The Boston Celtics snagged the 7-seed from the Washington Wizards thanks to 50 points from Jayson Tatum in Tuesday’s play-in game. Here are three takeaways from the game.
After an absolute throttling in the first play-in game between the Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Hornets Tuesday night, NBA fans were hoping for a much more entertaining sequel. The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards treated viewers to exactly that in their battle for the Eastern Conference’s 7-seed, with the Celtics securing the 118-100 win.
The headliner for this one was obviously Jayson Tatum, who dropped 50 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks on the Wizards in a phenomenal performance.
Shooting 14-for-32 from the field, 5-for-12 from 3-point range and a perfect 17-for-17 from the foul line, Tatum was simply unstoppable from every area of the floor.
The Wizards were led by 22 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists from Bradley Beal and 20 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks from Russell Westbrook. Kemba Walker also chipped in 29 points and 7 rebounds for Boston.
The Celts are officially the 7-seed, while the Wizards will face the Pacers in a do-or-die battle for the 8-seed. But before we move on to the next set of play-in games, it’s time to go over the biggest takeaways from this play-in game.
3. Bradley Beal is clearly not 100 percent
Bradley Beal admitted he played through injury in the Wizards’ regular-season finale in order to secure the 8-seed for his team. It’s not surprising Washington’s training staff once again lost their battle with Beal of trying and keep him from making that hamstring worse, but the results spoke for themselves.
Although Beal led his team in scoring, he only shot 10-for-25 from the floor and 1-for-6 from beyond the arc. For the NBA’s second-leading scorer who averaged 31.3 points per game on 48.5 percent shooting this season, it was clear he wasn’t 100 percent, and his minus-20 point differential reflected that.
With a win-or-go-home game coming up against the Pacers, it’s highly unlikely Beal will sit out no matter how banged up he is. Hopefully he’s able to take full advantage of having another day in between games to rest up.
2. Celtics still can’t catch any injury breaks
It’s been a long, injury-riddled season for the Boston Celtics, and Tuesday’s game was like one 48-minute microcosm of that ordeal.
It was bad enough that Jaylen Brown had already been sidelined for the rest of the season by wrist surgery, but in the second quarter alone, both Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III went down with concerning-looking injuries:
Fortunately, Smart was able to return just minutes later and played the rest of the night as usual. Williams wasn’t so lucky, exiting the game after his fall and eventually being ruled out for the rest of the evening with the same turf toe that’s been bothering him for the last few weeks.
The Brown-less Celtics probably aren’t much of a threat to the 2-seeded Brooklyn Nets, but before the “Fire Brad Stevens” crowd starts firing off takes during that first-round matchup, it’s important to remember how often injury woes plagued Boston this season.
1. Jayson Tatum’s 3rd quarter changed the game
Superstars know how to take over when their team needs it most, and Jayson Tatum displayed that exact ability once again on Tuesday. At halftime, the Wizards held a two-point advantage, turning the game around with a 21-7 run after the Celtics had built a sizable lead early on.
Tatum immediately flipped the script back in Boston’s favor, leading his team on a 17-2 run to start the third quarter. He scored (13) or assisted (three dimes leading to three triples for Kemba Walker) on the Celtics’ first 22 points of the quarter, giving his team a 16-point advantage in just under five minutes.
By the time the quarter was over, Tatum had scored 23 points in the third, giving Boston a 10-point lead and giving himself 41 points heading into the final frame. It was an absolute master class for a team that needed every bit of it against one of the NBA’s hottest teams, and it’s the reason the Celtics will enter the playoffs as the 7-seed.