The Washington Wizards lost to the Celtics 144-102 in Boston on Sunday afternoon. Here are five observations from what went down...
Celtics are tough
The Wizards have recently been playing their best basketball in months and when they ran into a buzzsaw on Friday night against the Mavericks, they jammed the blade. But on Sunday, the buzzsaw cut right through, as the red-hot Boston Celtics steamrolled the Wizards by 42 points in a game they were in control every step of the way.
While the Wizards led the Mavs by 34 points, the differential was even worse in this one. Boston was up by 43 points at their peak and the 42-point loss differential was the biggest for the Wizards in five years.
The loss snapped the Wizards out of a stretch in which they won four of five games. Washington dropped to 34-44 on the season with just four games left to play.
The loss to Boston began a three-game road trip, as the Wizards will next head to Minnesota to see the Timberwolves. They also play the Hawks in Atlanta the next night in what will be their final back-to-back of the 2021-22 season.
The Wizards had major problems locking down the perimeter against a Celtics team that entered the day ranked ninth in the NBA in threes made. Boston started out 9-for-13 from long range and finished the game 23-for-44. The 23 made threes were tied for the second-most ever allowed by the Wizards franchise. It's hard to win against a team shooting that well and it was enough to offset what was a good offensive game from the Wizards.
There were a few threes made by the Celtics that were just tough shots, but also too many where guys were left open in the corners and on the wings. There were many communication breakdowns that left too much daylight for open shots. The Wizards played off Grant Williams a bit too much and he made them pay with 16 points on four threes. Jaylen Brown and Payton Pritchard also had four threes apiece, while Derrick White added three.
Ish Smith was on
The Wizards got a nice boost off their bench from Ish Smith, who came out on fire, hitting his first five shots. He made a series of crafty plays around the rim and generally seemed to give the Celtics problems with his speed and quickness. He had 16 points (8-10 FG), five assists and two steals; a solid all-around game for the longtime NBA veteran.
Smith remains a joy to watch, as he darts in and out of traffic, still a step ahead of most despite being 33 years old. There have been quite a few Wizards games over the past few seasons where the team lost, but Smith provided a bright spot with his effort and energy. Sometimes, in a disappointing season, you have to appreciate the positives and Smith coming back at the trade deadline and doing his thing has been one of them.
The Celtics are looking like a team nobody wants to face in the playoffs. They have the best record in the East since Jan. 1, now at 32-11, while Brown and Jayson Tatum are playing like an elite duo. Brown scored the Celtics' first 11 points in this game, outscoring the Wizards 11-6 during that span. He ended up with 32 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Tatum has always been a marvel to watch and you can see he's continuing to grow. He found Brown with a one-handed bounce pass in the second quarter that was really impressive, especially if you consider how good he is as a scorer. If he can make plays for others like that more consistently, he will go from one of the best scorers in the league to possibly one of the very best players in the league. Tatum had 22 points, seven assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block.
KP and KCP
The Wizards had been winning some games recently by playing better defense and sharing the ball on offense. But even with the ball movement and unselfish play, there has been a hierarchy to their offense with Kristaps Porzingis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope leading the way and Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija as the third and four options. In this game, Caldwell-Pope kept it rolling with 17 points. It was the rest of the team, outside of Smith, that struggled.
Porzingis was good early, but was held to 17 points on 5-for-15 shooting. Hachimura had a rare off-night with zero points on 0-for-5 from the field. Avdija picked up two quick fouls in 45 seconds and that hurt his rhythm, though he ended up with 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting. It was going to be tough for the Wizards' offense in general, as the Celtics have the No. 1 defense. They do a great job of switching and stopping the ball with physical fronts. Their elite defense is another reason why Boston seems capable of a deep postseason run. The Wizards just happened to catch them as they are surging towards the playoffs.