The Washington Wizards beat the Boston Celtics 104-91 on Sunday afternoon. Here are five takeaways from what went down...
The 2020-21 Wizards have shown a tendency to play their best basketball when it is least expected. Just 48 hours after getting beaten handily by the Knicks, they jumped all over the Boston Celtics to secure arguably their most well-rounded win of the season so far.
The Wizards led by 25 and edged Boston by 13 points, their third-largest margin of victory this season. Washington has beaten some good teams this year in the few wins they have had, but against the Celtics they played well both on offense and particularly on defense where they allowed a season-low 91 points.
To be fair, the Wizards may have also caught Boston at a good time. Now losers of three of their last four, this loss dropped the Celtics to .500 at 13-13 on the year.
Still, the win was a good reset for the Wizards who had lost four of their previous five games. They are now 7-17 on the year with John Wall and the Houston Rockets up next on Monday night.
About a third of the way through the first quarter, with his team down 15-8, a head coach took a timeout to try to cut off the opponent's momentum. This time, it wasn't Scott Brooks.
Though that has been a familiar move for Brooks, it was Brad Stevens who did it this time as the Wizards got off to an uncharacteristically good start. They led 29-22 after one, which was just their eighth time in 24 games this season leading after the first quarter.
The Wizards were also up 55-43 at halftime, their second-largest halftime lead of the season. And the Celtics' 43 points were tied for the fewest allowed by the Wizards in the first half this year.
The Wizards came into this game allowing the second-highest three-point percentage (39.7%) in the NBA and were facing a Celtics team that shoots the sixth-best percentage (38.5%). That could have been a recipe for trouble, but the Wizards did a nice job making things uncomfortable for Boston on the perimeter.
The Wizards guarded the Celtics' wings closely even far away from the basket. Instead of having to cover ground to close out on threes, there were many instances where they met their man at the ball, even if the pass was caught several feet behind the three-point line. It seemed like the Wizards' approach was to sell out on threes, even if it meant giving up some dribble penetration.
Boston struggled as a result, going 3-for-17 from three in the first half and 9-for-35 (25.7%) for the game. The Wizards' problems shooting their own threes did continue, however, as they went 7-for-30 from long range.
Brooks switched up his lineup a bit going into this game by keeping Garrison Mathews in as a starter and promoting Moe Wagner off the bench to replace Alex Len. Mathews started on Friday in place of Bradley Beal, who sat due to rest.
Both Mathews and Wagner made a positive impact. Mathews didn't score, but played solid perimeter defense by flying around and contesting shots. Wagner found a rhythm early running to the rim off screens, as both Russell Westbrook (13 points, 11 assists) and Beal found him for easy buckets. He also had a nice spin move around Tristan Thompson and finished off the glass. Wagner had 11 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Beal returned with a bang
Beal came back from his one-game absence looking refreshed, as he knocked down his first five shots in the first quarter to drop 12 points in the opening frame. He got going again in the second half to end up with 35 points (4-9 3PT), seven rebounds and five assists, and was able to sit for the final five minutes of the fourth with the game well in hand.
While Beal had it going, his childhood friend Jayson Tatum had a rare off-day. The Wizards got him into foul trouble early and he never really found his groove after that. Tatum, who averages 26.6 points per game, topped out at six against the Wizards. He shot just 3-for-14 and didn't make a three.
Tune in to see the Wizards take on John Wall and the Rockets Monday night on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage starts at 6 PM.