WASHINGTON -- The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are among the better teams in the Eastern Conference. They also form one of the more random and heated rivalries in recent NBA history.
Despite no clear reason for tension, the two sides have been involved in several altercations over the past two seasons. Tuesday's clash comes less than two weeks after a postgame showdown on the court between Wizards guard John Wall and Celtics forward Jae Crowder moments after Boston's 117-108 win.
The matchup also comes as Washington continues its surge. The Wizards (24-20) have won eight of 10, including Monday's 109-99 road victory against the Charlotte Hornets, plus 13 straight at home. While Boston is 7-3 over its last 10 games, the Celtics (26-17) have dropped two in a row.
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Such big picture matters take a backseat or at least share the marquee entering the third of four meetings this season.
Last January, Crowder accused ex-Wizards coach Randy Wittman of cursing in his direction, a scenario that led to a late-game technical foul on Boston's energy leader.
Wall received a flagrant-2 foul in the first meeting this season, a 118-93 Washington rout at home on Nov. 9. Marcus Smart took the hard hit and earned a technical for his aggressive reaction.
Then came the meeting on Jan. 12. Isaiah Thomas scoring 20 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter carried Boston to the win, handing Washington a rare recent loss. Yet his brilliant display was overshadowed.
Following an angry exchange of words near center court, Crowder shoved a finger in Wall's face, touching the point guard's nose, which led to a retaliatory jab from Washington's leading scorer.
"They talk a little more," Crowder said Monday of the Wizards, according to MassLive.com. "They say a little more disrespectful things than other teams. So that's what escalated it."
Though eventually separated before major escalation, more jawing occurred in the locker room area, leading to several police officers standing guard. Crowder later received a $25,000 fine while Wall was hit for $15,000 by the league.
Washington's Otto Porter, second in the NBA with a 45 percent shooting percentage on 3-pointers, described Boston as a "dirty" team after the game.
"I think a lot of teams around this league know we don't play dirty, we just play very hard," Thomas said Monday. "Like I said before, it may seem dirty because we play so hard but we're not a dirty team."
Playing with an edge played a factor in Washington's first winning road trip of the season. The Wizards took two of three with the lone loss coming Saturday on a buzzer-beating putback by Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris.
"When you win on the road, you have to play with toughness, you have to play with complete belief in each other and what we do," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after Washington held Charlotte to 38.9 percent shooting. "I thought we've been doing that."
The Wizards never trailed, but needed to fend off the Hornets after Charlotte pulled within 82-77 early in the in the fourth quarter.
"A lot of guys stepped up in different situations," said Wall, who had 24 points.
Bradley Beal snapped an 0-for-20 stretch from distance with four 3-pointers. Kelly Oubre Jr. scored eight of his 10 points in the final period.
As for another meeting with Boston, Wall doesn't appear phased by the Celtics' aggressive approach.
"I think the new era, a lot of people might call it 'dirty' because it's a lot softer now in the league," Wall said, according to the Boston Globe. "But it's not dirty to me."