- The Washington Times
Saturday, October 30, 2021

If the Wizards had lost Saturday against Boston, there would have been more than enough mistakes to point out.

Between missing a late free throw in regulation, two turnovers on inbounds passes, four missed shots on one possession and an ill-advised 3-pointer — it was far from a pretty game. 

But in the final eight minutes of overtime, Washington made enough plays to escape with a 115-112 victory in double overtime.

“We found a way,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “It’s a credit to our guys. They believe, they trust and they left it on the line.”

After they went down 109-103 to open the first overtime, the Wizards fought back to send the game to a second extra period, thanks to a pair of free throws from both Bradley Beal and Montrezl Harrell and a layup from Beal with 26 second remaining. Then, just as it did at the end of regulation, the defense forced a Boston player to take a contested fadeaway at the buzzer that was off the mark.

Trailing 112-111 with about 90 seconds left, Wizards forward Deni Avdija fouled Boston star Jayson Tatum on a layup. Avdija was adamant after the play that it was the wrong call, causing Unseld to challenge the play. The call was overturned, as Avdija blocked the underhanded layup before he made contact with Tatum’s wrist. 

Beal then scored to give Washington the lead, and Spencer Dinwiddie’s floater with 21 seconds remaining put the Wizards up three points. 

Boston’s Jaylen Brown, who missed the potential game-winner at the end of regulation, went up for a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope smacked the ball out of his hands on the way up to seal the victory. 

Caldwell-Pope was playing his worst game of the season up to that point, with more turnovers (three) than points (two), but Unseld was happy with how he moved on from the mistakes to make the defensive stop. 

“That was great,” Unseld said. “… The best part about it was they briefly talked about the (turnover on the inbounds), they said next play and he comes out and makes a play like that, which was huge.”

The Wizards are now 5-1 for the first time since the 2005-06 season, and only the third time since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976. 

“That’s great. Hopefully there are a lot of firsts this year,” said Unseld, who was in his first season as an NBA assistant with the Wizards in 2005-06.

“We’re resilient. … We don’t panic,” Beal said. “We don’t get [flustered]. We stay calm and poised. This is a game of runs…but we trust our defense. That’s why we’re 5-1.”

Beal didn’t come off the floor in the first quarter, scoring 12 points as Washington took a 25-20 lead. He ended the game with a season-high 36 points, as his previous best mark was 27 against Atlanta on Thursday. Beal averaged 31.3 points per game last season.

Montrezl Harrell, who scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds before he fouled out in the second overtime, capped off the first half with a buzzer-beating half-court shot — his first 3-pointer since March 30, 2019 — to give the Wizards a six-point advantage.

The Celtics started the game on an almost-historically bad streak of 3-point shooting, missing their first 20 attempts before their first make three minutes into the fourth quarter. Boston (2-4) ended the contest 2 of 26 from behind the arc. 

“It’s good and it’s bad…because the paint defense has been terrible,” Unseld said about his team’s 3-point defense. “They don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, but it’s tough to take away everything. The fact that we’ve taken the 3-point shot out the last two games is great, but I’m not quite thrilled with how we’re guarding and keeping guys in front.”

Despite missing all 15 of their 3-pointers in the first half, they never trailed by more than nine points thanks to Brown’s efficient scoring. He made seven of his first eight baskets and led all players with 17 points in the first half. 

Also helping the Celtics stay in the game was Washington’s inefficient shooting, as the Wizards shot only 36.5% from the field on Saturday. 

With two minutes left in the third quarter, Brown made a 15-foot jumper to give the Celtics their first lead since 8:49 in the first. Boston tied the game three times and took two one-point leads in the quarter, but each time, the Wizards responded quickly by attacking the hoop. 

The Celtics went on a 6-0 run late in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 96 apiece. Then with 21 seconds left, Brown made another 15-footer to put Boston up 103-102. 

Dinwiddie, who ended the game with 20 points, was fouled with 3.8 seconds left, missing the first and making the second to tie the game.

After they allowed three early baskets in the first overtime, the Wizards outscored the Celtics 12-3 the rest of the way to earn their third straight victory. 

Washington is back in action Monday at Atlanta. The Wizards beat the Hawks 122-111 on Thursday. 

NOTES: Washington’s Kyle Kuzma finished the game with 17 points and 14 rebounds. … Wizards forward Davis Bertans led all players with a plus-16 plus-minus. … Wizards center Daniel Gafford was out with a quad injury. Unseld said after the game that Gafford will be evaluated Sunday on whether he will travel to Atlanta on Monday. … The win over the Celtics came on the ninth anniversary of Beal’s NBA debut for the Wizards in 2012.

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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