C’s Set Focus on Bucks Game After Rare Blowout Loss in D.C.

Following a series of impressive blowout wins over the past week, the Boston Celtics were given a taste of their own medicine Tuesday night in Washington, where they suffered a rare blowout defeat.

The Wizards put a spell on Boston from the start, leading from the midway point of the first quarter – and by as many as 23 points – all the way to a 130-111 finish at Capital One Arena.

The 19-point loss was only Boston’s third defeat of the season by a margin of that or greater. Previously, it had been tied for the fewest such losses in the NBA.

“We’ve been playing really good basketball for a stretch of time,” said Mazzulla, whose team entered the night with a franchise-record-tying three straight wins of at least 23 points. “Tonight was just an off night. Very rarely has that happened to us, so we just have to continue to move on and control the things that we can.”

It was an unusual game all around. Kristaps Porzingis, whom the Celtics generally lock up on the defensive end, had one of his best performances of the season with 32 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists. Marcus Smart said after the game that when a 7-foot-3 shooter gets hot, there’s not much a team can do to stop him from shooting over the top.

The Celtics tried to defend Porzingis with various coverages, which Mazzulla pointed out, but he still couldn’t be stopped.

“He just did a good job scoring, whether it was in transition, in the mid-post or in the paint,” Mazzulla said of Porzingis, who entered the night with a career scoring average of 15.8 points per game against the Celtics, his lowest against any opponent. “I thought that was one of the better games that Porzingis has played against us and they executed really well. And so, we changed the matchups, we changed some coverages, and he was able to combat all of that tonight.”

The entire Wizards team did well in transition, leading to 19 fast-break points. On the other side of the ball, Boston struggled with its shooting from the start, which led to an early disadvantage.

“We’re not perfect,” said Marcus Smart, the only Celtic to shoot above 33.3 percent from 3-point range with a 4-of-7 clip, which included his 900th career triple. “I mean, we’re human. There are going to be games when we don’t make shots. There’s gonna be games when you make shots. Tonight they made shots – they made a lot of them. So you tip your hat off to those guys.”

Jaylen Brown didn’t get too worked up over the loss considering how the C’s had outscored their previous three opponents by a combined 92 points.

“I’m not going to let tonight set the tone for what we’ve been playing,” said the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week. “We’ve been playing good ball the last couple of weeks. We’ll just throw it away, get ready for the next one.”

The next one will be a big one – perhaps the biggest game of the regular season for the Celtics. They’ll head to Milwaukee Thursday to take on the first-place Bucks, who own a 2.5-game lead over Boston. If Milwaukee happens to lose to Indiana Wednesday night and then again to the C’s the following night, Boston would sit just one game back with four games remaining. In that scenario, the Celtics would also own the tiebreaker over Milwaukee should they gain another game in the standings.

Hypotheticals aside, Jayson Tatum says he just wants the Celtics to bounce back and play well against a potential playoff opponent.

“We’ll play better,” said Tatum, who logged team-high marks of 28 points, nine rebounds, and five assists in D.C. “We’ll come out with more pop, we’ll come out with more energy, more focus. Just learn from this game, and move on to the next one. All I care about is how we respond, and I’m sure that we will.”