Where to even start with this game?
After collecting their best win of the season on Sunday, the Celtics almost did the same on Monday on the tail end of a back-to-back with the Wizards. Paul Pierce and company were looking for revenge against Boston, a team they felt they shouldn’t have lost to on Sunday, but Washington was in for more than it expected before finally coming out on top, 133-132, in a wild double overtime affair in Washington. (Click here for the full box score)
The Wizards came out hot and opened up a lead as large as 23 points. This didn’t phase the Celtics, as their bench completely turned the game around (much, much more on this later) along with Jeff Green. Boston cut the lead down and needed an Evan Turner 3-pointer with just 0.6 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime tied at 110.
The C’s dominated the early part of the overtime, led by Green, Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart. But, the Wizards came back from down seven points to tie it at 121 with under a minute left thanks to a huge 3-pointer, by who else but Pierce. After Brandon Bass missed a potential game-winner on a breakaway, the game went into double overtime.
The second overtime was almost identical. It started with a 3-pointer by Smart, like the first one did, and Boston continued to open up another seven-point lead. The Wizards fought back again, though. John Wall gave them a one-point lead with 44 seconds left on a 3-point play that put his athleticism and speed on display. It ended up being the final score of the game, as Turner was unable to connect on an isolation play and Smart couldn’t convert on a put-back attempt at the buzzer.
Pierce was huge in the win scoring 28 points on 9-for-12 shooting, while Wall was able to score 26 to go with 17 assists and seven rebounds (although he did have nine turnovers). Green led the Celtics with 28 points, but the rest of the damage in the near upset was done by the bench.
Here’s five things we learned in the epic loss:
THE CELTICS BENCH CAME UP HUGE
It can not be stressed enough how good the Boston bench was. They outplayed the Wizards starters — a team expected to contend in the East — for an extended stretch and they outplayed them badly. The Celtics‘ 82 bench points were the most in their storied history.
Brad Stevens stuck with the guys who were getting the job done, which turned out to be four bench players and Green. Here’s a breakdown of what the bench was able to do:
— Olynyk played a team-high 42 minutes and had the best plus/minus of any player in the game with a +20. He scored 19 points and pulled down 11 rebounds and was a huge part of the early success in the first overtime.
— Bass scored 19 points and had nine rebounds in his 32 minutes of action. Bass was huge around the rim and played fantastic defense against strong Wizards bigs.
— Turner played 39 minutes and was crucial in keeping the Celtics in the game. Aside from the shot that sent the game to the first overtime, Stevens counted on Turner to handle the ball in key situations and often create his own shot. He finished with 18 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
MARCUS SMART RETURNED TO THE ROTATION AND HAD A CAREER GAME
Smart missed 10 games with a sprained ankle and had struggled to get back in the rotation since. Phil Pressey stepped in during Smart’s absence, but continued to play well after Smart was cleared to return, so Stevens continued to ride Pressey. It seems as though, that experiment has ended and the rookie will be back in the fold.
Smart gave Boston strong minutes off the bench for the first time since before he got hurt, finally looking like himself again. Smart got minutes over Rajon Rondo during all of the crucial points in the game and did a lot with those minutes. Smart, who struggles with his shooting, went 7-for-14 from the field, including 4-for-8 from downtown and 5-for-5 from the free throw line.
Those numbers were good for a career-high 23 points to go along with five assists and four rebounds. Smart’s impact, however, went far beyond the box score. He played hard-nosed defense the entire game, drawing multiple offensive foul calls on Wall. He also was a strong leader as the point guard at times with Rondo on the bench. Getting the nod over Rondo, and having success despite the loss, could be huge for Smart’s confidence going forwards.
THE WIZARDS STARTED FAST AND DOMINATED THREE QUARTERS
The Wizards only shot 25 percent and scored 15 points in the first quarter of Sunday’s game in Boston. Monday was a different story in Washington.
The Wizards took a 30-29 lead into the second quarter, shooting 13-for-22 (59 percent) in the process. Wall led the way scoring four points, but dished out seven assists in the process. Former Celtics Kris Humphries and Pierce scored eight and seven points in the quarter respectively.
The Celtics kept up with the Wiz, though, mostly thanks to 12 points from Green who seems to always play well in his hometown. Green shot 4-of-5 in the quarter and connected on all three of his free throws.
Kevin Seraphin kept pushing the pace in the second quarter, coming up with nine points on 4-of-4 shooting. The Wizards took a 16-4 run into the locker room. Pierce then one-upped Seraphin in the third quarter, shooting 4-for-4 himself for 12 points in the period. This led the Wizards to their largest lead of the night (23 points), before the Boston bench initiated the comeback. Had the starters been better earlier on, the Celtics’ bench likely would have been able to close this game out in regulation.
RAJON RONDO DISAPPEARED AFTER THE THIRD QUARTER
After putting together a couple of very solid games (aggressively putting up 17 shots in each) Rondo was practically no where to be found. He played 21 minutes on the night, but it felt like less. Rondo did not play in the fourth quarter or either overtime, something essentially unheard a star player. Rondo shot 0-for-3 and went scoreless in the game. Although he had four assists and two rebounds, Rondo did not quite play like a guy in search on a maximum contract offer this offseason.
Again, Smart playing over Rondo could be huge for this team in the long run. It shows they can have success with Smart running the show, which makes Rondo expendable if the right trade comes around. It’s only one game, but if it becomes a trend, watch out.
A NEW LOOK FOR THE CELTICS
Well, this was different. We have come to expect the Celtics to open up large leads and often give them away. Monday was the complete opposite. After digging themselves in a hole, Boston somehow got themselves out of it against a very good team on the road, doing so with its bench.
In the end it wasn’t enough, but the effort doesn’t go unnoticed. This was the first time the Celtics erased a deficit like this, which could be huge for their confidence. The C’s have an easy schedule coming up for the rest of December. Despite this loss, don’t be surprised if the Celtics get back to .500 before Jan. 1.