Wizards defeat Celtics in double overtime, improve to 5-1


WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards beat the Boston Celtics 115-112 in double overtime on Saturday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five observations from what went down...

Best start in 16 years

Apparently Wes Unseld Jr. is the secret ingredient that was missing all along. The Wizards beat the Celtics to move to 5-1, marking their best start to any season in 16 years. The last time the Wizards were 5-1 was 2005-06, when Unseld Jr. was in his first year as an NBA assistant coach, then on Eddie Jordan's staff.

Yes, it's been a long time. Those were the Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison days. It was Arenas' best season, when he averaged 29.3 points per game, and during an era where the Wizards were about as popular as they have ever been since the 1970s.

The fact Unseld Jr. is the common thread between the two makes for a great story. But also don't forget that Jamison is back with the organization in a front office role.

What's also kind of crazy to think about is how good the Wizards have been going back to last season. Remember, they went 17-6 to close the regular season last year. With their 5-1 start, the Wizards have won 22 of their last 29 regular season games.

The Wizards won this one despite a long list of late-game mistakes, ones which Unseld Jr. will certainly want to clean up. But they will take the win, regardless.

Three-point defense


One way or another, this game was going to be a clash between one team that likes to shoot a lot of threes and another that doesn't give up many of them. The Celtics entered the matchup second in the NBA in three-point attempts per game this season at 43.4, an early sign of the style new head coach Ime Udoka plans to play. Meanwhile, the Wizards were sixth in opponent's three-point percentage (31.4%) and third in both makes (9.6) and attempts (30.6) allowed per game.

Boston got their shots off, they just didn't fall and to a fairly ridiculous degree. They went 0-for-15 in the first half and were 0-for-20 at one point. The Celtics didn't make their first three until Payton Pritchard sank one with 9:05 left in the fourth quarter. For the game, they shot 2-for-26 (7.7%), as the Wizards' three-point defense continues to shine. That's rarer than it may seem. The Celtics became just the seventh team in NBA history to take at least 25 threes and make two or fewer of them.

The Wizards went from very bad at defending threes in 2019-20 to about league average last season. This year, they are on track to be elite, at least so far. 

Harrell keeps killing it

The Wizards have only played six games this season, yet when it comes to Montrezl Harrell, what more can be said? The guy has been an absolute monster, arguably their best player and definitely their most consistent. And he put in another big-time performance with 20 points, 14 rebounds and a block. He shot 7-for-8 from the free throw line and even made a three.

Harrell hit a half-court buzzer-beater to end the first half. It was his first made three since the 2018-19 season, on March 30, 2019. 

There was talk before this game from Udoka about how big of a priority Harrell was for the Celtics to stop. They spent extra time watching film on him heading into the game. It didn't work. They even tried double-teams, like in the first half when Dennis Schroeder and Al Horford converged. Harrell just spun baseline and laid it in.

Late game execution

The Wizards had a long list of headscratching moments down the stretch of regulation and overtime. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope threw two bad inbound passes and dribbled out of bounds on the baseline. Bradley Beal (36 points) had four turnovers in the game, including one where he just lost the ball in traffic late in the fourth. Kyle Kuzma didn't have any help on a play late in the fourth where he had no choice but to launch a contested long two.

Luckily for the Wizards, a lot of the guys who made the mistakes later made up for them. Beal had a great sequence in the second overtime with a tough basket, a stop on Jayson Tatum and an assist to Spencer Dinwiddie. And Caldwell-Pope stole the ball from Jaylen Brown to seal the victory.

Gafford close


Based on the way Unseld Jr. framed it pregame, it sounds like Daniel Gafford's return from a right quad contusion will be very soon. He is moving better and getting his strength back. That is good news because he's a really good player, even though the Wizards have impressively gone 2-0 without him.

It has been interesting to see how the Wizards have managed without him. Sure, they have not been as good defending the rim without the threat of him blocking shots. But even with Harrell left as the only center, at just 6-foot-7, they can compensate for lack of size at that position in other ways.

Even with Gafford, they are a bit small at the five, but they have a host of forwards who stand 6-foot-10. At times these past two games, we've seen them roll out Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans and Kuzma in different combinations. That aspect of their roster is especially helpful against a team like Boston with so much size on the wing.