Celtics don’t miss a beat without Jayson Tatum (ankle), and other observations from win over Wizards

Celtics don’t miss a beat without Jayson Tatum (ankle), and other observations from win over Wizards

Updated: 2 months, 3 days, 23 hours, 40 minutes, 20 seconds ago

The Celtics made 55 percent of their shots, 47.1 percent of their 3-pointers and all 26 of their free throws. Jaylen Brown had 36 points to lead Boston, and seven players scored 12 points or more.

Jayson Tatum sat on the bench in street clothes to rest his sore left ankle, but the machine continued to hum without him, as Boston rolled to a 130-121 win over the Wizards that lacked any real suspense. It was the Celtics’ 12th victory in their last 13 games.

Over the first 20 games of this season the Celtics have constructed one of the most dominant offenses in NBA history. On Sunday night, they were tasked with maintaining it without their most dynamic offensive player.


Bradley Beal had 30 points for the Wizards, who were without forwards Kyle Kuzma (back) and Rui Hachimura (ankle).

The Celtics trailed, 16-14, midway through the first quarter before they took the lead for good. They led by as many as 17 points in the second quarter and 26 in the third before coach Joe Mazzulla went deep into his bench with the game seemingly in hand.

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Washington clawed back within 119-107, forcing Mazzulla to put Brown, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford back into the game before things turned uncomfortable, and the trio put in one last strong stint.

Observations from the game:

▪ Mazzulla has leaned on his top players a bit too heavily deep into blowouts. But with Tatum already sidelined, a Monday game looming, and Boston ahead by 26 late in the third, he strayed from his custom and put Justin Jackson in for Brown. It probably helped that the Wizards had gone deep into their bench, too. Brown had played 30 of the game’s first 35 minutes and it appeared to be the right move. But it didn’t work out. The Wizards sliced the deficit to 12 midway through the quarter before Mazzulla put Brown, Smart, and then Horford back in after their long rests. It certainly wasn’t ideal, but it was probably necessary.


▪ The Celtics entered the night ranked last in the NBA in offensive rebounding percentage, gathering just 22 percent of their own missed shots. That number will certainly tick higher when center Robert Williams returns in the coming weeks, but in the first half Boston had success crashing the offensive glass, gathering seven of 20 misses (35 percent), leading to a 12-1 edge in second-chance points.

▪ Boston’s ball movement was excellent. The best example won’t be remembered because it didn’t end with a made basket, but during one second quarter possession all five players touched the ball outside the 3-point line in quick succession, with several passing up good looks to get an even more open try. It ended in the hands of Derrick White in the right corner, but his clean attempt caromed off the rim.

▪ The Celtics have done an excellent job of pushing back against opponents’ runs this season. Boston led by as many as 15 points in the first half before that Wizards pulled within 54-48 on a Monte Morris 3-pointer with 5:40 left in the second quarter. With Tatum out and momentum gone, it was a logical spot for a tailspin. Instead, Boston retaliated with a thorough 16-5 burst that was capped by an Horford 3-pointer.


▪ Mazzulla said before the game that Tatum’s absence due to a sore ankle was mostly for precautionary reasons and that it was unclear whether he would face the Hornets on Monday. Tatum had played in every game this season. Grant Williams, who has traded places in the starting lineup with Derrick White a few times this season, started in place of Tatum alongside White.

▪ Backup center Luke Kornet’s first-quarter putback was his 16th field goal made in a row. His streak ended later in the quarter when he tempted fate with a 3-pointer from the right corner that caromed off the rim. Kornet had been 2 for 4 from long range this season, however.

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.