WASHINGTON – Tuesday night’s matchup at Capital One Arena involved some interesting postseason implications. The Boston Celtics have been locked into the Eastern Conference’s 2-seed for almost a week now, while the Washington Wizards are continuing to battle for position at the bottom of the conference. The Celtics however still could have impacted their own playoff situation, as a win in Washington would have eliminated the possibility of facing the Wizards in round one. Instead, a stagnant second half took the control out of Boston’s hands, and there’s now a 25% chance that these two teams meet in the first round of the playoffs.
The Celtics got out to a quick 12-6 lead in the early going, thanks to Jaylen Brown. Ever since returning from concussion, he’s been shooting the ball with pure confidence, and that continued in tonight’s opening frame. He had 9 points from beyond the arc in the first four minutes, and 13 of Boston’s first 16 points. If he can improve his three-point shot, Brown will be one of the toughest matchups the NBA has to offer for years to come. That was apparent after he hit 5 threes in the first 11 minutes. Brown finished with 21 first quarter points. The Wizards had 22.
The second quarter was rather sloppy on both sides, but a spur of Washington threes cut into the Boston lead. The Celtics would eventually lead 54-52 at the half.
Otto Porter missed the entire second half with a right lower leg strain, but that didn’t stop Washington’s perimeter game from firing on all cylinders, as their backcourt came out of halftime controlling the tempo. It was a clear example of why the Wizards serve as a scary first round opponent for teams atop the Eastern Conference. Their raw talent alone can be enough for them to make a run in this year’s postseason. From a Celtics perspective, it was another example of why Boston needs Marcus Smart to return as soon as possible. Against a perimeter-oriented team like Washington, Smart’s on ball defense becomes a must-have.
The Celtics scored 30 points in the first 12 minutes, and then proceeded to score 38 over the next 22 minutes. Many of their problems came from the inability to contain John Wall in the pick-and-roll offense. Wall was able to find mismatches throughout the second half, oftentimes using his quickness to beat Greg Monroe to the hoop. The Wizards point guard would ultimately finish with 29 points and 12 assists. Boston was outscored 27-18 in the third, and trailed 79-72 entering the fourth quarter.
It sounds like a simple point, but once Jaylen Brown stopped producing, the Celtics went completely flat. If he had scored 21 points in every quarter tonight, I think they would’ve been better off, according to my calculations. He finished the night with 27. Brown wasn’t glowing about his first-quarter performance, as the final result clearly put a damper on his effort.
The second half was an offensive mess for Boston, and the Wizards took complete advantage. It was very clear which team was fighting for playoff positioning. According to Al Horford, “(Washington) just played a better game.”
Despite being down 15 with 5:30 left, Brad Stevens left his regulars in the game. They would stay on the floor until Stevens took them out with 2:59 remaining. One would assume this means they’ll receive some rest tomorrow night against the Brooklyn Nets.
Marcus Morris’ struggles from deep continued tonight, as he went 0/4 3FG. He’s now 3 for his last 21.
Terry Rozier injured his thumb and pinkie finger during tonight’s game, but said neither was restrictive and both are fine.
One thing is for certain; the bottom of the Eastern Conference will stay in its chaotic form for one more night.