The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards have taken similar paths to 3-2 starts, each losing on Friday and having an overtime setback as part of their early-season schedules.
The two teams will look to right the ship when they meet Sunday night at Boston.
Double-digit leads in the first half were for naught in Boston’s last two games, including Friday’s 132-123 overtime setback to Cleveland.
“We have to learn how to win again,” Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla said. “Each season, coming into it, you’re not guaranteed to win. So, it’s valuing the ball, it’s knowing tendencies and boxing out and rebounding. Just the fundamentals.”
The Celtics led by as many as 15 points on their way to a 75-point first half against the Cavaliers. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum each finished the game with 32 points.
The Cleveland scoring duo of Caris LeVert and Donovan Mitchell had 41 points apiece, but Boston committed 19 turnovers and also allowed nine offensive rebounds in the setback.
“Those are all controllable things, so we’re not concerned,” Brown said. “I think that we’ve done it before, and we can do it again. … We’ve got some different lineups out there, but we can’t let that be an excuse.”
The Celtics will have forward Grant Williams back from a one-game suspension, handed out for making contact with and directing inappropriate language toward an official Monday in Chicago.
Center Robert Williams III still is rehabbing from knee surgery.
Friday’s issues also came on offense, as the Celtics were held to 37.8 percent shooting and 39 points in the second half. They scored 15 points in the fourth quarter. Boston also has allowed at least 120 points in three straight games.
“We were still in position to win the game if we (made) winning plays down the stretch,” Mazzulla said. “I don’t know if (defense) is as much of an issue as we have to make winning plays.”
Washington fell 127-117 to Indiana on Friday, its first home loss. The overtime loss on the Wizards’ record also came against Cleveland last Sunday.
Friday marked Washington’s first game without Delon Wright, a strong defensive presence who could miss as much as two months with a hamstring strain.
“You’re going to miss your backup point guard every night,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “It wasn’t our best defensive effort, but I don’t put all of that on Delon. I just didn’t think we had the right mindset from the start.”
Wizards veteran Bradley Beal put up 31 points on 11-of-18 shooting and added seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block.
Beal and Kristaps Porzingis are sharing the court for the first time this season.
“I love playing with (Beal),” Porzingis said recently. “He takes so much attention away from me on those curls. The big has to help, otherwise, he has a layup.”
On Friday, the Wizards had a better second half after trailing by 75-60 at halftime.
Kyle Kuzma, Beal and Porzingis scored or assisted on 26 of Washington’s 30 points in the third quarter, and Beal hit a 3-pointer with 4:55 to play, but it proved to be too little, too late.
The Wizards had to contend with Myles Turner, Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton, a trio that scored 77 combined points for Indiana.
The challenge won’t get any easier at Boston.
“We came out overconfident maybe that we were going to get it done,” Porzingis said. “So, learn from this one and onto the next one.”
–Field Level Media