15. But, I told the guys it’s not about the minutes, it’s the team. Might need me five minutes. Might need me 20 minutes if I have to push that extra four minutes, we got to do it.”

Any amount of minutes is beneficial to the Wizards.

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