Celtics-Wizards review: What we saw . . .

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Celtics-Wizards review: What we saw . . .

BOSTON The Boston Celtics have proven to be one of the NBA's top teams in limiting opponents scoring in the first quarter. There's good defense, and there's shut 'em down defense that was on full display in Boston's 88-76 win over Washington. The C's shot an impressive 63.2 percent in the first quarter, but even more impressive was their ability to limit the Wizards to just 13.6 percent shooting from the field in the first which generated a paltry 12 points - the fewest an opponent has scored against the C's in the first quarter of a game this season.

Such out-the-gate dominance was indeed a major factor in the Celtics extending their season-best home winning streak to six in a row.

But there were other factors that played a role in the game's outcome. We highlighted a few keys to the game before tip-off. Now we'll review how those actually played in Boston's victory which gave them a four-game regular season sweep of the Wizards - the first time that has happened since 1982.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Boston has been surprisingly efficient offensively of late to start games. In their last two games, Boston has averaged 33.5 points per game in the first quarter, a significant bump over their 22.7 points per game average, 26th in the NBA, that they have scored in the first this season. In Washington, Boston faces a Wizards team that has had its struggles defensively in every quarter. But their first quarter scoring defense (25.3 points per game, No. 24 in the NBA) is actually their best in terms of where it ranks compared to the rest of the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW - After scoring 21 points after about eight minutes of play, the C's could muster just six for the remainder of the first quarter. While they failed to reach the 30-point plateau, their dominance was still significant as Washington could only score 12 points in the quarter - that's about half of their season average (23.4 points per game).

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Kevin Garnett vs. Nene: This is where Garnett's ability to stretch a defense with his perimeter shooting skills comes in handy. Nene is a strong, bullish big man who seems to have adjusted to a Wizards system that's built more for what he does best - score with his back to the basket. In his three games with Washington since being traded from Denver, Nene has averaged 16.3 points and 8.7 rebounds.

WHAT WE SAW - Nene (back spasms) was a late scratch, so fans had to settle for a Garnett-Kevin Seraphin matchup. I know, not quite the same. Garnett didn't have the hot hand, but in typical Garnett fashion, he found other ways to make an impact besides scoring. He had 10 points on 3-for-10 shooting, but he also had six assists, five rebounds and two steals.

PLAYER TO WATCH - Although his numbers might suggest different, Marquis Daniels is gradually getting back to being a contributor to the Celtics' second unit. With Mickael Pietrus (concussion) expected to not play in the next couple games, along with Ray Allen (left ankle) questionable, Daniels may in fact see his role expand soon. After having played a total of 19 minutes this month, Daniels has played 20 minutes in each of the Celtics' last two games. In those two games, he has averaged seven points and 2.5 rebounds while shooting 55.6 percent from the field.
WHAT WE SAW - Daniels saw playing time and is clearly back in the rotation ahead of Sasha Pavlovic. He played nearly 17 minutes, finishing with two points, two rebounds and two assists.

STAT TO TRACK - With the Celtics thin on bodies, keep an eye on team fouls for both teams. This season, Boston is committing 20.2 fouls per game which ranks in the league's bottom-10, at No. 21. Fortunately for Boston, they face a Washington team that's used to being in foul trouble as well. They too are ranked among the NBA's bottom-10, averaging 21.5 fouls per game which ranks No. 26 in the league.
WHAT WE SAW - Because of the lopsided nature of the game, foul trouble was never really an issue for either team. Avery Bradley, who had arguably the toughest defensive assignment in dealing with Jordan Crawford, had four fouls. As a team, the C's committed just 18. Meanwhile, Washington had three players (Chris Singleton, Kevin Seraphin and Jan Vesely) who each had four personal fouls. And like the C's, they too were whistled for 18 team fouls.

Bruins sign pair of draft picks, including BC's Fitzgerald, to entry-level deals

Bruins sign pair of draft picks, including BC's Fitzgerald, to entry-level deals

Amidst the current turmoil at the NHL level, the Bruins delivered a little good news about the future today . . . with more potentially to come. 

The Bruins announced the signing of a pair of prospects/former draft picks -- Boston College forward Ryan Fitzgerald and defenseman Emil Johansson -- to entry-level contracts that will kick in next season. There will likely be another wave of signings with the Bruins from the amateur ranks once players like Charlie McAvoy, Anders Bjork and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson are finished up with their college teams in the NCAA tournament, though it remains to be seen exactly which players end up taking the NHL plunge. 

There was some uncertainty as to whether Fitzgerald would definitely sign with Boston after completing his senior season at BC, but he will immediately join the Providence Bruins on an amateur tryout agreement after signing a two-year deal. Johansson will join the Bruins on a Professional Tryout Agreement with a three-year entry level deal that kicks off next season. 

The 5-foot-10, 177-pound Fitzgerald was an alternate captain for BC in 2016-17, with 12 goals and 19 assists for 31 points in 34 games with 56 penalty minutes and a plus-14 rating. Fitzgerald is also the son of Billerica native and former Bruins forward Tommy Fitzgerald, who took to Twitter on Friday to voice his overwhelming pride over his oldest signing an NHL contract. He was a fourth-round pick by the Bruins in 2013.

Johansson, 20, completed his first season with Djurgardens IF of the Swedish Hockey League in 2016-17, establishing career highs with 7 goals and 10 assists for 17 points with 26 penalty minutes in 49 games. The B's selected him in the seventh round in 2014.

Report: Clippers' Griffin willing to consider Celtics in free agency

Report: Clippers' Griffin willing to consider Celtics in free agency

With all attention focused on overtaking the Cavs for the No. 1 seed in the East, the offseason -- trades, the draft, free agency -- is on the backburner in Celtics Nation these days.

But that pot's still simmering,

And it began to boil a little today when Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding, in the middle of a story on the Clippers being at a crossroad, threw a little accelerant on that old Blake Griffin-to-Boston flame . . .

But more and more people around the league believe he would be open to a fresh start — perhaps with the Lakers or the Boston Celtics, who have coveted Griffin for years and would offer a new chance to win. The most intriguing fit might be if he were to go home to Oklahoma to join Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, but his interests in the entertainment industry make staying in Los Angeles a priority.

Not much of a thread to grab there. But that didn't prevent cbssports.com's James Herbert from looking into it . . .  

Jumping to another contender on a max contract might not be simple. As CelticsBlog’s Keith P. Smith pointed out, Boston would have to dump Terry Rozier, waive Tyler Zeller and renounce all its free agents, including Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson, in order to even get near the amount of cap room that would be required to offer Griffin or someone like Gordon Hayward a max deal. 

Then again, Herbert says the Lakers and Thunder, Griffin's supposed other two destination spots, are even less financially flexible than the C's.

For now, it's all just a temporary diversion from the battle for No. 1.

It's also a reminder, though, that a whole new season -- the offseason -- is just around the corner.