Celtics Conjure Last-Minute Comeback Win Over Wizards
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Sunday afternoon that his team “needs to accomplish some difficult things” in order to rebuild confidence following its recent troublesome stretch of play.
It didn’t take long for his players to answer his call in the form of a 111-110 come-from-behind win over the Washington Wizards later that same night.
Washington entered the matchup having won seven of its last eight games and was well on its way to win No. 8 after turning a five-point fourth-quarter deficit into an eight-point lead with less than three minutes remaining. The Celtics easily could have folded after facing such a negative momentum swing, but instead, they collectively dug deep and found their pride.
Things started to swing back in Boston’s favor just before the two-minute mark thanks to some key baskets from a couple of unlikely heroes. Javonte Green, who started in place of Jaylen Brown, hit a driving floater to cut the deficit down to five, which was immediately followed by a Semi Ojeleye 3-pointer that made it a 106-103 ballgame.
From that point on, it was Jayson Tatum time. The All-Star wing scored eight points during the final 93 seconds, including the game-winning lay-up, which was only made possible after he and Ojeleye trapped Bradley Beal and forced him out of bounds on the previous defensive play.
“We made some big plays, got some key stops, and we just stuck with it and It turned it our favor,” said Tatum, who led Boston with 31 points.
Those big plays and keys stops all came despite the Celtics missing two of their top closers in Brown and Marcus Smart, and also despite surrendering 46 points to league-leading scorer Bradley Beal.
“This was going to be a really hard game, especially the way they're playing,” Stevens acknowledged. “And them being pretty full – without Ish (Smith), but pretty full otherwise. I'm really happy with our guys because there was plenty of opportunities to fold there and they just stayed with it.”
There have been a handful of times recently when Boston has folded after facing similar hardship. However, Kemba Walker sensed a greater determination among his teammates this time around.
“Just the way we handled ourselves in our huddles at the end of the game,” he said after scoring 21 points. “Our poise, we had great poise as a team. We just stayed together and made some big plays.”
Walker, who logged his third straight 20-point game, made several of those big plays himself. As did Daniel Theis, who tallied 10 of his 20 points during the fourth quarter. As did Green and Ojeleye, and of course, Tatum.
But the key was that they all contributed together, and that is exactly what is needed in order to “accomplish some difficult things.”
When Stevens made that comment, he by no means was suggesting that one gritty win would get his team out of the doghouse after losing eight of its previous 12 games. However, one gritty win could at least push the Celtics in the right direction, as they look to enter the All-Star break on a high note at the end of this week.