By MyFM's Jake Archer - As I wrote yesterday, the Celtics have been slapped by the injury bug in a big way. Tonight, they'd face off with a good team, the rival Washington Wizards, and they'd be extremely thin in terms of depth. There was no Kyrie, no Horford, no Jaylen, no Theis and no Smart. The Celtics hung tough though, and almost turned in a win anyway before falling in double overtime 125-124.
In the first quarter, the Celtics came flying out to a fantastic start. After one, they'd jumped on the tired Wizards and had a 37-23 lead. Washington was playing on the second night of a back-to-back and might have also underestimated the weakened Celtics team. Boston was going with a starting lineup of Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes and Guerschon Yabusele. Yabusele, affectionatley known as the "Dancing Bear", was brought back from the Maine Red Claws because of the Celtics need for bodies and got his first start in the NBA. The rest of the starters were guys that aren't unfamiliar with the role, but the only actual regulars were Tatum and Baynes. That didn't matter as they outhustled and outrebounded the Wizards early to get on top.
In the second quarter Boston stretched it's lead to 20 but Washington woke up and started to shoot the lights out to cut into that. Markieff Morris, the twin brother of Boston's Marcus, led the way with nine of the Wizards ten straight points to close the half. At the break, Boston's advantage was down to just seven.
In the third quarter, the Wizards kept the pressure on. They started to get all the boards and had the shots falling while they came all the way back from what was once a huge hole to take the lead by one entering the fourth. The teams played evenly in the final period, with the Celtics actually up by 3 with 5 seconds left. All they needed was one stop and they got it when Bradley Beal missed a shot from beyond the arc to tie it. However, the rebound was touched out of bounds by the Celtics, giving Washington one final chance to send the game to OT.
The ball was inbounded to Otto Porter Jr. who drove the lane and then kicked it out to a wide open Jodie Meeks in the corner. Meeks was so open because Marcus Morris had cheated in to defend the drive by Porter, which honestly made no sense since a two-pointer would have done nothing. Meeks banged the three-ball home to force overtime.
In the first OT, Washington had a chance to win it themselves. It was 115-113 and the Celtics had missed their chance to tie it up with just under 20 seconds left. They fouled to force an inbound and then created a turnover to get the ball back under their own basket with 8.8 to play. They got the ball into Rozier who found Tatum for the last shot. The rookie drove the lane and drew the foul while making the basket to tie it. All he'd need to do was drill the free-throw to win the game, but he missed in what was, at least to me, an odd looking shot. Tatum put arc on the ball and hit the back of the rim so it wasn't a miss on purpose, but the way he shot it kind of felt like a hard, line-drive and made me wonder what he was doing there. The game would go to double-OT.
From here, I had a bad feeling. The Celtics were short-handed and were heading to another period of play? Yikes. They'd done a lot to end up in this position, but now a win felt almost mandatory. Sadly, the Wizards built up a five-point lead early into the second OT and though the Celtics cut it to two, Tatum missed a three at the end to lose the game. Like I said, it was a good effort to get there and fight, but they should have probably won it. They missed too many opportunities to put the Wiz away.
The C's were led by Morris with 31 points, nine rebounds, one assist and two steals. Rozier, Tatum, Greg Monroe, Shane Larkin and Abdel Nader all reached double figures as well. Washington's Beal led all scorers with 34 while Markieff Morris, Porter, Ian Mahinmi and Tomas Satoransky all were in double digits.
Boston falls to 46-22 which is 4.5 games back of Toronto and 6 games ahead of the Pacers. The Wizards are now 39-30 which is good for the fifth seed in the East as of right now. The C's will visit Orlando Friday night.