Sure, last night's game between the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards was the Cs' 81st game of the NBA season, and completely meaningless in terms of Boston's playoff seeding. But nonetheless, it was a highly anticipated game, and for good reason.
So last night's 113-101 loss to the Wizards was less than encouraging. The team barely competed at all, being out-dueled for the majority of the game on both ends of the floor. Offensively and defensively, the Celtics weren't on the Wizards' level, which left personnel on the team clearly concerned.
One particularly frustrated player was Jaylen Brown, who began the game smoking-hot, but quickly simmered down after the game's first quarter. In those first twelve minutes, Jaylen dropped 21 points on 6-of-9 shooting. After that, he scored just 6 points, hitting two of his final nine shots.
Not sure I’ve seen Jaylen Brown that frustrated before postgame. He gave a no comment when asked about whether the Wizards defended him differently or the ball movement slowed down.
Jaylen Brown had 21 points in the first quarter v Washington and just 6 more the rest of the way. Asked him if the Wizards did anything different on defense or whether the ball movement wasn't there. "I don't know," he replies."No comment."
Whatever happened after the game's first quarter, whatever adjustments the Wizards made to impact Jaylen's game - it worked.
After that first quarter, the ball struggled to get into Jaylen's hands. Of course, the trend started when Brad Stevens rested Jaylen for a good portion of the second quarter, but even in the second half when he played heavier minutes, the connection just wasn't there. Whether it was the Wizards' tight defense or the Celtics' stagnant offense, it wasn't a good look for the guys in green, especially in this rivalry-driven, playoff potential game. The Cs didn't rise to the occasion, and it was eye-opening.
The Cs surely need to figure things out before the playoffs begin this weekend, and I'm sure they will. They've been in difficult spots before, and need to respond accordingly, similarly to how they did in the countless comebacks they've led this season, and even how they reacted in last season's playoffs after going to 0-2 to the Chicago Bulls.
“It’s all about how you respond,” says Jaylen Brown. “So, we’ll come out of this game and respond.”
We've got a lot of young guys on our team trying to get ready for that level of intensity in the playoffs. I don't think Washington played nearly as well as they could have, and we still fell short. It's just a mindset and a level of focus we have to get back to. An understanding that this is it. We have to come out and compete. Getting in that mindset is what it's going to take.
Al Horford echoed Jaylen's sentiment, and in typical, selfless Al fashion, threw himself under the bus for the team's offensive struggles.
I felt like we were just steps slow on everything we did offensively. There has to be concern. I know it's the second-to-last game of the season, but we have to better. That starts with me. Give [the Wizards] credit. They played better than us tonight.
Brad also showed concern after the loss.
My concern is that we play better. As far as tonight, if you're looking at tonight as in its own individual game, we weren't very good.
If you haven't noticed, a key word among last night's post-game interviews was "concern," and while most of the discussion revolved around the team's offensive deficiencies, their defense in the match wasn't great either.
In fact, six players for Washington scored in double-digits, and it was all steam-headed by the recently healthy John Wall, who clear-as-day dominated in last night's game. His unique array of point-guard skills were on full display last night. He consistently penetrated the Cs' defense with his speed attacking the basket, and when he wasn't scoring in the post, he would kick it out to a teammate at the three-point line. The team hit 50% of their three-pointers, and Wall himself drained 4 of his 5 attempts. When all was said and done, Wall had tallied 29 points, 12 assists, and 7 rebounds.
A player like Marcus Smart would be a valuable addition against the Wizards' top-scoring guards of Wall and Bradley Beal.
So, the Celtics aren't in an ideal position as they head into the playoffs. They're obviously missing some of their key players, but even with that obstacle brushed aside, their mindset right now needs some work. There wasn't much confidence portrayed in their comments after last night's game, which will surely be a disadvantage for them in the playoff's first games.
They're going to have to do some adjusting over the next few days if they want to make it deep in this year's playoffs. Hopefully some rest and a convincing win over the Brooklyn Nets tonight will do the trick.
Now, all we can do is wait to see who the Cs will be facing in the playoff's first round, and how the team responds to last night's concerning loss.