The NBA promised a prompt removal of teams like the Wizards on Thursday afternoon. Washington held a slim chance to force a play-in tournament with the Magic or Nets that nobody asked for and obliged by losing every game. The Wizards did not improve their lottery odds either, so Mo Wagner and company took a head-butt for nothing. Thomas Bryant made it worth it with 26 points to pull one 96-90 win from the Orlando bubble
Brad Stevens looked ready to use the NBA security sweep as a motivating tactic Thursday afternoon, as the Celtics’ second unit missed box outs, rotations and hustle plays against Washington’s last stand. Boston’s starters sat, as they already secured the three seed, one win short of last year’s win total in only 72 games.
Role players like Grant Williams, Enes Kanter and Semi Ojeleye that could factor into Stevens’ playoff plans instilled minor importance in the game. For others like Tremont Waters, it marked his first regular season minutes since Mar. 4, about the last time I came off the bench to write a recap. While the Celtics’ depth practiced defensive rotations, I decided to make this an observational exercise to enter postseason mode.
- Romeo Langford burst to the rim on the ball with a glide reminiscent of Markelle Fultz. While never the shooter nor the passer Fultz is, Langford left high school with that pedigree. Mysterious injuries and even a shooting battle of his own solved via ping pong paddle marked his rookie season, with Thursday marking only his 32nd game played.
He received pockets of opportunity between Orlando’s scrimmages, flashed defensive brilliance in the Brooklyn blowout and in the first he traded a smooth runner and assist to Javonte Green with a turnover a botched floater off the glass.
- Welcome back Javonte Green. Without a crowd in Orlando to hype up Tacko Fall minutes, Green throw down dunks reminiscent of our own Keith Smith’s favorite to spice up the late minutes of Celtics games. His 15th man battle with Max Strus occurred just over one year ago in Summer League (remember, what we normally do this time of year?). He confirmed Boston’s choice, clocking in double-digit minutes during November while shooting 54%. Thursday proved to be his career game, drilling 3-of-5 from three in the first quarter.
- Wow, this Wizards team is young! Isaac Bonga, Thomas Bryant and Jerome Robinson all check in under 22 years old, and Robinson had one of the biggest bubble scoring bumps. Troy Brown Jr. and Rui Hachimura have their best years ahead too. They still have John Wall and Bradley Beal for the long-haul if they hold on to them. This could be an interesting mix of veterans and youth in the east next year. Bryant terrorized Boston’s interior with a late burst in the second quarter.
As ESPN broadcast points out, BC standout @Rome_Coldbucks1 is 3rd in PPG jump in the bubble behind MPJ & TJ Warren. Averaged 3.7 PPG between #Clippers (traded in Morris deal) and #Wizards. 15.4/2.9/3.0 line in the bubble.— Bobby Manning (@RealBobManning) August 13, 2020
I wrote about him in '18 https://t.co/VF7v6lDxks
- Vincent Poirier entered with a burst of recovery blocks and flew in for a put-back during a second quarter stint. Carsen Edwards and he got lost in the shuffle among the Celtics fully-contracted rookies this year, but continue to show enough in short minutes that they could be NBA players at some point, somewhere.
- Stevens remains tricky with those rotations. He won’t announce them in interviews, then when it looks like Robert Williams is resting, he checks in with six points in less than three minutes toward the end of this quarter. Boston’s new x-factor had one of the biggest bubble bumps and seemingly secured his playoff rotation spot. Grant, who played alongside Rob for that stretch, looked good on the boards and shot 2-for-7, remaining a wild card for minutes at the four against Al Horford and the 76ers.
- The second half started late, with NBA officials carrying a ladder in to replace the Celtics’ third-quarter net after the clock ran out on halftime. Semi Ojeleye found it first, as part of his 2-for-5 stretch from three. The bubble presented his best flash of off-ball shooting in his career, starting 9-for-20 from outside and finishing 42.8% from outside on eight attempts. Already a trusted defender in Stevens’ lower rotation, his shot-making opens the door to certain playoff opportunity.
- Thomas Bryant drilling threes. That’s plural. Consider that alongside how he bangs inside, the Lakers lost a good one and Wizards found what they were looking for when they missed on Al Horford in 2016 — albeit several years too late.
- Tacko Time doesn’t feel the same without the crowd, and started with a sputter through two quick fouls.
- Waters remains the most intriguing active-inactive question on the Celtics in the playoffs. Stevens had to sit him in all seven games prior to today, as the NBA still only allows 13 players to dress on game day despite rosters expanding to 17 in Orlando.
Keith noted Waters as a bailout option, and plays where he tip-toes along the baseline then fires a dart to Green for a transition dunk in traffic make him so intriguing. Then the turnovers and roster crunch bring it back to reality. By the way, the unlikely NBA Bubble net rating champion? Brad Wanamaker. Put that in the history books.
- Langford sprained his right wrist and went to the locker room early in an injury he suffered midway through the third quarter. Up until the last minute, Boston’s highest-selected rookie could not avoid injuries this season.