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Wizards fall to Celtics, will face Pacers for 8th seed originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
In the first-ever play-in game in franchise history, the Wizards came up short against the Celtics 118-100. Jayson Tatum powered Boston's offense while cold 3-point shooting and turnovers doomed Washington.
The Celtics will go on to play the Nets in the first round, while the Wizards have a bit more work to do to get into the playoffs. Here's how it went down Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Tatum takes over
After a back-and-forth first half that featured an Ish Smith takeover and a bunch of turnovers from the Wizards, the Celtics came out after halftime and took control. Jayson Tatum got hot and dropped 23 in the quarter, Kemba Walker got loose for a few open threes and the Wizards picked a really bad time to go cold.
Tatum then continued to build off the momentum he captured in the third and finished with 50 points on the night. He kept hunting Davis Bertans on switches and the buckets didn't stop falling.
This was a tough matchup for the Wizards to deal with entering this game. They're inherently short on wing defenders and with Beal dealing with a hamstring strain and Rui Hachimura on and off the floor with foul trouble, there was only so much Washington could do to slow down the young star.
Win or go home
The Wizards came up short, but the beauty of getting a top-eight seed is having two chances to make the playoffs. Washington will now host the Pacers in the final Eastern Conference play-in tournament game on Thursday night. The winner of that game will draw the Sixers in the first round.
The Pacers are coming off a statement victory over the Hornets in the No. 9 vs. No. 10 matchup. They were without Caris LeVert, Myles Turner and TJ Warren, but Indiana executed at a high level against a young and overmatched Hornets team. The Wizards are in win-or-go-home mode now, and the Pacers won't be an easy opponent to play against.
Beal plays well through the pain
Beal played on his strained hamstring once again against the Celtics and it was quite clear the ailment limited his game. He didn't have the same burst off the dribble, he had to rely on his jumper and with a long defender in Tatum on him, getting off a clean look wasn't easy. After a fast-break dunk in the first quarter, Beal could be seen laboring up the floor holding his left leg.
It didn't keep him from fighting, though. Beal still turned in 22 points and made a few impressive stops on the defensive end. This is what Beal worked all season for and he's not letting himself miss the chance to help his team win.
Beal's hamstring will continue to be a major storyline moving forward for the Wizards. This isn't something that's going to heal overnight, so they'll have to find some answers for some of the superstar's physical limitations.
3-point shooting still an issue
Nobody would mistake the Wizards for a good 3-point shooting team, as they ranked 23rd in 3-point percentage during the year. But in this game, it was especially bad. They went 3-for-21 from deep and couldn't get Bertans or Beal going from beyond the arc.
Washington's offense is built around scoring at the rim, getting to the free-throw line and, as a result, opening up good looks from three. The problem is they don't really have the personnel to space out defenses and make them pay for rotating off of them to protect the rim. Bertans, Beal Raul Neto and Garrison Mathews are the only real 3-point threats they have and it's tough to score in a playoff setting when you can't adequately space the floor.
It's something the Wizards will have to overcome for the rest of this postseason and ultimately address it in the offseason if they want to make more noise next year.
Quiet nights from Rui and Bertans
In a playoff setting like this game, opposing teams do everything they can to shut down your first and second options offensively. That's when you need your supporting cast to step up and alleviate some of that pressure. Rui Hachimura and Davis Bertans are the Wizards' secondary options on offense and neither provided much on that end of the floor.
Bertans was mostly invisible, scoring four points on 1-of-8 shooting and Hachimura was similarly nonexistent. It's worth noting foul trouble kept Hachimura out of the game for significant stretches, most likely taking away all of his rhythm. Sometimes you can overcome those kinds of games from your third and fourth guys, but Washington is going to need much more from both players going forward.
Ish Smith provides a spark
The name Ish sparks a lot of fear into the hearts of Celtics fans and it's easy to see why. Smith straight up torches Boston on a consistent basis and on Tuesday night, he came up big off the Washington bench for 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
The Wizards needed a spark with Beal hampered and Gafford and Rui Hachimura in foul trouble and Smith delivered. Boston's bench is notably weak and Washington was able to dominate that aspect of the game.
Sometimes you need a veteran presence in games like this. Someone who can execute the game plan and get to his spots no matter how big the moment is. Smith certainly appears to be one of those players coaches can trust in big games, especially against the Celtics.