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Halftime hot takes: Wizards lead Celtics 64-51


Starting with Energy

The Celtics have won 7 of their last 9 and the Wizards have lost 8 of their last 10. With Washington missing Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma, and Daniel Gafford and Boston eyeing a much-anticipated Thursday night matchup against Milwaukee, tonight had trap game written all over it. How’d they respond? With energy on both ends of the floor. Jaylen got a steal on the first possession and finished a transition layup, then Tatum got easy buckets at the rim on three straight possessions. The Celtics were the aggressor at the beginning, but the Wizards retook the lead and never looked back.

Keeping it Competitive

Although the Wizards are highly unlikely to make the play-in, it didn’t show from their effort level. Kristaps Porzingis has averaged 26 points on 58 percent shooting over the past four games, and he scored 10 early points on an array of shots—everything from turnaround jumpers to transition finger-rolls. Johnny Davis, Washington’s sparely used rookie, hit a three at the 4:08 mark of the 1st quarter to give them a 23-15 lead.

Marcus Smart passing up a Layup

With 9:00 left in the 2nd quarter, Smart had an open layup off a great backdoor pass from Tatum, but instead of shooting, he passed to Horford in the corner. It frustrates me when anyone does this, but in that situation, with the Celtics down and struggling to score, it’s inexcusable that Smart passed up that shot. I don’t know if he’s hesitant to take free throws (he’s shooting 75 percent, slightly below his career average), but it’s more deflating for this team when he doesn’t shoot an open uncontested layup than when he takes a rushed contested three.

This is better:

Avdija vs. Tatum

Just the matchup we anticipated. Tatum scored 17 of Boston’s first 33 points, but that’s generally expected. Deni Avdija is a stout defender, but he gets criticized for being too passive on offense. That wasn’t the case in the 2nd quarter, as Avdija attacked the hoop with conviction on two early drives, later rattled home a three, then hit a floater over Smart.

Smart’s Redemption

Remember when I got mad at Smart? Well, he didn’t seem too pleased with himself either. A few plays after passing up the layup, he got a steal that led to a transition bucket. Then he hit an elbow turnaround jumper and would connect on three 3’s before the end of the half. When he’s hitting shots and playing with energy, good things happen for Boston.

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