BOSTON — John Wall has been on a tear lately, racking up big numbers and big wins for the Washington Wizards.
He has been playing some of the best basketball of his career, the kind of play that seems to bring out the best defensively in Boston's resident pest, Avery Bradley.
Bradley's defense on Wall was indeed one of the keys to Boston's 107-96 win over the Wizards.
Wall, who dropped 37 points on the Indiana Pacers highly-regarded defense just 24 hours earlier, was held to 16 points on 8-for-20 shooting by Bradley and the C's defense.
Battles between Bradley and Wall date back to when both were stars on the AAU circuit.
Even back then, Wall recalls Bradley's defense being among the best he had to compete against.
"Not too many that will guard you 94 feet the whole game," Wall said. "I don’t know how he finds the energy to do it."
Said Bradley: "I love it. We love battling against each other. He's a very good player. This is what I play the game for, every single night to play against players like John; He's very talented, very good."
Wall holds Bradley in similar regard.
"There is no playing around with him, just get by him," Wall said. "He’s nobody you want to do fancy dribbling with. He does a great job of cutting people off and getting a lot of steals. You just have to get into your offense and (go). Nobody does 94 feet. He does 94 feet the whole game. It would wear you out for 94 feet, guarding you full court and changing your directions and if you mess around, try to play around with him, you might get an eight second call."
Added Wall: "I don't know how he finds the energy to do it."
Bradley's defense on Wall was among the keys to Boston's victory over the Wizards. Here are some other factors outlined prior to the game, and how those factors helped catapult the C's to their seventh straight win over Washington.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: There's a chance that Kevin Garnett (inflammation, left foot) returns to the lineup tonight. His return would bode well for a team whose interior defense has been exposed in his absence. In the eight games Garnett has been out with his current injury, opponents are averaging 46.8 points in the paint. Prior to that, the C's were allowing 42.4 points in the paint.
WHAT WE SAW: Garnett was solid for the Celtics with 12 points and six rebounds while playing just 24 minutes.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Nene: With or without Garnett on the floor tonight, Bass has to continue to give the Celtics solid play defensively, on the boards in addition to knocking down a jumpshot every now and then. Washington has won four of its last six with Nene averaging 11.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and a blocked shot in that period of time.
WHAT WE SAW: Bass continues to give the Celtics a little bit of anything and everything they need to win. He had a team-high 20 points against the Wizards on 9-for-12 shooting to go with six rebounds. "That's gonna be huge for us if he continues to play well going into the playoffs," said Paul Pierce. "And the great thing about it is he's doing it all off of hustle plays and off of ball movement."
PLAYER TO WATCH: Facing his former team for the first time, you have to wonder just how fired up Jordan Crawford will be to prove a point against a team that wanted him out of town in the worst way, evident by trading for a player who could not play because of an injury (Leandro Barbosa, torn ACL) and another player in Jason Collins who has played a total of just five games with his new team.
WHAT WE SAW: Crawford came off the bench and scored six points to go with a pair of steals and two assists. "He was great in the first half," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "In the second half I thought he wanted it a little much, but I thought for a kid that clearly wanted to beat this team like any other kid does when you play, I thought his composure was terrific."
STAT TO TRACK: While the Celtics have seen their scoring defense rise recently with Kevin Garnett sidelined, their field goal percentage defense has still been relatively solid. In fact, Boston has held its last 22 opponents under 50 percent shooting which is the longest current streak in the NBA.
WHAT WE SAW: The Wizards got off to a great start shooting the ball, but the Celtics defense clamped down the final three quarters and limited Washington to 44.3 percent shooting for the game.