After a Wednesday night loss to the Washington Wizards that put their effort levels (or lack thereof) in question, the Boston Celtics entered their Saturday evening rematch with something to prove. Effort was present in spades this time around, as the Celtics gutted out a strong performance defensively, but an epic cold spell from three (2-of-26 after an 0-of-20 start) and two overtime periods were too much to overcome. They fall to 2-4 on the season in a double-overtime defeat in Washington, 115-112.
Jaylen Brown led the way for the Celtics with a team-high 34 points, while Jayson Tatum struggled with efficiency en route to a 10-of-32 performance, but still chipped in 27 points and 15 rebounds. Josh Richardson enjoyed his first noteworthy performance in Celtics Green, scoring 18 and contributing some excellent defense off the bench. For the Wizards, Bradley Beal recorded his best outing of the young season, leading the team with 36 points, and Spencer Dinwiddie added 20 points and some crucial buckets in overtime.
A few days after Brown’s early season inconsistency became a subject of conversation, he found a much steadier start against the Wizards. He opened the evening connecting on his first four shot attempts, scoring eight of Boston’s first 12 points. Unfortunately, those 12 points came across the first six minutes of the game, as the rest of the Celtics’ offense struggled to support him. Besides Brown, only Richardson managed to connect on more than one shot in the first quarter, and the Celtics trailed the Wizards 25-20 at the end of the frame.
Boston’s field goal percentage continued to plummet in the early minutes of the second quarter. Tatum in particular struggled to find a rhythm, shooting just 2-of-9 in the first half. As a whole, the Celtics just couldn’t buy a basket from beyond the three-point line, missing all 15 of their attempts in the first half despite largely generating good quality looks.
But while the shots weren’t connecting, the Celtics thrived on the other side of the ball, playing some of their best collective defense of the season thus far and showing the effort that coach Ime Udoka felt was lacking in Wednesday’s home loss. They kept Washington’s up-tempo offense in check to the tune of just 41% shooting from the field (including a lucky buzzer-beating heave from Harrell), and entered the halftime break trailing by just six points as a result, 53-47.
Wise decision by the defense here. pic.twitter.com/EDGY2C6Fhu— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 30, 2021
The three-balls did not start to fall in the third quarter, but nevertheless, they chipped away at Washington’s lead by continuing their strong defensive effort and finding a rhythm inside the arc and at the free throw line. They finally evened up the score with just over six minutes remaining in the third, as Brown continued his strong outing with a nice finish at the rim, but the Wizards quickly grabbed a couple quick buckets to put Boston back at arm’s length. Despite a staggering 0-for-20 mark from behind the arc, the Celtics trailed by just three points entering the final quarter, 76-73.
Finally, mercifully, the Celtics hit their first three-pointer. Payton Pritchard found the distance from a few steps behind the line to improve the team’s shooting line from 0-for-20 to 1-for-21 and trim the Wizards lead to one point with just under nine minutes to play in the game. Moments later, Pritchard doubled the team’s three-point output by connecting a second time — at least, he briefly did, until it was ruled that his foot was on the line and the shot was changed to a two. The Wizards lead 90-88 with five minutes left to play.
Boston again evened the score on a pair of free throws by Brown, but as they had consistently over the past seven quarters of play, the Wizards fended the Celtics off, restoring a five point advantage with four minutes remaining. Boston pulled back within two after Tatum slithered into the paint for a nice layup with just over three minutes on the clock, and tied the game back up on a pair of Tatum free throws after the ensuing Washington timeout.
With a chance to retake the lead, the Celtics turned the ball over on an attempt to feed Horford in the paint, a costly mistake that led to a Kyle Kuzma three-pointer on the other end. Boston answered with their actual second three-pointer of the night, with Richardson connecting from the wing to pull back within one. After a Spencer Dinwiddie layup, Richardson picked up an offensive foul barreling through Harrell in the paint, prompting a failed challenge from Udoka.
After the review, the Celtics caught a huge break after a Wizards’ turnover with 1:30 to play, but didn’t generate points off of it. Moments later, Brown came away with a critical steal and ran the length of the court for a layup, and then followed it up with a pull-up jumper from the elbow to put Boston ahead by one with 20 seconds remaining.
Dinwiddie missed a layup on the ensuing possession, but the Celtics couldn’t secure the defensive rebound, and Dinwiddie subsequently drew a foul to head to the line with four seconds to play. He missed his first free throw of the season, splitting the pair to set the Celtics up with a chance at a game-winning play. Brown couldn’t connect on a pull-up jumper as time expired, and the Celtics headed into their fourth overtime period in six games.
The Celtics opened overtime like a team that wanted to put an end to this thing. They picked up three quick buckets in the first 90 seconds of the period to build a six-point lead and prompt a Washington timeout. The Wizards chipped away with a pair of trips to the free throw line, and after Horford couldn’t connect on a layup, Beal hit one of his own to once again tie the game. A last-second fadeaway from Tatum couldn’t find the net, and the game advanced to its second overtime period.
The Wizards opened the second overtime with a tough pull-up jumper from Beal, before the Celtics responded a couple possessions later with layup from Tatum. Schröder got to the free throw line with just under three minutes to play, fouling out Harrell under the basket and splitting the free throws to put Boston ahead by one solitary point. From there, the two teams traded misses until the clock approached the one minute mark.
Washington’s Deni Avdija got whistled for a foul on a Tatum layup attempted, and the Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. challenged the ruling on the court, prompting a length video review. Avdija’s foul was overturned on review, and Beal immediately hit a layup on the other end to take a one-point lead, before pushing it to three points moments later on a Dinwiddie floater. Tatum turned the ball over with 20 seconds to play, but the Wizards lost the ball to set the Celtics up with one last chance with 10 seconds on the clock. Brown’s game-tying three-point attempt was blocked by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the Celtics walked away from their hard-fought effort with a loss.
Next up, the Celtics return home to TD Garden for another tilt against an Eastern Conference playoff hopeful, tipping off against the Chicago Bulls at 7:30 PM on NBC Sports Boston.