BOSTON – The Boston Celtics are too good to play the moral victory game, but you can bet they will take plenty of positives from their 125-124 double overtime loss to the Washington Wizards.
Jayson Tatum had a chance to win the game – in both overtimes actually – but his 3-pointer was off the mark with time expiring shortly afterwards.
At the end of the first overtime, Tatum was at the free throw line with 3.1 seconds to play and missed the free throw that would have likely won the game.
But the Celtics have no reason to hang their heads after this one, a game that truth be told should not have lasted as long as it did based on the state of both teams prior to tip-off.
Considering the quantity and quality of players Boston had sidelined with illness and injuries, it may have been the most impressive “Next Man Up” performance we’ve seen in the Brad Stevens’ era.
Boston, playing without all but one starter – and that starter, rookie Jayson Tatum, was a game-time decision with a sore lower back injury – as well as key reserve Marcus Smart, seemed to just run out of steam in the second overtime.
Morris had a season-high 31 points for Boston (46-22), one of six double-figure scorers for Boston. Bradley Beal led the Wizards with a game-high 34 points and nine assists.
Several Celtics played critical roles down the stretch that seldom play let alone in crunch time.
Among them was Abdel Nader who made a timely 3-pointer in the fourth quarter coming out of a time-out wit 1.7 seconds left on the shot clock. He had 10 points off the bench for Boston.
Boston controlled the game for most of the first half, but a 10-0 run by Washington to close out the second quarter made it a single-digit game, and it remained that way for all of the third quarter.
Boston’s control didn’t seem to be in question until the Celtics lost sight of Bradley Beal in the corner – big mistake – which he made them pay for by draining a 3-poniter which made it a 72-70 game.
But Aron Baynes converted a pair of free throws followed by a steal and breakaway dunk by Terry Rozier which pumped the Celtics lead up to 76-70.
However, Washington responded with seven straight points to take the lead 77-76 with 3:35 to play in the third quarter, leading to a Celtics time-out.
The game stayed relatively close in the third quarter which ended with the Wizards ahead 81-80 going into the fourth quarter.
Boston could not have scripted a better start to the game.
The Celtics opened with a 9-2 run, leading to a Wizards time-out.
Boston’s lead continued to grow, leading to another time-out at the 6:29 mark of the first with the Celtics ahead 19-6.
Two time-outs for the Wizards in less than six minutes.
It was that kind of game for Washington in the first half which was surprising when you consider how injury-riddled the Boston Celtics were.
But as we’ve seen all season, Boston seems to be at its best when the odds are stacked heavily against them.
No Kyrie Irving; or Marcus Smart; or Al Horford; or Daniel Theis … you get the picture.
Even with all those core players out with injuries and illnesses, Boston seemingly didn’t miss a beat in the first half.
And it wasn’t all that complicated what Boston was doing.
Defend your man, rebound the ball and swing it offensively until you get a great shot regardless of whose hands the ball winds up in.
And this approach worked to perfection in the first half.
But when it mattered most, Brad Stevens’ patched up lineup couldn’t make that one shot or get that one stop to get the win.