After finding themselves on the wrong end of a pair of thrillers last week, the Celtics put together some late-game heroics of their own on Sunday night in a 111-110 win over the Washington Wizards at TD Garden.
With Jaylen Brown a late scratch due to knee soreness, Jayson Tatum took on a starring role and carried the C’s throughout the game, but especially in the fourth quarter. In a game that, at times, seemed like a one-on-one duel between him and his friend Bradley Beal, Tatum was every bit of the superstar the Celtics needed.
It was a quick start for the Celtics, who jumped out to a 7-0 lead before forcing an early Washington timeout. Yet the Wizards were able to stay in the game, namely due to their constant presence at the foul line. They attempted 17 free throws in the first quarter, while the Celtics shot just nine. After 12 minutes, Boston led 33-28
The free throws continued to pile up in the second quarter, not just for the Wizards but for both teams. However, one notable departure from the free throw monotony came from Tatum, who put Robin Lopez on a poster and gave the C’s their first double-digit lead of the night.
Following that slam, the Wizards put a run together, and got as close as three points. However, Kemba Walker hit a few big shots in the final minute of the half, and the C’s went into the break up 60-55.
Boston seemed to capture some momentum early in the third quarter, once again extending their lead to double digits. Once again, that lead was promptly reduced to three points by Washington. Yet the Wizards never were able to get over the hump, and the Celtics led 79-76 to begin the fourth quarter.
That changed quickly to start the fourth. Washington opened the quarter with an 8-2 run, snagging their first lead of the game two minutes in. The Wizards got up by as much as six, but the Celtics responded by rattling off six straight points to cap a 13-4 run and re-tie the game.
Washington answered that run with a 10-2 run of their own, which featured nine straight points from Bradley Beal. The Wizards extended their lead to a game-high eight points, but the Celtics fought back to get within three.
With 20 second to go, Tatum hit a layup to get the C’s within a point as the Wizards elected not to foul. On the ensuing inbound pass, Beal was trapped on the baseline, and stepped out of bounds as he slipped trying to pivot. That gave the Celtics the ball back with 12.4 second left.
Once again, the Celtics put the ball in Tatum’s hand. He drove through contact, and hit a go-ahead layup with 4.7 seconds left. On Washington’s final possession, Beal missed a highly-contested jump shot to end the game.
Tatum finished with a team-high 31 points, 11 of those coming in the fourth quarter. He also grabbed eight rebounds, and had three steals.
It was also a big night for Walker, who seems to be turning a corner after struggling for much of the last month. The Celtics’ point guard scored 21 points on 7-of-17 shooting, while dishing out eight assists and grabbing five rebounds. Daniel Theis was the third and final Celtic to finish in double figures, coming a rebound shy of a double-double with 20 points and nine boards.
On the other side, Bradley Beal was a one-man show, scoring 46 points on 16-of-29 shooting. Russell Westbrook did chip in 24, but was a much less efficient 10-of-22 from the field.
With their second-straight win, the Celtics climb back to .500 at 17-17. They’re now 10-5 in games played at TD Garden.
The Celtics next game will be Tuesday, when they host the Los Angeles Clippers. That game tips off at 7:30 p.m., with pregame coverage beginning at 7:00 on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.