After two hard-fought wins to open the 2023-24 season, the Boston Celtics were due for a night with a little less drama. They found exactly that in Monday night’s showdown with the rebuilding Washington Wizards. They ran the Wizards off the court in the opening quarter and never slowed the scoring pace from there, a tough fourth quarter from the bench unit notwithstanding. The Celtics earned themselves a 126-107 win.
Jaylen Brown was incandescent this evening, scoring 36 points and threatening the team record for three-pointers made (11 by Marcus Smart), making eight through three quarters of play. Alongside him was Tatum, who recorded his second 30+ point night in three games, scoring 33. Kyle Kuzma led the Wizards with 21 points, but Washington’s diminished roster simply didn’t have enough weapons to keep pace.
It didn’t take long for the Celtics to establish themselves in this one. They opened the game on a 13-5 run that prompted a Wizards timeout, and tacked on a couple more buckets to open a double-digits and beyond as play resumed. Brown looked particularly comfortable, starting the game 6-of-9 from the field and pacing the Celtics with 16 first quarter points. It was a pure offensive tirade; the Celtics looked like they were playing a completely different game than the flat-footed Wizards. Boston led by a cavernous margin of 42-19 heading into the second.
Also looking comfortable was Porzingis, playing his first game against his former team. With Daniel Gafford out due to injury, the Wizards made the curious decision to play small, starting Kuzma at the center position over old friends Danilo Gallinari and Mike Muscala. It was the wrong call to make against Boston’s 7-foot-3 offseason acquisition. Porzingis scored 13 points and swatted a shot in the first half.
The Jays switched places in the second quarter, with Tatum picking up the pace and splashing a pair of threes to keep the Celtics’ offense humming. The Boston lead continued to expand, cracking the 30-point threshold midway through the quarter as the Celtics started to threaten to double up the Wizards up, 60-30. The double-up didn’t remain in play long, as the Celtics seemed to shift into “prevent defense” mode and surrendered 32 in the second frame. Nonetheless, they followed up a 42-point first quarter with a 35-point second and entered the halftime break with a 77-51 lead.
Any momentum the Wizards might have built late in the first half did not transfer to the second. The Celtics compiled a quick 9-2 run in the early minutes of the third quarter to restore their advantage back over 30 points. Brown continued to compile his game-leading scoring total, surpassing the 30-point threshold early in the quarter. He and Tatum threatened to outscore the Wizards just by themselves — through three quarters, the duo combined for 69 points to Washington’s 75. The Celtics entered the final quarter with a 33 point lead.
If there was a point of concern with the Celtics’ performance tonight, it was the bench. Boston’s reserved continued to offer relatively little on the offensive end of the floor this evening. Al Horford scored X points off of some nice work on the offensive glass, but otherwise, no bench player recorded a point through three quarters of play. Payton Pritchard and Sam Hauser combined to shoot 0-of-3 from behind the three-point arc.
The bench saw an opportunity to sort some things out as the fourth quarter began, as both teams opted to empty the bench to close out the night’s proceedings. The Wizards took the opportunity to save a bit of face, as their reserves built up a 19-4 run against a very weak effort from Boston’s deep bench unit. The run wasn’t quite enough to force Boston’s starters back into the game, but the Wizards drew as close as 15 points. A tough look from the Celtics bench tonight, and one that might prompt some questions regarding this team’s depth.
Next up, the Celtics will return home to host the Indiana Pacers this Wednesday at 7:30 PM on NBC Sports Boston.