The Boston Celtics added salt to the wound of their race for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference after dropping a putrid 130-111 loss to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night.
Just about everything that could’ve gone wrong, went wrong for the C’s.
The Wizards, similarly to subpar teams during Boston’s recent two-week road trip, spotted a lackluster effort from the Celtics defensively, and capitalized. The Celtics allowed 14 second-chance points and were outperformed in the assist category, 33-29, leading to a game-high 23-point lead for Washington.
In fact, the night took such an ugly turn that Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla pulled the surprising trigger and removed all Celtics starters — Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Derrick White and Jaylen Brown — with 9:21 left to play in the fourth quarter, which he explained afterward.
“Just looking for a different look at that time,” Mazzulla told reporters, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage.
To Mazzulla’s credit, a different look resulted in the most competitive ounce of life the Celtics showed all night long.
Payton Pritchard’s step back 3-pointer with 6:40 remaining dropped Washington’s lead to 12 points. But despite a sliver of inspiring grit from the reserve unit, the Celtics couldn’t clean up the mess they made in the previous three quarters.
“We didn’t do the small things that we did in the (San Antonio) Spurs game,” Mazzulla said. “… They weren’t scoring in transition, scoring on offensive rebounds or fouls and tonight those things when we’re really good, we manage the game well.”
Mazzulla added: “Very rarely does that happen to our team. So it’s one of those off nights.”
The Celtics, who are 2 1/2 games out of the top spot in the East, next face the conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks in their regular-season series finale on Thursday. That much-anticipated clash at Fiserv Forum is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.