BOSTON — Jeff Green likes to think of himself as Iron Man. Lately, he bears more of a resemblance to Dr. Strange, for the almost mystical quality of his second-half disappearing acts.
For the second game in a row, Green failed to make much noise at either the offensive or defensive ends as the Celtics crumbled after a hot start. On Saturday afternoon, the Wizards were the beneficiaries as the Celtics literally handed the ball away, resulting in them figuratively handing the game away in the fourth quarter.
The meltdown was easily attributable to two things, which Green summed up succinctly.
“Me. Turnovers. Pretty simple,” Green said.
Green finished the 106-99 loss with 13 points, but just three in the second half, as the Celtics fumbled away an 18-point advantage. Just three days ago, Green totaled four points in the second half of a defeat at the hands of the Pistons, who trailed by as many as 21 points in that game. The common themes in those two losses were rampant turnovers in the second half — eight against Detroit, nine against the Wizards — and Green’s inability to pull his team through, as stars are supposed to.
Perhaps even more damaging for the Celtics, Green could not contain Trevor Ariza, his opposite number on the Wizards. Ariza scored a game-high 27 points, including five 3-pointers, on 9-of-18 shooting. He erupted for 19 points in the second half while Green was faltering.
Despite being outscored 32-23 in the fourth quarter and recording as many defensive rebounds (four) as turnovers, the Celtics didn’t completely fall apart in the final 12 minutes. It was more of a slow burn, with Avery Bradley opening the quarter by giving Boston reason to believe it might escape with a victory.
Bradley hit his first four shots in the fourth quarter while scoring 10 of the Celtics’ first 12 points in the frame, temporarily holding Washington at bay. He got on such a roll that after hitting those first four shots, he attempted a contested 15-footer just to see if he was still conscious.
He was. He missed.
Bradley finished up with 26 points, one off his career best, and his 13 fourth-quarter points were more than half his team’s total output of 23 points in the quarter. But the absence of any offensive help and a number of defensive lapses — including some on Bradley’s part — doomed the Celtics despite Bradley’s hot shooting.
Jared Sullinger scared the Celtics a bit when he limped off the court after trying to draw a charge on Bradley Beal in the second quarter on Saturday. Sullinger appeared to tweak his ankle, but he stayed in the game after a timeout. He was subbed out a few minutes later, although he did return in the second half and finished with 22 points, and vowed he would play Sunday against the Pacers.