IN A NUTSHELL
Well. Everything is terrible, I think. Right? Is it? The way the internet and overall media have turned on the Boston Celtics, albeit not entirely without justification, you’d think Kyrie Irving had sacrificed eight babies on the altar of Baal and Terry Rozier was caught in a human trafficking scandal. Y’all, ballers don’t get caught up in that shit. C’mon. But yeah, things are not great right now, and the reasons are far too multilayered to summarize in the intro paragraph of a game story.
Anyway, I’m sure many Cs fans had low optimism going into tonight’s matchup against the Washington Wizards; I certainly did. And the first half whiplashing between dominant offense and neutered defense for Boston definitely didn’t make anyone feel better. But the squad held tight during the Wiz’s assorted runs and never let them do too much damage, and then brought home the 107-96 win with a defensive knockout and inspired team basketball in the clutch minutes of the game. Al Horford and Mook Morris showed out the most on the stat sheet, Marcus Smart shot conservatively and accurately from deep and Kyrie flirted with a triple-double, but this was a team win, and not a moment too soon.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
We have to be a little bit honest and admit that this win happened in part because the Wizards are a bad team, if not quite as bad as their record would indicate. But a far worse team (Chicago) beat the Celtics last Saturday, so all bets are entirely the hell off.
Simply put? They had enough fight in them and the tenacity to execute on defense for long stretches (during most of the game, anyway; see the next section for exploration of the exceptions) for the first time in more than a week. The offense, while not pleasing from an aesthetic perspective and far from perfect overall, flowed productively during that key fourth quarter stretch, through the pick and roll and in well-executed ball movement along the perimeter. Passing up meh shots for great, wide-open shots, attacking the rim whenever possible. If they can repeat that fourth quarter for even, like, 40 percent or more of their remaining games, the Celtics will go up at least a spot or two in the standings.
The reserves were a huge part of that fourth-quarter clutchness, particularly Jaylen Brown, who I should note has remained reasonably consistent as sixth/seventh man and scored 11 of his 13 points in the last 12 minutes. Daniel Theis had productive tick on both ends of the floor, and as for Rozier, he didn’t score often but did so authoritatively in fastbreak dunks at just the right moments.
WHAT WENT WRONG
HOW DO YOU PISS AWAY LEADS LIKE THAT EXACTLY. Regarding the 15-point one the Cs had early in the second quarter. I mean, I know how, we all know how—a series of transition-defense lapses that were, objectively, almost comical in their ineptitude—but Christ on a stick was it demoralizing to watch. The readily evident fact that Boston had defended fairly well in the preceding quarter made it seem even worse than it was, and, like, it was freaking bad, so it seemed utterly hellish.
The Cs fell into a similar defense-challenged trap early in the final frame of the contest, but in much less drastic fashion, and the recovery was so intense as to resemble the league-throttling defense the squad exhibited last season. But the second quarter could’ve been bad enough to swing the game in the Wizards’ direction if it had been just a liiiiiiiiiittle bit worse.
WHAT THE HELL
I mean, yeah. You gotta take the good where you can find it:
GREEN FIRE HIGHLIGHTS
This play serves as probably the best example of how unified the team looked at its best moments tonight:
Tatum spinning poor Jeff Green like a goddamned top. Our ol’ pal Jeff never knew what hit him: