Recap: Wizards fall to Celtics in Play-In, will host Pacers Thursday
FINAL: Wizards 100 | Celtics 118
Wizards: Bradley Beal (22), Russell Westbrook (20), Ish Smith (17)
Celtics: Jayson Tatum (50), Kemba Walker (29), Tristan Thompson (12)
The Wizards were defeated 118-100 by the Celtics on Tuesday night in Boston in their first game of the NBA Play-In Tournament. Bradley Beal scored a team-high 22 points to go along with nine rebounds and six assists. With the loss, the Wizards will now face the Pacers on Thursday night in a single-elimination game for the eight-seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
The Wizards’ offense struggled out of the gate, shooting 9-23 (.391) from the field for just 21 points in the first quarter. Beal and Westbrook shot a combined 1-9 (.111) in the first while Daniel Gafford came off the bench and started the night 3-3 (1.000) for a team-high six first quarter points. Gafford’s early performance was highlighted by a fast-break, alley-oop dunk from Westbrook. Gafford, however, was called for his third foul with 1:27 left in the first quarter and did not return to action until early in the third quarter. After Jayson Tatum knocked down a 3-pointer 30 seconds later to put Boston up by eight, the Wizards began to work their way back. In a span of 7:24 early in the second quarter, Washington went on a 23-7 run to turn an eight-point deficit into an eight-point lead. In that time, the Wizards shot 9-15 (.600) overall, including their first 3-pointer of the night, and held the Celtics to 2-15 (.130) from the field. Boston shot seven free throws in the final 1:34 of the first half and managed to cut the lead down to two heading into the break.
The Celtics dominated most of the third quarter, opening the second half on a 22-4 run to take a 74-58 lead. All 22 of those points came from either Tatum or Kemba Walker. The Wizards countered with a 10-2 run, capped by a Beal layup, to pull back within single digits with just under five minutes left in the frame. Washington managed to cut the lead down to seven points with 9:49 left in the game, but Tatum and Walker – as well as the Wizards’ struggles from 3-point range – were too much to overcome. A 25-10 fourth quarter run put Washington away for good. The Wizards shot just 7-22 (.318) from the field and 0-4 (.000) from three in the fourth quarter as the Celtics pulled away.
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
Wizards set to host Pacers in elimination Play-In game
Washington’s win in the regular season finale over Charlotte on Sunday granted them some wiggle room in the Play-In Tournament. Despite Tuesday night’s loss, Washington will get one more shot at winning their way into the playoffs. With Boston advancing to the playoffs as the seven-seed, Washington will now take on Indiana, the winner of the 9-10 game against Charlotte, for the eight-seed on Thursday night at Capital One Arena. The loser of that game will be eliminated from postseason contention. The Wizards went 3-0 against the Pacers this season, including two wins in May.
“We had a bad game, there’s no question,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said postgame. “We haven’t had one of these in a long time. I think the last one was at Phoenix and that was almost two months ago. We’ll regroup – we’ve got a lot of confidence that our guys are going to bounce back. That’s what I love about this group, we’ve got that bounce-back ability that’s pretty good.”
Wizards’ bench puts up strong showing
Beal acknowledged after Sunday’s regular season finale that he would not be playing at 100% as he dealt with a strained left hamstring that caused him to miss three games last week. As both he and Westbrook struggled to generate scoring, the Wizards’ bench picked up the slack to keep the Wizards alive in the early going. After leading the league in bench scoring (47.9 points per game) over the final 10 games of the regular season, the Wizards’ reserves put up another strong performance. Led by 17 points on 6-8 (.750) shooting from Ish Smith, the Washington bench finished with 45 points on 18-34 (.529) from the field. Smith’s performance was a continuation of a strong finish to the regular season in which he scored 10-plus points in three of the Wizards’ final four games. On the defensive end, the Wizards held the Celtics’ bench to just six points in the first half – all from Tristan Thompson – and 20 points overall.
Tatum’s 50 leads the way for Celtics
While Washington managed to keep the Boston bench in check, their starting unit had its way against the Wizards’ defense. Tatum scored a game-high 50 points to lead the way for the Celtics, shooting 14-32 (.437) from the field, 5-12 (.416) from three and 17-17 (1.000) from the free throw line. Tatum scored 32 of his 50 points in the second half, highlighted by 23 in the third quarter alone. Walker had a big game of his own, totaling 29 points, including six threes, to go along with seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.
NEXT UP: Pacers at Wizards / Thursday, May 20 / 8:00 P.M. / Capital One Arena
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT