Everything you need to know about the Celtics' 104-91 loss to the Wizards with BSJ insight and analysis
Bradley Beal powers Wizards past sloppy Celtics: Beal was his usual sublime self. He hit his first five shots of the game and never cooled off. He finished with 35 points on 10-18 shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals.
“He’s one of the best players in the league,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after the game. “He’s not one of the best guards. He’s one of the best all-around players in the league.”
This game was won at the free-throw line: The Wizards hit 33 shots to Boston’s 32, and Boston hit two more 3-pointers than Washington did. However, the Celtics were 18-30 from the line (60%) while Washington was 31-36 (86.1%). The 13 extra made free throws is the exact difference in this game. 16 of those 31 makes, more than half, were penalty free throws.
“I’m not even sure (why we’re fouling),” Jaylen Brown said. “We just have to be better, and haven’t been better. Guarding the ball without fouling is something you have to do in this league. It’s extremely hard, but it’s something that we have to do consistently and we haven’t done it as a group.”
This just highlights how sloppy the Celtics were in this game. Reaching is a sign of fatigue (or disinterest) and those reaches and other lazy mistakes piled up quickly. There’s nothing that indicated the Celtics were going to win this game, but maybe if they’d played some good defense instead of fouling, they might have found some energy at the end to steal a win.
Kemba Walker was the lone bright spot: Brown had 25 points and 7 rebounds in what has become a typical Brown game, but it was Walker’s own 25 that really stood out because the Celtics simply needed to see a game like that from him.
“I didn't lose sleep over Kemba last week, I'm not going to lose any sleep over him keeping that tonight,” Brad Stevens said after the game. “He's a pro. He's a winner. He's tough. He cares. He's all that, he's all what's good. He played with some heart in a lot of situations tonight, and was the loudest voice on the team, all night, or all afternoon. And so I don't worry about Kemba. I'll let everybody else do that.”
With 10 minutes to go in the third quarter, the Celtics were down 11 and within reach if they could put a run together. Instead, it was the Wizards who went on a 17-4 run behind 4:00 of the worst Celtics basketball of the season. Unforced live-ball turnovers led to easy Wizards opportunities and the Celtics barely seemed awake during their halfcourt defensive sets.
The Celtics did answer, but the game was already broken open by that point, so while Boston’s run did keep some faint hope alive, it merely just delayed the inevitable.
Kemba Walker: He shot 9-18 from the field, got to the rim, hit tough shots, got to his spots, and generally had a “Kemba” game. He needed this, though he couldn’t quite bring himself to appreciate it.
“It doesn’t matter because we lost,” he said. “So, you know, I’d rather win. So yeah there’s nothing that I can really take away.”
Walker can’t but we can. We can also take it with a grain of salt because the Wizards are a genuinely bad defensive team — so we can’t assume Walker has turned a corner, but there is at least some positive to come out of this game.
Jaylen Brown: It says a lot about Brown’s season that a 25 point, 7 rebound game just sort of floats by without much fanfare. It’s basically met with raised eyebrows and a nod nowadays. “Nice game, JB. OK what’s next.”
He was clearly upset after the game, but he also remained positive.
“I think we can flip things around at any moment,” he said. “I always have faith in this organization and team, and our coaching staff. We sucked today. We haven’t played well over the last few games for whatever reason, but I believe we can turn it around at any moment.”
Jayson Tatum: Tatum is officially in a slump. He’s shooting 35.2% over his last five games, including a 3-14 performance in this game. He’s had worse games (like the 1-18 performance vs. Dallas in 2019 or the 2-18 he shot in the bubble against Milwaukee), so it’s not worth getting too frothed up about. Still, this team isn’t built to handle injuries AND poor performances from its stars.
The lack of ball movement: Tatum, Brown, Walker, and Payton Pritchard are the only players who hit more than one shot in this game. That’s just awful, and that’s most likely because the Celtics just weren’t moving the ball and running a great offense. They followed up a season-worst 15 assist game with a new season-worst 14 assist game.
“We’re not playing hard,” Walker said. “We’re not playing as hard as we know we can. When you play hard, great things happen. And right now, it just hasn’t been consistent, our play.”
Just so you can have something to laugh about...
ONE TAKE KARALIS WILL PROBABLY REGRET LATER
I’m a little more forgiving than some when it comes to a game like this. There is obviously so much here that has little redeeming value, but I also know this team is not this bad.
Losing Marcus Smart has hurt the team significantly. He’s not only the team’s best defender, but he’s a huge reason why the team stays organized on the floor. Getting Smart back will be a big help, and getting Smart, Tatum, Brown, and Walker to play more than the 28 minutes that they have together will be critically important.
It’s very easy to live and die with losses, especially disgusting performances such as this one. The combined Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards losses are visual ipecac, but they could also be blips that are forgotten if the team responds to them in a positive way.
I can hear you saying “how can they possibly do that?” I get it. But there are 46 games left in the season and, theoretically, a break coming eventually.
This schedule is brutal, and it’s testing the tensile strength of every team’s chemistry. If these guys can just keep it together and coalesce over moments like this rather than bicker and point fingers, they should come out of it ok.
This very well could be their Andy Dufresne moment, and this stretch of the schedule is the sewage pipe leading out of Shawshank.
“It’s been tough, I’ve been struggling, but it’s just a part of the journey,” Walker said. “Just a little bit of adversity that I have to work through. Right now, we’re all going through some adversity. Teams go through adversity every single year at some point in the season and it’s just all about how you overcome it.”