Final, Wizards win 106-99: Most of the Celtics’ performances recently, even the defeats, haven’t been that bad. This one was.
After leading by as many as 18 points in the first half, the Celtics crumbled in the final three quarters. They were outscored 92-69 in the final 36 minutes and allowed two Washington players, Nene and Kevin Seraphin, to score double-digits off the bench.
Trevor Ariza was a major problem, scoring 27 points and grabbing eight rebounds when he wasn’t outworking Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace at the Celtics’ offensive end. Avery Bradley scored 26 points, one off his career high, but he wasn’t his normal sharp self on defense. John Wall score 20 points and had nine assists, and while not all of Wall’s offense came against Bradley, a lot of it did.
The Celtics have one more game before a five-day holiday break, Sunday in Indianapolis.
Fourth quarter, 1:03, Wizards 10-94: It’s hard to defend for 24 seconds. It’s even harder to defend for 48.
The Celtics forced Bradley Beal to miss as the shot clock expired, but they gave up an offensive rebound and an extra possession to Washington. That extra chance ended with a layup by Marcin Gortat.
The Celtics are now behind the eight ball in what would be an ugly loss.
Fourth quarter, 2:07, Wizards 98-93: Trevor Ariza is doing a little bit of everything, but the one main thing he’s doing is killing the Celtics.
In one sequence, Ariza hit a three, came up with a steal against Green that led to a Washington bucket, then got the ball back again and dropped a bounce pass to Nene for a layup. He just hit a 3-pointer in transition to extend the Wizards’ lead to five after a jumper by John Wall, against horrible defense by Jordan Crawford, gave Washington the lead.
Ariza now has 27 points on 9-for-18 shooting, including five treys.
Fourth quarter, 6:16, Celtics 90-84: It’s no longer a fluke when Kris Humphries gives the Celtics quality minutes. The veteran big man has come in off the bench to spell Brandon Bass while chipping in eight points, five rebounds and three assists in 15 minutes of work.
In his most recent stretch, he hit a short jumper, then defended Kevin Seraphin for several seconds on the block before Seraphin finally traveled. Plays like those from bit players have helped the Celtics maintain their edge over the Wiz today.
Fourth quarter, 9:56, Celtics 84-78: Don’t worry, Celtics. Avery Bradley’s got this.
Bradley has canned four straight buckets to begin the fourth and has 12 points in three minutes spanning the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth.
If he can stay this hot, the Celtics won’t have any problem pulling away. Just keep feeding the monster, Celts.
End of third quarter, Celtics 76-74: Once again, turnovers have plagued the Celtics. They committed six in the third quarter and saw their lead disappear almost entirely. In one sequence, after Trevor Ariza pulled the Wiz within a point on a corner three, Bass scored a putback, came up with a steal, turned the ball over and blocked Ariza’s layup attempt before being called for a foul.
It was all sort of a mess, but that’s the way this game has gone for the Celtics. Every step forward they take since the first quarter, they take another step back. They’re hurting themselves almost as much as the Wizards are.
Third quarter, 3:30, Celtics 66-61: It’s almost like the Celtics have a recipe they have to follow: Get a big lead, start turning the ball over like crazy, get into a nail-biter.
The Celtics turned the ball over four times in the first three minutes of the second half to let Washington whittle its deficit down to two points. Once the Celtics stopped turning it over, they were able to get a little more breathing room, but not enough to let out a deep breath.
Jared Sullinger is a handful for the Wizards in the post on offense, where he’s got 19 points. Brandon Bass has been just as tough on the glass, where he already has 10 rebounds. With tough work like that down low, the Celtics should be ahead by far more than five points if they could just take care of the basketball.
Halftime, Celtics 51-44: John Wall and the Wizards have battled back, but Jeff Green did all he could to keep them at bay toward the end of the first half. Green took the ball to the hoop aggressively for a tough layup and a couple of pairs to the free throw line after the Wizards had narrowed Boston’s 18-point lead to just five points.
Green has 10 points, joining Jared Sullinger, who has 12, as Celtics players in double figures. Brandon Bass is having another man’s game with seven points and eight boards. Nobody on Washington is scoring (or shooting) particularly well, but Wall and Celtics killer Kevin Seraphin each have nine points, although Wall is just 4-for-11 from the field.
The Celtics have limited their turnovers to just three, which might be the only reason they still lead this game after the Wizards erupted for 30 points on 60 percent shooting in the second quarter.
Second quarter, 3:21, Celtics 42-35: Stop us if you’ve heard this before. The Celtics, who sprinted out of the gate to take a wide lead in the first quarter, have hit a lull to allow their opponent back into the game.
If this looks like a repeat of Wednesday’s loss to Detroit to you, you’re not the only one. The Wizards have outscored the Celtics 21-12 in the second as Boston threatens to go into another mid-game doze just like they did against the Pistons.
This time, the Celtics can’t blame turnovers, either. They have only two turnovers. They just aren’t getting efficient shots.
