The game started in typical Wizards fashion with lots of offense and very little defense. Hachimura was aggressive early, scoring two quick baskets. Unfortunately, he also collected two quick fouls and was done for the quarter.
Bertans came in to replace him and it seemed like every player on the Celtics decided they were going to attack him directly. Boston scored at the rim several times in a row with Tatum, in particular, attacking Bertans. But Bertans isn’t in there for his defense. He’s there to space the floor and that’s exactly what he did. On consecutive plays, Bertans set-up Troy Brown for a wide-open 3-pointer and then hit one of his own in transition.
Speaking of Troy Brown, I hadn’t even noticed he was in the game until that point in the quarter. Brown reminds me a lot of Otto Porter, not because they are both “Juniors” but because they are very solid all-around players who tend to fade into the background for long periods.
Eventually, with Isaiah Thomas and Bertans both out on the floor, the Wizards switched to a 2-3 zone to try to hide them. This worked in the sense that it prevented them from being individually exposed. However, it just meant that the rest of the defense got picked apart, as the Celtics began to score at will.
Credit to the Wizards, they were able to keep up due to the impressive play of Beal and a great contribution from Moritz Wagner. Beal was more deferential with Thomas on the court. But when Ish Smith entered the game, Beal went into attack mode. Despite being able to hang with Boston, it just appeared that the Wizards had to work much harder for their baskets than the Celtics did. The first quarter ended with the scored tied at 34-34, but you had to wonder if this would eventually take a toll throughout the game.
Strong contributions from Wagner, including a personal 5-0 run, gave the Wizards a modest lead to begin the second quarter. Wagner also took two charges and almost had a third, but it was overturned after review.
Hachimura came back in about halfway through the quarter and continued his aggressive play. He also helped the defense a bit, as he had the quickness to make life tougher on the Celtics. Hachimura finished the half with 10 points on 5-6 shooting from the field. Beal was the real story though, scoring over 20 points in the half.
The Celtics went into the locker room at half-time leading 68-66. That’s just too many points for the Wizards to routinely give up in a half.
A wing-heavy Celtics team also highlighted the deficiencies of the Wizards’ small forward options. Brown is still too passive, C.J. Miles looks “washed” (as the kids say), Isaac Bonga is virtually unplayable, and Bertans is too slow-footed to stay in front of players like Jayson Tatum. The Wizards seem destined for a good lottery pick. If I were Tommy Sheppard, I would make small forward the focus of the scouting department moving forward.
The third quarter was more of the same. The Wizards dug themselves a hole with sloppy turnovers and defensive lapses, and the Celtics held close to a double-digit lead for most of the quarter. To their credit, the Wizards kept hanging around, and managed to stay within striking distance to end the quarter. The Celtics would enter the final stanza up 102-96.
From the end of the third into the early fourth quarter, the Celtics went on a 10-0 run to go up, and stay up, about a dozen points. Falling asleep on defense and turnovers by the Wizards basically gifted the Celtics that lead. Unfortunately, the Celtics are not the type of team to return the favor, and they do not make sloppy turnovers.
After a slow shooting start to the season, Bradley Beal has looked like a max contract guy over his last six, averaging just under 30 points per game in that stretch. He single-handedly kept the Wizards competitive in the fourth. As Drew Gooden put it, Beal “put the brown thing in the round thing.” Beal was over 30 points before the half-way point in the fourth quarter.
More turnovers and a cold shooting spell allowed the Celtics to balloon the lead to 14 with just under 8 minutes left in the game. It seemed like no matter what Beal did, the Celtics had an answer. In the middle stretch of the fourth, it was literally a game of back and forth between Beal and the entire Celtics team. Kemba Walker was very solid all night, and came up with a few clutch baskets to help answer Beal.
With 3:13 left to play, the Celtics led 137-121. The Wizards went on a run of their own, finally getting some stops and getting to the free throw line. In an otherwise sub-par night for the Wizards on defense, they were able to hold Boston to just 3 points in the final 3 minutes.
In the end, the Celtics just had a little too much firepower and got the win, 140-133. For Boston, the balanced scoring attack was the difference: Jaylen Brown had 22, Tatum 23, Enes Kanter 13, Marcus Smart 17, Walker 25, Carsen Edwards 18, and Brad Wanamaker 10. For Washington, Beal finished with 44, Hachimura had 21, Thomas 18, Thomas Bryant 14, and Wagner 12.
This team needs to do some real soul-searching because just trying to outscore everyone does not seem to be a recipe for success.