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The Wizards finally played the game they knew they could in Game 3

Washington immediately marched out to a huge lead and never looked back for even a moment against Boston.

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Wizards’ 39-17 lead after the first quarter of Game 3 on Thursday felt as forceful as the score itself would indicate. They didn’t just mess around and back into their 22-point lead. They authoritatively marched out to it, shoving the Boston Celtics aside with a vengeance — in one case, literally.

It was an impressive showing ... and a slightly nervous one. The Wizards had been here twice already in this series alone. In Game 1, they led 38-24 after the first quarter before losing by double digits. In Game 2, it was a 13-point first-quarter lead ... and an overtime defeat.

Either of those first two games could have been the Wizards’ game, the one where they really threatened Boston with lopsided play. Those first quarters hinted at that being possible, but in the opening two games, Washington didn’t deliver. They did on Thursday, though, as the Wizards completed the game with a 116-89 win. And it happened convincingly, a tip-to-buzzer waxing of Boston.

Thanks to the opening two matchups played in Boston, including a brutal overtime loss while Isaiah Thomas ran roughshod over them for 53 points, the Wizards still trail 2-1 after their Game 3 victory. But they have to feel good about that slim 2-1 deficit, because they showed in every game that they could take it at Boston. Time spent with John Wall off the floor is still going to be a problem, but they survived those minutes much better than they did in the previous two. Overall, everything for the Wizards — back home in D.C. — just felt like it clicked better.

Wall, in particular, had to feel like Game 2 should have been his for the taking. He would have dominated the storylines with a 40-point outing, but Thomas surged by him when the Wizards weren’t able to close it out in regulation. Wall didn’t own Game 3 like he did the first two, but his 24 points still led all scorers. His eight assists, three steals, and one block all showed his complete game.

The Wizards, Wall, all of Washington — they know they’re capable of this type of game. They’ve shown it earlier in this series. Now they’ve put it together for 48 minutes and never even let Boston near a single-digit lead, much less a proper comeback. This was a statement that they know, they really know, that those first two games could have gone differently. And it’s too late to change that, but Game 3 couldn’t have been much more convincing that the Wizards aren’t out of this thing yet.

Not even close.