Celtics

Depleted Celtics battle Wizards to double OT, but fall just short

Depleted Celtics battle Wizards to double OT, but fall just short

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. 

Yup. 

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.

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Blakely: Jaylen Brown evolving into high-impact player before our eyes

Blakely: Jaylen Brown evolving into high-impact player before our eyes

BOSTON – Jaylen Brown can still hear the murmurs from draft night two years ago shortly after his name was called. 

It was the pinnacle for every kid who has ever dreamed of being an NBA player, and yet Brown’s moment of great adulation from fans became a dream deferred with a mix of cheers and jeers from Celtics fans who felt the team would have been better off packaging the No. 3 pick used on Brown to acquire a more proven talent. 

That would serve as one of the many boulder-sized chips on Brown’s shoulders that has brought him to where he is now, as one of the biggest breakout performers in the playoffs. 

He is coming off a career-high 30 points in Boston’s 120-106 win, making the 21-year-old the youngest player in Celtics history to score 30 or more in a playoff game.

Brown comes into Friday night’s Game 3 matchup leading the Celtics (2-0 in best-of-seven series) averaging a team-high 25 points per game on 51.2 percent shooting from the field and 41.2 percent from 3-point range. 

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What Brown is doing now is a direct reflection of the progress made in his overall game from where it was a year ago, even if it doesn’t seem like that big a deal to him.

“To be honest, I don’t even pay attention to it. I’ve just been playing basketball all year,” Brown said following Tuesday’s win. “My teammates help me out a lot by finding me. Terry (Rozier) found me a lot throughout the course of the game and I was able to take some shots. Ultimately, we just want to win games, so that’s the only thing that we are concerned with. We are confident as ever. Teams have been writing us off all year and we just keep proving people wrong, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Proving folks wrong is part of the narrative that is Brown’s story. 

When he came into the NBA, folks loved his athleticism. But his jumper, ball-handling and defensive awareness needed work. There’s an expectation that with time and experience, young players will get better. But what we’ve seen in Brown is more than just growth. It’s the byproduct of a young man who's extremely motivated to do more than just get better. 

He wants to be the best player on the floor, every minute he’s out there. While it is a goal that he’ll fall short of achieving, Brown is developing into a major, high-impact player before our very eyes. 

“Well I think Jaylen loves the moment,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “I think he really appreciated the opportunity like to – to compete on this stage and at this level and we’ve seen him against the better teams in the league all year be able to really raise his level in some of the biggest games. And, you know, I think that obviously he’s gaining more experience by the minute and he – he lived quite a lot last year. And so, he’s one of our more experienced guys in some ways in this setting.”

It is a setting Brown has always felt that it was a matter of when, not if, he would be here. And while he has certainly become a fan favorite, he knows he still has a few skeptics out there.

“I love it. I thrive off it,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston. “When people say this, say that, tell you what you’re gonna do, tell you how successful you are going to be, I smile and keep it moving.”

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Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown showing up Bucks veterans

Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown showing up Bucks veterans

BOSTON – When this Boston-Milwaukee playoff series began, there were legitimate questions about how Boston’s youthful backcourt tandem of Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown would hold up against the Bucks and their more experienced tandem led by Eric Bledsoe and Tony Snell.

Two games and two Celtics wins later, this hasn’t even been marginally close with Boston’s 1-2 backcourt punch delivering one big shot after another which has been among the keys to Boston taking a 2-0 series lead as Games 3 and 4 shift to Milwaukee.

In two games, Rozier and Brown have outscored Milwaukee’s starting backcourt 96-25.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens believes those numbers are a bit skewed because they don’t take into account the scoring of Khris Middleton whom Stevens considers as being part of the Milwaukee backcourt.

Ok, coach.

Add Middleton’s 56 points scored in the first two games and that brings the Bucks’ perimeter point total up to 81.

“We’re trying a lot of different bodies on Middleton,” Stevens said. “Bledsoe’s a handful because of his ability to drive the ball and knock down shots off screens. And Snell as always been a guy that’s been able to make open shots.”

But if you’re gonna factor in Middleton’s points for Milwaukee, you have to throw in Jayson Tatum’s 23 points in two games which would bring the final tally to 122-81, a staggering lopsided figure as well. 

Stevens knows all too well that the road for his perimeter players and his entire team for that matter, will only get rougher in time.

“We know we have our hands full and our guys are preparing ever game like that’s the case,” Stevens said.

And even with the lopsided nature of the scoring thus far from the starting perimeter players by Boston, there’s still a sense that some Bucks – ok, one Bucks player – isn’t quite ready to put some respect on what the Celtics were able to do perimeter-wise in Games 1 and 2.

Bledsoe, who is averaging 10.5 points in this series, was asked about Rozier’s play after two games which in addition to averaging 23.0 points also includes him failing to turn the ball over once in more than 78 minutes of action.

“Who?” was Bledsoe’s initial responded which was followed by, “I don’t even know who the (expletive) that is.”

Stevens was aware of Bledsoe’s comments about Rozier but made it clear that he was not going to get into anything that might he constructed as a war of words.

“I heard that,” said Stevens about the comments in regards to Rozier before adding, “Our team is just focused on Game 3.”

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