It was a good news,-bad news-sigh-of-relief-type situation.
The Celtics nearly blew a 28-point second half lead to the Washington Wizards Friday night but held on to win, 116-107.
The Celtics looked like they were cruising to a comfortable win after being up by more than 20 in the third quarter. Boston led 79-51 just four minutes into the second half. Then Bradley Beal flipped the switch. Seventeen points from Beal later and the Celtics 28 points lead is down to just 15 entering the fourth quarter
But the run continued with Boston struggling to take care of the ball and stop the Washington run and before you knew it, the Celtics 28-point lead was down to just four, 99-95, with just more than seven minutes remaining. Boston made a small 7-0 run to make it 106-95 with four minutes left. David Bertans banked a three to make it a little more interesting at 106-101 with three minutes to go but a Brown three with 2:08 to go to put Boston up nine was essentially the dagger.
Here are 13 observations from the Celtics' win:
1. Jaylen Brown is now having “off” halves and still turning in 20-point or better performances. Brown was really good in the second quarter with eight points in the first three and a half minutes with a nice lob to Tacko Fall. Jaylen finished with 27 points on 9-of-19 shooting.
2. Speaking of Tacko, he was excellent. Tacko shut down the rim when was in with three blocks and affected many other shots near the rim. He was active on the boards with eight in just 15 minutes of playing time including three offensive rebounds.
"I can see things that maybe a year ago I couldn’t see,” Tacko said. “I can anticipate things maybe a year ago I couldn’t anticipate.”
You can absolutely see the growth from Tacko from this year to last. ”I prayed, I worked hard to be here, I know I belong," he said. "It’s just a matter of going out there and doing my job on a consistent basis." I would have loved to have seen what the TD Garden had sounded like tonight while Tacko was stuffing a Russell Westbrook dunk attempt. If that Tacko can bring this type of effort every night, Brad Stevens will have a tough time keeping him off the floor. He played early and he played late into this game.
"I thought he was great tonight. I thought he in a lot of ways changed the game there when he came in in the first quarter it was back and forth," Stevens said after the game. "One of the things we were missing without those guys here is some physicality and some rim protection. He provided both of those things in a big way, so I thought he was terrific."
3. Bradley Beal is really damn good. He’s like a bigger Kyrie Irving in terms of craftiness. He can dribble out of any situation and make it into a layup or high percentage midrange shot. His game tonight was basketball porn. Beal led all scorers with 41 points and it felt like it could have been 50.
4. Jayson Tatum vs Beal was so much fun. They were the best two players on the court and brought out the best in each other. Each had 14 points in the game’s first 10 minutes and were often defending each other.
5. It wasn’t a pretty second half for Boston cooling off to shoot just 37 percent in the second, over 20 points worse than the first half.
6. Boston came into the game in the middle of the park in turnovers per game. They had 21 on Friday night. The Celtics scored 66 points in the first half with 10 turnovers, mainly because they had a 58/40/77 shooting split in the first half (FG/3pt/FT percentage).
7. Brown took a nasty knee to the back of the head from Beal in the fourth quarter. He was down for a moment and was slow to get up. Tatum was ready to check in for Brown but he shrugged off the sub and continued to play. “I’m good. My mom always said “a hard head makes a soft behind.” I took a knee but I’m alright.”
8. Payton Pritchard is always active on offense. He does not settle for spotting up and just standing in the corner when he’s not included in the play. He’s often cutting to the rim or crashing for offensive rim opportunities. He doesn’t need the ball to make an impact.
9. Boston was without Robert Williams, Grant WIlliams and Tristan Thompson due to Health and Safety protocols. There should be some concern about rim protection and rebounding with these three guys out. Boston had 12 offensive rebounds to Washington’s seven.
10. Semi Ojeleye got the start with Thompson being out. Some good, some bad. He missed some really good looks from deep.
11. It pays to be aggressive and get free throws. Boston won by nine points on Friday night. They won the free throw margin by eight (22 of 30 for Boston to 14-of-16 for Washington).
12. If I can nitpick for a second ... Tatum may not get a great whistle from the refs but he has to stop compounding mistakes he or the ref makes. Scott Foster an official tonight after all. Tatum committed a clear offensive foul tonight while driving left and pushing off with a right forearm. He didn’t like the call and was given a technical foul by Foster. Free point Washington. Seconds later, Russell Westbrook took 2 dribbles from the wing and got a layup. Tatum was late to matchup and let Russ get to the paint, the one spot he can consistently make shots from. If Tatum mentally moves on immediately, the Celtics don’t give up that technical free throw and he plays better defense on Westbrook.
13. Daniel Theis, a 74 percent career free throw shooter, air ball an attempt tonight. That is all.
The Celtics are back at home Sunday night hosting the Miami Heat.