The Celtics on Thursday got one important tuneup in their final seeding game before the playoffs. Just kidding; Boston’s five starters and guard Marcus Smart all sat out to rest and avoid injury.
So coach Brad Stevens unfurled an active roster that included very few players who will actually see significant action in the postseason. The result was a 96-90 loss to the Wizards that snapped Boston’s four-game winning streak, but don’t expect anyone to lose sleep over that.
The Celtics will be the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and they’ll face the sixth-seeded 76ers in the opening round, starting next week.
Javonte Green led the Celtics with 23 points. Rookie Romeo Langford left the game in the second half because of a sprained right wrist.
Observations from the game:
▪ The Celtics announced Langford’s injury in the fourth quarter. He is in the small group of Celtics who played Thursday who could snag a role in the playoffs. He has dealt with several nagging injuries this year.
Stevens truly trusts him as a defender, but it would have been good if Langford took the opportunity in this lower-level matchup to feast on offense a bit. He never stood out and finished with 6 points on 3-of-9 shooting, along with 4 assists and 4 rebounds in 30 minutes.
▪ Want to know what kind of game this was? Entering the day, Green had attempted just 24 3-pointers all season, making six of them. He fired up six in the first quarter. He received a friendly roll on one, swished another, air-balled a third, and that encapsulates the kind of adventure this game offered.
Green had a good overall game, though. He remains a stingy defender, and on offense he mixed his usual bounciness with his less-common long-range game.
“I thought we had a few guys who played really hard,” Stevens said. “Javonte was obviously at the top of that list. He played with great intensity at both ends of the floor, was trying to do the right stuff offensively, and did some really good stuff on the glass defensively.”
▪ When Enes Kanter started and Vincent Poirier was the first center off the bench, it looked like backup big man Robert Williams, who has been a revelation in Orlando, would also get the day off. But Williams entered midway through the second quarter for one stint. He went 3 for 3, including another nice midrange jumper, before calling it an afternoon.
Williams was sidelined for several months because of a hip bone edema and has looked excellent during the restart, so Stevens was smartly erring on the side of caution to keep the big man ready for what’s next.
▪ The 7-foot-5-inch center Tacko Fall made his first appearance of the restart. He checked in with about three minutes left in the third quarter, and quickly swatted an Ish Smith shot out of bounds.
The Celtics mostly sagged back in a zone defense that allowed Fall to protect the paint. He picked up three fouls in about three minutes, but had a couple of nice moments on offense and finished with 4 points and 4 rebounds.
▪ The Celtics starting lineup consisted of Tremont Waters, Langford, Green, Semi Ojeleye and Kanter.
▪ After the game, the Celtics’ focus, understandably, shifted to the playoff matchup with the 76ers. All-Star point guard Ben Simmons is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery, but the Celtics believe this is a dangerous team anyway. Philadelphia won the season series, 3-1.
“We know they’re a good team, so we have to get our minds right,” Ojeleye said. “We have a couple of days to prepare, so we have to keep that competitive spirit.”
▪ In his pregame interview with Stevens, NBC Sports Boston color commentator Brian Scalabrine asked about families being allowed to enter the Orlando bubble after the seeding games end. Stevens pointed out that players are allowed to bring guests, but coaches are not. So Scalabrine asked if a player could get some extra playing time by inviting members of Stevens’s family as guests.
Scal is at his best when the humorous banter is flowing.