In a double-overtime thriller, the short-handed Celtics had golden opportunities to put away the Wizards but came up empty down the stretch.
Boston should have won the game in regulation but instead the Wizards crawled back by capitalizing on the Celtics' late-game errors en route to a 124-125 win at TD Garden.
In the final ticks of the fourth quarter, Wizards forward Otto Porter drove to the basket -- which drew a number of Celtics defenders, including Marcus Morris -- before finding a wide-open Jodie Meeks in the corner, who drained the game-tying 3-pointer. The collapse on Porter with three seconds remaining was a lapse in judgement by Morris as the Wizards needed a three to force the overtime, instead Boston traded a stop at the hoop for a game-extending overtime.
The Celtics battled in a back and forth overtime period where the Celtics erased two three-point deficits before fouling Porter and sending him to the free-throw line where he sunk in a pair with 19.6 seconds left on the clock. Boston then turned the ball over with 16.6 left on the game clock when Tatum's inbound pass to Morris flew over his head and grazed his fingertips on its way to falling out of bounce.
But the Celtics applied enough pressure on the Wizards on the following play -- which forced Washington to burn its final timeout -- before the Celtics regained possession when Markieff Morris couldn't get a clean pass to Bradley Beal, who was in stride heading towards the baseline when he never gained control of the ball before falling out of bounce with it.
Out of a timeout, Brad Stevens turned to his rookie, Tatum, who got to the lane for an easy-two and was fouled in the process. However, Tatum missed the free-throw that would have pushed his team ahead and out of reach for Washington, a team with no timeouts and only 3.1 seconds to play with it.
"That's just part of the game," Stevens replied when asked about Tatum's potential game-winning free-throw. "At the end of the day, you control what you can control. He made a great play taking it to the basket, I thought he did a lot of good things tonight. There's no question Jayson Tatum at the free-throw line is something we all want."Instead, the Wizards leaped out to a 7-2 run in the second extra period. Porter and Morris knocked in a pair of treys, while Beal put the finishing touches on a 34-point night.
Facing a four-point hole, Terry Rozier's 3-pointer with under a minute left brought the Celtics back to life, however, it turned out to be the last made field goal of the night for the C's. Boston came up with a defensive stop on Beal which set up a final play that ended up in Tatum's hands before he created space on Thomas Satoransky for a step-back 3-pointer that clanked off the back of the rim.
"I wish I hit that second free-throw," Tatum said after the game. "Hopefully, we wouldn't have had to go to second overtime. I wish I hit that last shot but we play on Friday so I'm gonna focus on that game."Without Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis, the Celtics' offense dominated the Wizards throughout the first half. Led by Morris, Tatum and Rozier, Boston dropped 37 first-quarter points and grabbed a 49-29 lead four minutes into the second quarter.
That lead quickly diminished before the second half, however, when the Wizards began chipping away at it and finished the first half on a 10-0 run to pull to within seven (59-52). Before the final frame, Washington grabbed its first lead since the opening minutes.
Morris finished with 20 points and Otto Porter notched a double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds).
Boston pulled ahead by six when Morris made a pair of free-throws with under four minutes left but that was short lived as Beal sunk in a 3-pointer on the following play and scored nine of Washington's final 11 points of the quarter, he was sensational in leading the Wizards to their first win in three games.
But the Celtics played one heck of game, given the circumstances they were in. Boston had to call up their prospects of Maine in Guerschon Yabusele -- who started in the front court alongside Morris and Aron Baynes -- Kadeem Allen, and Jabari Bird to fill the roster.
Morris scored a team-high 31 points to go with his 9 rebounds and a pair of steals and Rozier finished with 21 points, dished out 9 assists to go with his three blocks and two steal. Tatum added 19 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds and Greg Monroe had a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) off the bench.
The short-handed C's will take their show on the road for a two-game trip that starts in Orlando on Friday and ends in New Orleans Sunday night. Al Horford, who will make the trip with the team, is expected to return against the Magic.
Six Celtics players scored in double figures, including Shane Larkin (11) and Abdel Nader (10) -- two guys who played over 23 minutes Wednesday night as Stevens went with a nine-man rotation and only Yabusele played less than 20 minutes (18). Guys like Morris, Tatum and Rozier each clocked in over 44 minutes, while Beal was the only Wizards player who played over 43 in the double-overtime game.
While Boston's offense nearly shot 50 percent (48.5) from the floor, without Irving or Smart in the fold, its 17 turnovers gave the Wizards plenty of opportunities to put together runs throughout their comeback. While the Wizards committed 19 turnovers, their offense that was led by Beal was enough to seal the victory as the C's came up short down the stretch more than once in the final three frames.
Photo used is courtesy of Getty Images