Second quarter, 6:34, Celtics 38-26: Brad Stevens and the Celtics continue to say nice things about Kelly Olynyk whenever possible. They can preach all they want, but the rookie’s moments have been few and far between.
Olynyk is 0-for-3 from the field and has been out of position on defense and on rebounds virtually ever time down the floor. Obviously, no rookie is going to learn the NBA game overnight, and his 10-game absence with an ankle injury didn’t help, but Olynyk still has a low ways to go 27 games into his pro career.
Second quarter, 8:54, 32-19: The offense has ground to a halt for both teams. Looking at their lineups, it’s not hard to tell why.
The Wizards trot out Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat, Martell Webster, Garrett Temple and Kevin Seraphin to challenge Gerald Wallace, Courtney Lee, Brandon Bass, Phil Pressey and Kelly Olynyk in a battle of odd-looking lineups. Beal, Webster and Lee are decent shooters, but there’s not a true scorer among the group.
Not surprisingly, the teams have combined for seven points in the first three minutes of the second quarter — although the Wiz are on a 5-2 run, which is about as massive a run as they’ve had.
End of first quarter, Celtics 30-14: Jordan Crawford is getting the old fire in his eye — and that might not be a great thing for the Celtics.
Crawford played well and under control for most of the first quarter, but he drew a harsh glare from Brad Stevens when he fired up a 3-pointer with Kelly Olynyk sealing off Kevin Seraphin in the post. Crawford was eyeing another shot when he got the ball with a few seconds left and dashed down the floor before dribbling the ball out of bounds.
Crawford’s wildness aside, the Celtics did just about everything right in the first quarter. They shot 60 percent and committed only one turnover, technically, since the ball Crawford loss actually went out of bounds after the horn.
First quarter, 2:45, Celtics 25-13: Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass might be an undersized front line, but they work so well together, they might as well be a couple of 7-footers.
Especially on defense, Sully and Bass can operate like a two-headed monster. On one possession, Sullinger sprinted over to trap Nene, just as Bass instinctively dropped off to cover Marcin Gortat near the hoop. It was was a perfect example of how knowing what each other is doing can make up for a lack of size.
Bass and Sullinger are doing work at the offense end, too. They’re 6-for-8 combined from the first for 15 points.
First quarter, 7:17, Celtics 13-4: Randy Wittman has a problem, and its name is Jared Sullinger.
Wittman, the Wizards’ coach, has already burned two timeouts trying to figure out a way to slow Sully. The Celtics’ second-year big man has seven early points, including a nice seal on Marcin Gortat to grab an over-the-top pass into the post for a layup.
First quarter, 9:41, Celtics 7-0: Those tricky dunks are messing everybody up.
Brandon Bass and Marcin Gortat have each missed a dunk, although it hasn’t slowed down the Celtics much. Bass’ rim-rejection is the Celtics’ only miss as Jared Sullinger already has a quick five points.
11:29 a.m.: Jordan Crawford gets a crack at the team that gave up on him just 10 short months ago when the Celtics take on the Wizards on Saturday afternoon.
Crawford was traded from Washington on Feb. 21 for Leandro Barbosa, who was out for the season with a torn ACL, and Jason Collins, a little-used backup center, at the trade deadline last season. The transaction spoke volumes of how the Wizards felt about Crawford, who has remade his image as a point guard under Brad Stevens.
If Crawford has anything to prove, Stevens doesn’t want to rein him in. That was why Stevens said during his pregame media availability that he has not spoken with Crawford about playing under control on Saturday.
“There are human elements to this game,” Stevens said. “You can either focus on them that way or you can focus on team and controlling what you can control. One of Jordan’s greatest strengths is his desire and his willingness to step up in the moment, and I don’t want to do anything to limit that.”
While Crawford has done fine without to Wizards, the Wizards’ backcourt has done fine without him. John Wall and Bradley Beal are a star tandem in the making, averaging 39.9 points per game combined. They’ll get a chance to ball with Nene for the third straight game after the Brazilian big man returned Wednesday for an Achilles injury. However, Nene may come off the bench, as he has in both games since returning to the court.
The projected starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: If anybody thinks the Celtics are tough to figure out, they should get a load of the Wizards.
The Celtics (12-15) have had their fair share of streaks in both the winning and losing varieties, and the Wizards (11-13) can sympathize. John Wall’s squad rolls into Boston winners of two straight over both New York teams, which halted a four-game skid. They have lost to the likes of the Sixers and Bucks, yet played the Thunder tough into an overtime and topped the Timberwolves, Lakers and Hawks at a time when each of those opponents was playing rather well.
The reasons for the Wizards’ up-and-down play has a lot to do with Nene, their two-way big man. With the injury-prone power forward in the lineup, the Wizards are 10-7. Without him, they are 1-6. Unfortunately for the Celtics, Nene is expected to suit up Saturday.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 1 p.m. ET.