scorecardresearch Skip to main content

This is far from what was expected from Celtics this year

Wizards guard John Wall drives to the hoop on Celtic Isaiah Thomas.NICK WASS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — Behind closed doors, Celtics coach Brad Stevens already has had to harp on two glaring deficiencies more often than he would like. There have been nights when he has not been pleased with the energy, and there have been nights — many nights — when he has not been pleased with the rebounding.

“He didn’t have that many talks with us last year about that,” point guard Isaiah Thomas said, “and that was 82 games.”

And this season has lasted just seven games. Yes, the Celtics are still without injured forwards Jae Crowder and Al Horford, and inadequacies early in the year can sometimes seem more dire even though just a sliver of the season has passed, but this team cannot continue this way.


Wednesday night brought more of the same for Boston. More easy offensive rebounds for the opponent. More second-chance points allowed. More questions about why this funk is lingering, this time following a 118-93 loss to the Wizards.

The Celtics were ambushed at the start. At the end of the first period, they had fallen behind by 26 points. According to, just 37 teams since 1954 have been in that deep of a hole after one quarter.

Boston mostly treaded water for the rest of the game, but the initial deficit was so large that treading water was fruitless. It was Boston’s third consecutive loss, and aside from a fleeting second-half surge against the Cavaliers, the third consecutive game in which they were dominated.

“We’re not the hardest-playing team, and that’s what made us special, made us win 48 games last year, and made teams not really want to play against us,” Thomas said. “We don’t have that swagger anymore.”

The Wizards finished with 19 offensive rebounds and 33 second-chance points. In other games, the undersized Celtics were often overpowered by other teams’ trees. On Wednesday, Washington deployed third-year wing Otto Porter, who swooped in from the perimeter and devoured his teammates’ missed shots.


Porter finished with seven offensive rebounds, the same number the Celtics mustered as a team. He had 14 rebounds overall, twice as many as Boston’s entire starting frontcourt.

“Guards, they’re pushing us under the basket,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “The guards. Not even the bigs. The guards. So we’ve got to find some heart. I don’t know where it is but we’ve got to find it.”

Porter finished with 34 points on 14-of-19 shooting, with several baskets coming on simple putbacks. The Celtics’ inability to gather Washington’s missed shots also hindered their chances to strike quickly on offense, as they mustered just 5 fast-break points.

Thomas had 23 points, 10 assists, and 6 rebounds for the Celtics. Kelly Olynyk made his season debut after recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and finished with 2 points and 6 rebounds in 26 minutes.

Washington point guard John Wall had 19 points and 7 assists but was ejected late in the fourth quarter for committing a flagrant-2 foul when he essentially tackled Smart in the backcourt.

After the game, Wall said he was frustrated because a Celtics player had stepped on his fingers, causing them to bleed. And he said prior to fouling Smart, he had been smacked in the face while he was dribbling.

“I just let my frustration get the best of me,” Wall said.


Smart jumped up and confronted Wall after being fouled and received a technical foul.

“I ain’t backing down from nobody, and that’s going to be understood from here on out,” Smart said. “I don’t know what he thought, but I think he got the message.”

By that time, though, the Celtics already trailed by 20 points, and had gotten the message that their night was over. In fact, it had ended much earlier.

In the game’s first minute, Washington’s Marcin Gortat swooped into the lane to tip in a missed shot. Avery Bradley lowered his head in a not-this-again way, and sure enough, it was a harbinger.

The Wizards had 13 second-chance points in the opening quarter while the Celtics had just 8 total points. Boston missed its first 10 3-point attempts, and by the time Trey Burke hit a floater with 20.8 seconds left in the period the Wizards led, 34-8.

In the NBA, massive leads can be fickle. But Washington never let the Celtics mount a credible threat, as the lead stayed at 15 points or more for the rest of the night.

“Last year,” Thomas said, “we had that mind-set of, ‘We’re not that good but we’re going to play harder than you and you’re going to know we’re here.’ And we haven’t felt that this year.”

Box score: Wizards 118, Celtics 93

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.