WASHINGTON — Immediately after the Wizards’ Game 7 loss to the Celtics, Phil Chenier’s gut reaction was to call Washington’s season a success. But after a night to sleep on it, 49 wins and a second-round playoff appearance weren’t enough.
Chenier was asked by The Sports Junkies if the Wizards are in a different spot than they were two years ago, when they took the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks to six games in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
“We had this question last night after the game, and after answering that we had a successful season, I started thinking about it more and more,” Chenier said. “And to your point, I’d have to change my assessment and say it was a good year for [them]. But successful, I wouldn’t say it’s successful until you make that step forward and get further than you’ve been in the past. Certainly that wasn’t the case.”
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The Wizards, just as in 2015, ultimately came up short against the top seed in the east, though they did take the Celtics to seven games, so they were technically one playoff game closer to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Despite Game 7 being close much of the way, Chenier agreed it didn’t feel close with the Wizards struggling to find open looks at the basket.
“I mean the way it started off, I mean we struggled so much to get an open look and the shots that we made early on were tough shots,” he said. “Meanwhile, it just seemed like they didn’t shoot the ball well, but they were getting a lot more open looks than we were.”
“I just felt like over the course of this series, as a team we weren’t really picking up on their tendencies and their trends, in terms of running their offense,” he said. “You could see formations developing and you felt [like], ‘Okay, here comes this back-pick’ or ‘here comes this leak-out.’ I mean you just kind of sensed things, and it just didn’t seem like our guys were picking up on those and taking some of those away.”
Boston’s bench outscored Washington’s 48-5, a remarkable gap forged foremost by Kelly Olynyk’s 26-point contribution.
“I don’t know if it’s a record or not, but that’s a huge discrepancy to overcome, and of course Olynyk looked like ‘The Big O’ at one point, especially in that fourth quarter,” Chenier said, in reference to Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson.
The Wizards led the Celtics 55-53 at the half, but in each of the last two quarters, Chenier notes, the Celtics scored 30-or-more points while the Wizards faded away.
“Those 30-point quarters are just a bad sign for us and we’ve seen those happen in stretches, where teams will just kind of go off on us,” he said. “Clearly, defensively, we were deficient last night, especially in the second half.”
Chenier remains optimistic about the Wizards’ future, despite the latest setback.
“I will say this: Based on what we’ve seen all year, and even down the stretch, with Bradley Beal and John Wall, I think think the future is bright with those two,” he said. “I mean we clearly have young, bonafide stars and now we’ve just got to improve some of the pieces, make sure that we continue to get better.”
“I love the way Otto Porter bounced back after that Game 6,” he added. “We were able to get by without him scoring. He hustled, but last night he ended up with a double double and made some big shots. Again, collectively, when we talk about defense, it’s not usually a one-man pony, it’s collectively, and they’ve just got to improve as a team.”