The Boston Celtics stooped to a horrific season-low Tuesday night against the Washington Wizards, which prompted a surprise trigger pull from head coach Joe Mazzulla.
With 9:21 remaining in the fourth quarter, Mazulla removed all Celtics starters from the court and unloaded the reserve unit in search of “a new look” as he explained following the appalling 130-111 loss to an 11th place Wizards bunch.
Tatum, who struggled to buy an outside shot and finished 2-of-7 from beyond the arc, wasn’t at all offended by Mazzulla’s decision to yank the 25-year-old alongside fellow starters Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Marcus Smart and Derrick White.
“You gotta be honest with yourself. We weren’t playing well,” Tatum told reporters, per NBC Sports Boston video. “One of those nights. You gotta take it on the chin.”
A response that spoke to Tatum’s maturity, but a night that raises the late-season concern levels.
Pulled after 32 minutes on the floor, Tatum finished with a team-high 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists while going 11-of-19 from the field with three turnovers. And like the rest of Boston’s starters, Tatum’s effort on the defensive end wasn’t nearly as notable as his offensive stat line.
On numerous occasions, Boston’s efforts came into question. Similar to their concerning two-week road trip, in which they went 4-2, the C’s played down to competition that they should have no issue bulldozing through seven times a week — like they did against the San Antonio Spurs without Tatum.
While the loss harmed Boston’s chances at the Eastern Conference No. 1 seed, it helped the Milwaukee Bucks gain a 2 1/2-game cushion over the Celtics in the standings.
The Celtics continue their road trip with a visit to Milwaukee on Thursday night. Tipoff from Fiserv Forum is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.