Tatum, Brown, and Tacko dominate as shorthanded Boston Celtics take down Washington Wizards

Missing most of their big men due to COVID-19 protocols, the Celtics turned to the two players who are always up to the task: their two young stars. Jaylen Brown scored 27 points and tied a career-high with 13 rebounds, while Tatum led the way with 32 points and 5 boards in the C’s 116-107 win on Friday night in Boston. The Celtics led by as much as 28 in the third quarter, and though the Wizards fought back to close the deficit to 4, the Celtics kept playing and were able to put them away to improve to 7-3 on the season.

Robert Williams’ positive COVID test on Thursday took pretty much all of the team’s big men down with him, as Grant Williams and Tristan Thompson also missed this game due to being close contacts. So, going into the night, it looked like Tacko Fall might get his first real opportunity to play meaningful minutes, and boy did he ever make them count. He finished the night with just 4 points in 19 minutes, but his presence on the defensive end was incredible. He grabbed 8 rebounds and had 3 key blocks on shots that not many other centers in the league could even bother, let alone block.

That’s Russell Westbrook. He’s made a career of dunking over people and throwing the ball down before the shot blocker can even get off the floor, and Tacko just threw that shot away like it was yesterday’s newspaper. Yes, Tacko is a fan favorite just because he’s enormous and most of us have never seen a human being that tall. However, we often forget that he is a decent basketball player too. Look at this sequence.

That’s a lot more than we’ve ever seen from Tacko before. Last year’s Tacko only played in garbage time and just caught the ball in the paint, turned and dunked over some overmatched, undersized backup center. Those are two legitimately impressive plays, and he made them look easy. Overall, it was a great night for him, and the first of a few opportunities he’ll have this week as the C’s will likely be without their bigs for a few more games.

While Tacko, Tatum, and Brown all had good performances, undoubtedly the best player on the court was Bradley Beal. After dropping 60 points on Philadelphia in their last game, he came out against Boston and dropped a casual 41. Scoring the basketball is so easy for him that it didn’t even look like he was breaking a sweat. Every time he shot the ball, you just knew it was going in.

However, both games were losses. That Twitter caption could not be more true- Beal is doing everything for this Washington team. Nobody else, other than maybe Rui Hachimura, who ended with 17 points, seems capable of scoring on their own. Davis Bertans is a great shooter, but he needs to be set up. Russell Westbrook, though still incredibly athletic, is more inefficient with his shot now than ever, as he went 4-16 last night for 12 points. As long as Beal is the only source of consistent offense, this team is going to lose a lot of games. Last night’s loss was their seventh of the year, dropping them to 2-7, tied for worst in the Eastern Conference.

One development from this game that relates to the Celtics is that rookie first-round pick Aaron Nesmith seems to be totally buried. Even in a game where the Celtics were missing three key rotation members, he still couldn’t find his way onto the floor, even when this game was a blowout, before the Wizards put together a nice run to get back into it. Certainly, he has not done much with his shot to inspire confidence so far, shooting only 22% on 3-pointers, which were his specialty coming out of Vanderbilt. Maybe coach Brad Stevens is also seeing something in practice or his defense when he does get to play that tells him that Nesmith is not ready, but here’s the bottom line- shooters need reps, and Nesmith is not getting them. It’s a lot to ask for a guy who missed most of last season in college injured to be ready every time he steps on the floor if he’s only playing every third or fourth game. He’s got no rhythm, and as long as he stays buried, that’s going to be the case. He could be a real difference maker for this team with his shot if he gets a chance, so hopefully in the coming games, as the C’s will continue to be short-handed, he will get some meaningful minutes and make a few 3’s.

Next up for the Celtics is a rematch with the Miami Heat on Sunday, who Boston beat just a few days ago 107-105. In that game, the C’s relied on Grant Williams to play against Bam Adebayo, so it will be interesting to see who they turn to if he, Tristan Thompson, and Robert Williams are all out. That game is at 7 p.m., and the C’s will be looking to extend their winning streak to five games.

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