On a night when good shooting was hard to come by in the early going, the Boston Celtics were unable to tough out a win, falling 116-107 against the Washington Wizards to go 2-3 on the season. Boston was led by Jayson Tatum’s 23 points and 7 rebounds, while Montrezl Harrell dominated Boston inside to the tune of 25 points and 11 rebounds on 10-13 shooting.
Boston had balanced scoring efforts, especially off the bench. Jaylen Brown struggled tonight in the first 3 quarters, but Dennis Schröder continued to bring his starter-level contributions, pouring in 22 points and 6 assists. Jabari Parker also game in and had a limited impact in limited minutes for the second straight game. Marcus Smart struggled from the field again, but his defensive highlights flipped a switch for a team that struggled on that end for 2.5 quarters.
For Washington, the team looked a little deflated when a collision between Daniel Gafford and Jaylen Brown left the former unable to put weight on his leg (an issue later determined to be a right quad contusion). Instead folding, they attacked Boston’s switch everything defense, generating easy opportunities at the rim with little resistance Harrell was the biggest beneficiary, but others like Kyle Kuzma were able to benefit. This was especially helpful for Washington on an off night from Bradley Beal (17 points on 7-25 shooting).
Boston’s defense continues to be a pain point at times, but this team is more than capable of putting together stops as evidenced by two separate runs – an 8-0 run in the second quarter and a 14-1 run in the third quarter. The Celtics have to communicate better so that guys like Spencer Dinwiddie (22 points and a couple of clutch shots) and Montrezl Harrell don’t abuse them like prime Shaq and Kobe.
Jayson Tatum had a slow start, but as the Celtics picked things up in the third quarter, he as able to get to his spots, including a signature side-step pull-up 3-pointer out of the pick-and-roll. In the early fourth, Jaylen Brown got back to playing like normal, picking it up with hard drives to the rim and intentional participation on offense.
For a moment after hitting his first 3-pointer, Smart looked like he was going to get past his early season struggles from the field, but alas, that didn’t happen. He did enough Marcus Smart things on defense to buy more patience on that end, but this team’s offense will be unlocked even further if he can find the level he was playing at in the Nets series from last year’s playoffs. Robert Williams continued his understated dominance this season, finishing with 13 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks (he leads the league in blocks).
Despite the referees’ best efforts, the Al Horford (16 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists) keyed some fantastic plays with three minutes left in the game that was capped off with some clutch shot making.
Unfortunately, the well ran dry, and Dinwiddie put the Celtics away with an ill-timed 3-pointer that shut the door on all comeback hopes in a game where the Celtics trailed by as much as 15. There’s still a lot of work to do.
Boston will get another crack at the Wizards on Saturday at 5 p.m. EST.