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Wizards to have defense in mind vs. unbeaten Celtics

Oct 27, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) slaps hands with center Kristaps Porzingis (8) during the second quarter against the Miami Heat at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Wizards will be looking for another strong performance on the defensive end of the court when they face the visiting Boston Celtics on Monday night.

Washington dropped a 143-120 decision to Indiana in its opener Wednesday, but the Wizards were much better defensively during Saturday’s 113-106 victory over Memphis. The Grizzlies turned the ball over 18 times in the loss.

“(Defense) was much better,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “Just overall disposition was better. You could tell guys were locked in. It wasn’t perfect, but I thought we were in the right spots most of the night, and when you do that, you give yourself a chance.”

Washington center Daniel Gafford, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes against Memphis, received the defensive player-of-the-game belt Unseld hands out after each win. The Wizards also received a strong defensive effort from Deni Avdija, who forced an eight-second violation when he pressured Desmond Bane in the second quarter.

“It’s those little things that get everybody hyped,” Avdija said. “I feel like those little things are really important. So whenever I can make the simple play, simple steal, or just think the game, I think it’s a really good push for our team.”

Washington’s Jordan Poole had a game-high 27 points against the Grizzlies. Kyle Kuzma scored 21 despite missing nine of his 10 shots from 3-point range. Kuzma, who scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, also had 13 rebounds.

Boston will be seeking its third straight victory to open the season. The Celtics earned a 108-104 win at New York on Wednesday, and beat Miami 119-111 on Friday night at Boston.

“We’ve made a lot of tactical mistakes (in the first two games), but we’re playing really hard and we’re playing with toughness and that’s the most important thing,” Boston coach Joe Mazzulla said. “When your best players care about defense you have a chance to be a good team.”

Derrick White led the Celtics by scoring 28 points against Miami. White made five of his seven 3-point attempts.

“They’re a tough team to guard,” White said. “They make you work for 48 minutes, so I knew we had to get it done (on defense). Got some good looks and knocked it down at the other end.”

Each of Boston’s five starters scored at least 17 points against Miami. Jaylen Brown had 27, Jayson Tatum finished with 22 and Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis each tossed in 17.

“We have a lot of guys, a lot of weapons and it’s going to be a fun year,” White said.

Porzingis, a 7-foot-3 center who the Celtics acquired from the Wizards as part of a three-team trade in the offseason, is averaging 23.5 points in his two games with Boston. He scored 30 points in Boston’s victory over New York.

“He just makes us that much more dynamic obviously with his size, ability to shoot, make plays off the dribble,” Tatum said. “When they double me late (he can) make the right play, find an open man. Obviously he can shoot from wherever. I mean, he’s really good. He’s really, really good. We’re lucky to have him.”

–Field Level Media

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