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Celtics overcome horrid first half to down Wizards 133-129

The Boston Celtics welcomed the Washington Wizards to town on Friday night in what many expected to be a blowout. Washington had won just nine games this season heading into the contest, while Boston has been the best team in the league. However, early struggles made this contest far closer than the Celtics may have liked.

An early outburst from Jordan Poole, who picked apart the Celtics in the 2022 NBA Finals with the Golden State Warriors, had the Wizards in pole position early on. Sprinkle in some terrible Celtics defense, especially in transition, and the fans at TD Garden had an unexpectedly close game on their hands.

That said, quarter by quarter, the Celtics managed to pull it back to earn a 133-129 victory over the Wizards.

First quarter

After a solid first two minutes of action, the Celtics let go of the rope, allowing the Wizards to surge ahead. Things looked rough on both ends for Boston.

Poole tallied 11 points in the first quarter alone after failing to score in his last outing. Meanwhile, Kristaps Porzingis was the only Celtic who looked to be in rhythm, scoring eight points while attacking plenty of mismatches against a Washington team without an active center.

In the worst display of transition defense the Celtics have put on all season, Washington exploded for 18 fastbreak points in the first quarter alone. They were outpacing a Boston squad dealing with their own shooting woes.

Boston’s duffed shots led to Washington running on the break, and the result was a 35-31 lead for the Wizards after one. (Though it would have been 35-28 if not for a Payton Pritchard buzzer-beating heave.)e

Second quarter

Boston’s shooting woes carried over from the first quarter, though they cut back on their attempts, going from 13 to six (but shooting just 1-for-6).

Led by Jaylen Brown, the Celtics found themselves getting into the paint more, but they were still smoking far too many bunnies to generate consistent offense. And once again, their missed opportunities on offense led to poor defensive play on the other end.

Washington walked all over Boston in the third quarter, and while their transition points were cut down to just eight, they got open look after open look.

They shot 8-of-16 from three-point land in the second as the Celtics missed rotations and allowed the Wizards to walk into open pull-up threes. Their lack of defensive focus led to Washington heading into halftime up 71-64.

Third quarter

The third quarter flipped this game on its head. After two quarters of atrocious defense and subpar shot-making, the Celtics slowly but surely figured it all out.

For the first half of the quarter, the Celtics slowly inched closer to the Wizards’ lead, ramping up their level of play. And in the final few minutes, they unleashed an onslaught of scoring, highlighted by a few missed Washington layups.

Jayson Tatum controlled the game by getting to the rack, Porzingis continued to destroy the Wizards on post-ups, and Boston’s three-pointers slowly began to fall.

By the time the third was winding to a close, the Wizards were in shambles, and everything was going Boston’s way. Pritchard even nailed another half-court shot at the buzzer, but he didn’t get it off in time. A seven-point halftime deficit turned into a 100-87 lead for the Celtics heading into the final frame.

Fourth quarter

The fourth quarter entailed what should be expected in a blowout. Pritchard showed out with some nifty moves and entertaining threes, and the Celtics held on to their lead (despite a valiant last-second comeback attempt by the Wizards that had fans holding their breath).

Tatum led the game in scoring with 35 points, while Porzingis clocked in at second place with 34.

A terrible first half was masked by an impressive third-quarter showing in what seemed like a repeat of the Celtics’ recent win over the Atlanta Hawks. Boston came out sleeping, locked in, and got the job done when it mattered.

Now, the Celtics will head to Florida for a Sunday matinee against the Miami Heat on Super Bowl Sunday. That game tips off at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time.

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Story originally appeared on Celtics Wire