Celtics spellbound in 85-83 loss to Wizards


Celtics spellbound in 85-83 loss to Wizards

By A. Sherrod Blakely

WASHINGTON It was the perfect shot for Paul Pierce. A bigger defender was on him who bites on his rock-a-by jab step. The defender stepped back. Pierce pulled up and clang?

It was that kind of night for Pierce and the Boston Celtics, as they followed up a commanding first half lead over the Washington Wizards with a cringe-inducing collapse in the second half that ended with a disappointing 85-83 loss.

"I really thought we deserved to lose the game," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

Boston's loss snapped a five-game winning streak, while the victory ended a two-game skid for the Wizards (13-29) who are still among the league's worst teams.

"They played much harder than us in the second half," Rivers said. "Think about all the loose balls, tips, they dominated the 5050 game. We gave them a chance to see that they had a chance to beat us. When that happens, you lose games."

While the Celtics pride themselves on being a defensive-minded bunch, it was their offense that seemed to be in a major funk Saturday night.

It wasn't just that they were missing shots; they were missing the shots that on most nights, you can can count on going down.

Pierce's shot at the end of the game was an open look.

A few possessions earlier, Ray Allen had a wide open 3-pointer.

Before that, Allen missed a dunk.

Rajon Rondo. Garnett. Glen Davis.

Every Celtics player, at some point on Saturday, came up short when it came to making one of their bread-and-butter baskets.

And down the stretch, the Wizards were at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Arguably the biggest shot of the night was a 3-point bank shot by John Wall that gave the Wizards a 84-81 lead with 57.7 seconds to play.

"I didn't call it, but I knew it was going to hit backboard," said Wall, who finished with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists. "I thought it was going to be a hard brick."

It ricocheted pretty hard off the backboard, but that didn't matter.

Wall's shot attempt achieved what so few of the Celtics' shots down the stretch could do - it went in.

"He (Wall) made some big plays," Rivers said. "The 3? Let's just say that's the basketball gods punishing us for the way that we played."

Added Pierce: "You see what happens. John Wall makes a bank shot that puts them ahead. It just came back to haunt us."

Even though the C's got a bunch of good shot attempts late in the game, Rivers was bothered by the game's pace.

"They were good shots, but they were all jump-shots," Rivers said. "My problem was our pace; we were walking the ball up the floor. We dribbled the life out of the game, everybody. We didn't go to the post. It was a jump shooting contest. When you're up 10 or 15 (points), jump-shots are easy. Then you squander the lead and then you're wide open, that trigger gets a little tighter."

Boston shot just 43 percent from the field, and misfired on 18 of their 23 shots in the fourth.

"When we had to get a bucket and we needed it, we couldn't," said Garnett.

As both teams misfired one off-the-mark shot for another, Washington gradually cut away at Boston's lead.

It wasn't until a driving lay-up by Wall with 2:35 to play did the Wizards take their first lead of the game.

The C's responded with a basket by Glen Davis that tied the score at 81 with 1:20 to play.

There was Wall right back at the C's, banking in a 3-pointer that gave Washington an 84-81 lead.

"It could have broken the backboard, but it went in for us and it was a game-changer," Wall said. "It was a big turning point for us."

And the C's to some degree, are at a turning point of sorts as well.

They don't play again until Tuesday against Cleveland, a game that they should win with relative ease.

But if there is a lesson to be learned, it's that no opponent, no matter how bad their record, no matter if you're home or on the road, can be taken for granted.

Because if you let them hang around too long, which is what the C's did on Saturday, it can hurt you.


"You can't give up big leads like that," Garnett said. "It's all about progress. We'll look at this and learn from it."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Morris returns to Celtics starting lineup vs. Magic


Morris returns to Celtics starting lineup vs. Magic

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics will turn to a familiar starting lineup as they try to get back on their winning ways following Wednesday’s loss at Miami.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said Marcus Morris will be in the starting lineup tonight against Orlando, joining the usual Celtics foursome of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford.


Morris’ availability tonight was not a given, similar to it being in question prior to Wednesday’s game against the Heat.
Morris has been dealing with soreness in his left knee which kept him out for the first eight games of the season and has limited his playing time since then.
Stevens said Morris will likely not play against Indiana on Saturday but no final decision has been made. Since returning to the lineup, the Celtics have played Morris with a minutes restriction in addition to not allowing him to play in any back-to-back games.

Morris has made it clear that he does not like having his playing time limited while not playing in any back-to-backs, but has repeatedly he understands why it is being done and won’t fight what the coaching and medical staff believe is best for him and the team.


Celtics' bounce-back ability put to the test

Celtics' bounce-back ability put to the test

BOSTON – When it comes to bouncing back from defeat, the Celtics don’t have a ton of experience with that this season.
As impressive as their 16-game winning streak was, a truer sense of where this team is at lies in how they respond.


Their first chance to bounce back comes tonight against the Orlando Magic (8-10) who will put Boston’s team cohesion to the test.
With so many new players to the roster this season, it has been somewhat surprising how well players have come together. It was instrumental to Boston’s winning streak, which was the fourth-longest in franchise history.
“It’s two things,” said Al Horford. “A lot of credit to coach [Brad Stevens], really setting the emphasis on the things that he expects from our group. And then credit to our younger guys and our guys in general, to pick up those concepts and play for each other out there on the defensive end. That’s what we try to do every night.”
When you talk about Boston’s young players, it begins with the rapid improvement of second-year wing Jaylen Brown and rookie Jayson Tatum.
“I just think that they’re starting to see, to understand the game more especially on the offensive end,” Horford said. “I think they’re starting to identify reads. It’s a process. They’re going to keep learning; it’s a long season. But that’s the one thing, from the beginning of the season until now, I feel like they have the ability to read plays and make plays for themselves and others.”
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game at TD Garden: 

The Magic are on a bit of a streak, but not the kind any team would like to have. They come in having lost six in a row. The Magic have struggled to knock down 3-point shots and rebound in that span. They're ranked among the league’s bottom 10 in both categories.

Boston has had its problems scoring in the paint this season, averaging 38.5 points, which ranks 27th in the NBA. But that might change tonight against a Magic team that has been among the worst limiting points in the paint all season. Scratch that. They are the worst, giving up a league-high 51.0 points in the paint this season.

Boston’s 16-game winning streak was impressive, especially when you consider their schedule which included their past eight games being played in a 16-night stretch with a game every other day. It’s not so much the challenge of so many games close together, but the inability to have any time to practice. “For a young team like ours, practice is really important,” Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston earlier this season. “But the schedule is what it is. You play every game as best you can, practice when you can practice and go from there.”

The Celtics got 34 points from their bench in Wednesday’s loss at Miami, an improvement over what the second unit has been able to deliver most of this season. They come into tonight’s game ranked dead-last in the NBA in shooting (33.5 percent) and next-to-last in 3-point shooting (27.7 percent). Scoring-wise, they average 28.6 points, which ranks 24th in the league, but log an average of 18.8 minutes which ranks 14th in the NBA. So why do they get major minutes? Because more often than not, they find a way to come out ahead of their second unit brethren. For the season, Boston’s bench has a plus/minus of +1.6 which ranks eighth in the league.

One of the biggest concerns for the Celtics coming into this season was rebounding. So far, so good. The Celtics average 47.2 rebounds per game, which ranks fourth in the NBA. To put that in perspective, if Boston maintains that average, it would be the franchise’s highest rebounding average in 40 years (49.8, 1977-78).