WASHINGTON (AP) — Chants of “M-V-P!” flooded the arena as Ish Smith — yes, the 31-year-old reserve guard of 11 NBA teams across 10 seasons — stepped to the line for a pair of free throws in the fourth quarter.
He was, after all, in the middle of a second consecutive star turn for the injury-depleted Wizards, scoring 14 of his game-high 27 points in the final period — including 10 in a row on 5-for-5 shooting in one stretch — to lead lowly Washington past the Boston Celtics 99-94 Monday night.
“If it was a two-game season, I would have to agree with the crowd: MVP,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said with a smile afterward. “And he's bringing back the mid-range. He's hard to stay in front of. His change of direction. His pace. The speed.”
Smith grew up on AND1 mixtapes (look ‘em up) and was prodded to watch clips of Steve Nash and Tony Parker by Skip Prosser, his college coach at Wake Forest.
So there are definite traces of flashiness and don’t-relinquish-the-dribble in Smith's game, on full display against Boston and in Washington's previous outing, when he had a career-high 32 points in a win over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.
"He's on skates right now and he's feeling in a great rhythm," said Boston coach Brad Stevens, whose team had won eight of nine games but was missing Kemba Walker because of the flu for the third in a row.
“It's a great example of playing a guy when he's in a great groove,” Stevens said about Smith. "You have to break his rhythm, and we didn't do that."
As for Smith's reaction to the crowd's boisterous support and those three little letters they shouted?
“The last time that happened, probably, was high school,” Smith said.
He made 12 of 18 shots and chipped in four assists and four rebounds off the bench for Washington.
“He just got super comfortable out there,” Boston's Jaylen Brown said, “and he just made play after play after play."
The Wizards are without six leading members of its roster because of injuries.
That includes All-Stars Bradley Beal (out for the fifth time in the last six games because of a sore right leg) and John Wall (sidelined all season so far after Achilles surgery), starters Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant, and leading subs Davis Bertans and Moe Wagner.
“We have so many moving parts,” Brooks said.
Boston became the latest NBA contender to surprisingly come up short against one of the league's worst teams. The Wizards have picked up wins over Miami, Denver and Boston in their past five outings.
The Celtics never led this one.
Washington was up by 11 at halftime, but that dwindled to zero when Jaylen Brown's 3-pointer made it 80-all with 8 minutes left.
That was a rare bright spot for Brown and Boston, though. He scored 23 points but shot 7 for 22, Marcus Smart was 3 for 14, Jayson Tatum was 8 for 20, and Gordon Hayward was 4 for 11, including an air ball on a wide-open 3 attempt with under 90 seconds remaining.
Boston entered the day second in the Eastern Conference at 25-8. Washington, in contrast, came in at 11-24, fewer wins than all but three teams in the 15-club East.
"Sometimes, we don't have a lot of scoring options out there, but I can honestly say we have a lot of effort options out there," Brooks said, "and that's a good thing to have."
Celtics: Robert Williams missed his 13th game in a row since Dec. 6; he as a left hip problem. Coach Brad Stevens said Williams would meet with a specialist in New York on Tuesday.
Wizards: As if they needed any more health issues, lost rookie guard Garrison Mathews to a sprained right ankle in the second quarter. ... Had lost four consecutive games against Boston.
DRAWN AND QUARTERED
Washington held Denver to an opponent-low 19 points in the first quarter Saturday, then bettered that by giving up just 17 to Boston in the opening period. Asked to explain, Smith replied: “Now we're getting it: We're communicating.”
Celtics: Host San Antonio on Wednesday night.
Wizards: At Orlando on Wednesday night.
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