The excellent news is that the Celtics handed the audition. Jayson Tatum, who earlier within the day stated, “We imagine in ourselves, nonetheless,’’ exploded for 23 third-quarter factors en path to a 50-point night time and led the Celtics to a 118-100 victory over the Wizards to push Boston right into a first-round, best-of-seven sequence with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, James Harden, and the second-seeded Brooklyn Nets. The Celtics have been swept by the Nets in the course of the common season, shedding three video games by a mean of 17 factors.
So there. A Celtics workforce that performed within the convention finals in three of the final 4 seasons . . . a workforce of nice expectations that opened the 12 months with visions of contending for a title . . . trudged to the New Backyard Tuesday for a gimmick recreation and blasted the Wizards off the parquet after falling behind by 8 factors within the first half (For the report, play-in video games depend as neither regular-season nor playoff video games; they’re their very own class). After all of the unhealthy stuff that has occurred, there might be extra basketball on the Backyard this spring. Perhaps even an actual Backyard sellout.
“It’s actually arduous to make the NBA playoffs,’’ stated Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Yearly presents challenges, some greater than others. We’ve been by rather a lot, so we’re hardened in plenty of methods. To need to play tonight, simply to earn a proper to play what might be essentially the most proficient workforce that’s been assembled since I’ve been within the NBA, takes plenty of effort. These guys are the most effective of the most effective. We’re going to need to play nice and play collectively and be actually sound on each ends of the ground.”
The Celtics and Wizards had the late slot for the historic contrivance Tuesday night time. Boston and Washington didn’t faucet off till after 9 p.m.
The Celtics struggled early and trailed by 2 at halftime, however Stevens should have imported Ernie Adams for the pep discuss at intermission. Tatum took over within the third and Boston led, 90-80, after three. The Celtics put it away pretty simply within the fourth. Tatum made 14 of 32 flooring photographs and was 17 for 17 from the road with 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Wouldn’t you like to know what Larry Fowl thinks about this child?
Let the report present that there already has been loads of shade thrown on the Inexperienced Group from New York and the remainder of NBA America. Disrespect dropped on the heads of the Celtics Tuesday when the vaunted New York Submit headlined its Nets playoff preview with, “BRING ON BOSTON — Nets will probably roll whoever the opponent, however Wizards the way more harmful foe.’’
Using the abilities of veterans Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook, the Wizards have been the NBA’s taste of the week coming into Play-In Tuesday. Beal battled Stephen Curry for the scoring title within the ultimate weekend of the common season and is finest recognized to Boston followers as Tatum’s mentor when the younger Celtics star grew up in St. Louis. Beal averaged 40.7 factors in three regular-season video games vs. the Celtics.
Again within the day, Westbrook was a part of the Oklahoma Metropolis wagon with Harden and Durant. Maybe the best rebounding guard in league historical past, in 2021 he surpassed Oscar Robertson’s report for profession triple-doubles (Westbrook has 184 and counting).
Down in Bristol, ESPN’s Jalen Rose informed the Submit, “The Celtics have been down double digits in nearly 55 p.c of their video games. No Jaylen Brown for the remainder of the 12 months. Clearly, Tatum is an excellent participant, however I’d a lot somewhat see the Wizards and Brooklyn.’’
Certainly, on paper the Celtics appear like a neater opponent than nearly anybody nonetheless enjoying. Washington gained 17 of its final 23 regular-season video games, whereas the Celtics limped to the end. Blaming accidents, COVID-19, and referees whereas dropping six of the ultimate eight, the Celtics completed a tragic, symmetrical 36-36. Alongside the best way, they misplaced Brown to a wrist fracture. Full capitulation appeared simply across the bend.
Not fairly. The Celtics delivered a message that they don’t seem to be quitting. Not but. At the least not till they get a few photographs at Kyrie and Co. (Perhaps the Celtics can present the long-awaited Kyrie appreciation video when the Nets come right here for Sport 3 of this first-round sequence).
The Wizards got here out ice chilly and the Celtics led, 27-21, after one as Beal and Westbrook have been digital no-shows. It was play-in drama at its worst. The immortal Ish Smith, who has performed with 12 NBA franchises, got here off the bench and gave Washington nice vitality. Ish Smith: play-in legend.
The Celtics got here out clanging within the second and Washington’s bench sparked a 21-7 run that pushed the Wizards to an 8-point lead. Westbrook had 13 rebounds within the first half and the Wizards led by 2 at intermission.
Every thing modified after halftime with Tatum and Walker main the cost. The Celtics blew the Wizards off the court docket.
So, now we get Celtics-Nets. Boston might be an enormous underdog. Perhaps it’s higher that means. It definitely introduced out the most effective in Tatum and Co. Tuesday night time.
’’I give our guys a ton of credit score,’’ stated Stevens. “It has not at all times been all roses this 12 months . . . However they simply caught collectively. Tonight there was a renewed sense. We performed rather a lot higher than we’ve performed and I give our guys a ton of credit score for that.”