1. As per usual, the Celtics got off to a great start. They did it by playing through Kyrie Irving, but as a facilitator vs as a scorer. Irving had five of his 12 assists in the first quarter. He found Al Horford a few times in that mix, including this play off the two-man game:
2. Alas, NBA rules stipulate Boston must play second quarters. Apparently, those rules also say they must play poorly in the second quarter. This time around, the woes started late in the first, as Washington cut a 15-point lead down to 10 by the end of the first. Then in the second, the Celtics offense went missing, as Washington held them to 19 points. It was the same old story of the second unit not bringing enough offense to the floor. Brad Stevens did react quicker than usual, and subbed back in some starters early, as well as taking a couple of timeouts.
3. Part of the offensive issues lay with Marcus Morris. Living up to a pregame promise, Morris was aggressive, but maybe a tad too much. He shot 7-of-17 for the game, including 3-of-11 from behind the arc. He also led the team in field goal attempts as part of this off night. That’s not really ideal for the Celtics on a night where they struggled to get shots to fall as a team.
4. A bigger culprit in how the Wizards got back in the game was a familiar bugaboo: transition defense. When things go bad for the Celtics on offense, their shoulders slump, heads go down and they don’t get back. Washington piled up 21 fast break points in the first half. Once Boston cleaned that up, it got a lot harder for Washington to score.
5. Jaylen Brown shot just 4-of-13, but his energy gave the Celtics a nice lift. He was especially active on defense. And Brown seems to be figuring out that when the long jumper isn’t falling, he needs to get inside. This short turnaround has become one of his pet moves:
This is the Celtics best stretch of the past month pic.twitter.com/zM3vEKJjA4— Dan Greenberg (@StoolGreenie) March 2, 2019
6. That shot by Brown helped to start a 6-0 run (as seen in the above clip) where the Celtics took control of the game. The best part of that run? For the first time in a long time, they looked like the Celtics. Aggressive defense on the ball, guys challenging ballhandlers and creating turnovers, which led to easy baskets.
7. Keyed by that defensive effort, Boston held Washington scoreless for a period of four plus minutes in the fourth quarter. The Wizards rarely saw a good look during that stretch. The Celtics looked like the Celtics again, as they were flying all over to contest shots and making Washington uncomfortable.
8. As he has a way of doing, Marcus Smart put the capper on the night with this dunk. It came of a secondary break, where Brown pushed the ball up quickly off a rebound, passed to Horford, who found Smart for the hammer.
9. This was the second straight game that Brown has played the entirety of the fourth quarter. He’s earned that right by bringing terrific energy to the floor, to go along with some improved decision-making. On occasion he forces things, but those times are coming fewer and further between.
10. The closing effort was aided by Stevens making some tough, but necessary lineup calls. Irving, Horford and Smart are almost always going to be a part of the closing group. Morris and Jayson Tatum were both struggling with their shots, so Stevens went to Brown and Gordon Hayward. While neither of them was shooting all that well either, they were both playing very good defense. Brown, as mentioned above, was all over the floor. And Hayward was also making plays as a passer. It was good to see Stevens break away from his norms and trust some different players to bring home a victory for the Celtics.