Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had enough injured bodies to fill out a playoff-quality starting lineup (and add a sixth man to the mix) Wednesday night against the Wizards.
The injured backcourt featured Kyrie Irving (knee, day-to-day) and Marcus Smart (thumb, indefinitely). You had Jaylen Brown (concussion, week-to-week) and Gordon Hayward (ankle, season) at the forward spots, and Al Horford (sickness, day-to-day) at center. And Daniel Theis (knee, season) was that aforementioned sixth man.
Their absences removed 60 percent of the C’s scoring from the equation, and forced Stevens to start a lineup you’d see in an early October preseason contest. (That’s the only way I can really describe seeing Guerschon Yabusele’s name in a starting lineup.)
And it was almost enough, as the Celtics were in this game until the last shot — a Jayson Tatum three-pointer that took an unfortunate bounce away from the basket — in a 125-124 double-overtime loss to Bradley Beal and the Wizards at TD Garden.
With makes on 22 of their first 41 attempts (including a 10-for-14 mark from their bench), the Celtics seemingly cruised to a 59-52 lead at the half. The Green were carried to this edge with their success from behind the arc (they made seven of their first eight attempts from three-point land), as well as a coming out party of sorts from center Greg Monroe, who converted on his first seven field goal attempts.
But in the third quarter, a Beal heat-up brought D.C. back to life, and eventually erased what was once a 20-point Celtic edge and carried an 81-80 lead into the fourth quarter.
Led by forward Marcus Morris (13 points in the fourth quarter and a season-high 31 on the night) and Terry Rozier (eight points in the fourth), the undermanned Celtics got their game back on track and carried a three-point lead into Washington’s final possession.
But when Morris bit on Otto Porter Jr.’s drive to the basket (a basket the C’s should have accepted given their lead), Porter Jr. dished out to an open Jodie Meeks in the corner and he converted on a buzzer-beating three that tied the game at 106-106.
A nine-man Celtics unit ran out of gas by the second overtime, though, as Beal continued to shine with key makes, and finished the game with a game-high 34 points.
And it’s a loss that can be taken one of two ways.
The first, or the more positive way, points out the aforementioned injury woes of the Celtics and how this nine-man unit pushed a Wizards group to the edge.
In line with that thinking, this was some crunch-time learning for Jayson Tatum — both successful and unsuccessful — with 19 points and a career-high six assists in 46 minutes. You can also take the in-game strides of reserves like Abdel Nader (10 points and five assists in 23 minutes) and Monroe (his first double-double in a Celtic uniform) as positives and necessities for the Celtics down the stretch and into the postseason.
The Celtics also remained true to their identity without their core pieces, too, with a gritty, grind-it-out performance that’s made them one of the East’s greatest threats.
…But the C’s also saved some of their worst looks for crucial moments in this game.
On top of letting a 20-point lead straight-up evaporate, you can’t ignore Morris biting on that Porter Jr. drive. It just can’t happen after the Celtics did so damn much to claw their way back into a lead against a more experienced team, and Morris knew it.
“Me being a veteran, I put that on me, committing to the ball knowing they needed a three,” Morris admitted. “Meeks made a great play, but that was my bad.”
(At the same time, you can’t really skewer Morris because this is not a game without his contributions at the other end of the court, especially late in the fourth.)
You can go back to the first overtime, when Tatum had a chance at the go-ahead free throw and missed, or in the second overtime when he and the Celtics took the clock all the way down and forced a seemingly ugly three when all the C’s needed was a two.
“We were just playing off screens, and I was supposed to curl, but I saw the lane was congested,” Tatum, who went 9-for-23 in the loss, said of the last play. “I thought it was going to be open, just catch-and-shoot, but he recovered. I danced a little bit and hit that last crossover, and I thought it was good. But it was a little long. It’s tough.”
The Celtics will hope to get at least one body back when they head to Orlando for a Friday night showdown with the Magic.
Full article @ Wizards 125, Celtics 124: Shorthanded Celtics can’t close late
Source: GreenStreet Blog