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Boston Celtics caught flat-footed by Washington Wizards, lose 130-111

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In a game otherwise lacking for narratives, there was unfortunately no St. Louis showdown in the nation’s capital this evening. For the Boston Celtics, Jayson Tatum returned to the lineup after missing Sunday’s win over the San Antonio Spurs, but his old friend Bradley Beal did not do likewise for tonight’s opponents, the Washington Wizards. But while Wizards lacked their franchise player, they didn’t lack for shot-making this evening, as they scored a surprise 130-111 blowout win.

Jayson Tatum returned to the lineup and led the way for the Celtics with 28 points, while Jaylen Brown had a quiet evening — at least by his recent standards — and scored 18 on 9-of-19 shooting. An off night from the Boston offense was far from enough to keep pace with the red-hot Wizards, however. They shot 54.5% from the floor and connected on 13 threes, running the Celtics off the floor at times and pushing the game into blowout territory early in the second half.

As if in response to Brown’s electric night against the Spurs — which began with a huge first quarter — Tatum was extremely sharp from the opening tip. Continuing his aggressive, downhill pace from the Sacramento and Indiana games, he again placed a pointed emphasis on attacking the rim. He scored 11 points in the opening quarter, but Brown and the rest of the Celtics scuffled, and the Wizards were able to take a modest 29-23 lead behind 10 points from Porzingis.

Tatum’s onslaught continued into the second quarter, but only Marcus Smart seemed to have his back. Smart caught fire midway through the quarter, connecting on three triples en route to 14 first half points. The egalitarian, Beal-less Washington offense more than kept up, however. The pace of the game ramped up significantly, and the Wizards thrived on it, displaying some ridiculous shot-making on the way to an 13-point halftime lead, 64-51.

The proceedings went from bad to dire as the Celtics came out of the gates in the second half looking sluggish, at best. The Wizards drove their lead all the way up to 20 in the early minutes of the quarter, with a Corey Kispert three-pointer — his third of the night — prompting a Joe Mazzulla timeout with just under 7:30 to play in the third quarter. Porzingis’s brilliant night continued, as compiled 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists through three quarters, looking like the best player on the floor in the process. No inroads were made as the Celtics lost their third consecutive quarter, trailing 99-78 entering the fourth.

The Celtics came up with no answers in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, staying in lock-step with the Wizards for the first three minutes. In a surprising move, Mazzulla then opted to empty the bench, bringing in the reserves with more than nine minutes to play in regulation. The platoon switch sparked a bit of momentum, with the Celtics rattling off a 12-2 lead and whittling the lead down to 10 points. It was a false hope, though; after a timeout, the Wizards stabilized themselves with a couple of buckets from Porzingis, and that was all she wrote.

Next up is the big one: Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks, a heavyweight title fight that may still have implications for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. They’ll tip off at 7:30 PM EST on TNT.

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