Jayson Tatum outduels Bradley Beal as Celtics top Wizards

It came down to the wire, but the Boston Celtics moved back to .500 on the season by surviving on Sunday night against the Washington Wizards. Although Bradley Beal finished with 46 points, Jayson Tatum kept Boston afloat with 31 of his own to give Boston their second straight win. By the time the dust settled at TD Garden, the Celtics were leaving with a 111-110 victory over a streaking Wizards team.

With Jaylen Brown sitting out due to knee soreness, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker were going to have to carry a heavy load in this game. In the first half, they certainly did their part, with Tatum scoring 16 points and Walker adding 14. Throughout the first 24 minutes, Tatum was up to his usual tricks, hitting stepback threes, midrange fadeaways, and throwing down this nasty dunk over Robin Lopez.

For Walker, this game was a continuation of the progress that he’s started to slowly show over the last few weeks. His shot is starting to look more like the Kemba that Boston needs to make any noise in the playoffs, which is a welcome sight for all Celtics fans. He finished with 21 points and 8 assists, many of which came in crunch time to Daniel Theis.

Based on the efforts of those two, Boston took a five-point lead into halftime, as the Wizards had a hard time generating offense outside of Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans. Beal scored 24 first half points, on his way to his game-high 46. It was yet another reminder why he leads the NBA in scoring by almost three points. Outside of Beal, however, most of the Wizards never got into any sort of groove, leaving Beal as their sole source of offense.

In the second half, Boston jumped out to a double digit lead early in the third, but Washington fought back to close the deficit and get back into the game. Tatum continued to carry the offensive load for Boston, and the C’s took a 79-76 lead into the final 12 minutes.

The game went back and forth down the stretch, with Bradley Beal controlling the floor for the Wizards while Tatum and Walker tried to answer at the other end for Boston. In the end, Jayson Tatum took the Celtics to victory. After a Bradley Beal layup gave Washington a 5-point lead with 46 seconds to go, Tatum hit three clutch two’s to give Boston the win. His driving layup with 4.7 seconds remaining gave Boston the lead for good, and Beal’s last second shot bounced out to secure the win for the C’s.

Much of this game was spent at the free-throw line for both teams, as both Boston and Washington shot 20 attempts in the first half. By the end of the game, the two teams had combined for 53 shots, leading to a game that at times was lacking any real rhythm.

Robert Williams played yet another strong game for Boston. He continues to make at least one eye-opening alley-oop a game, and with the way he’s trending, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Timelord crack the starting lineup in the next few weeks. His vertical offense just gives an element to the Celtics offense that neither Daniel Theis or Tristan Thompson are able to create, and the team seems to flow much better with him out there. His chemistry with Kemba Walker especially has been growing, which would be further reason to use the two of them together more often in the starting lineup.

Beal’s performance in this game continues another disturbing trend for the Celtics. Their defense this season has been underwhelming compared to the stout units we’ve become accustomed to seeing from Brad Stevens’ teams. This month especially, Boston has allowed team after team to have a 30-point scorer take over the game. And while there are certainly some great names on that list, such as Beal or Luka Doncic, Saddiq Bey is also one of the many who have torched the Boston defense. They’re going to have to start taking some pride on that end if they want to become a title contender this year as they continue to hover around .500 nearing the All Star Break.

All in all, this was a good win for the Celtics without Jaylen Brown. They did just enough to win, and Kemba Walker continued to play well, scoring more than 20 points for the sixth time in his last eight games. His offense is going to be needed for the rest of the season, so hopefully this is not just a hot streak, but rather a sign that he is fully back. Next up for the C’s is a matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night.

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