Up-and-down Eastern Conference counterparts Washington and Boston meet Sunday at Washington, D.C., with each looking to rebound from back-to-back losses.
The Wizards had pulled back over .500 earlier this month with three straight victories — two against Eastern Conference cellar-dweller Orlando and one against Oklahoma City — but have dropped three of four since.
The Wizards lost a 119-118 heartbreaker Wednesday to Brooklyn after rallying from down as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter. Kyle Kuzma hit a 3-pointer with 36.6 seconds remaining, but Kuzma and Spencer Dinwiddie’s game-winning attempts in the closing seconds were no good.
Kuzma missed Washington’s 109-105 loss to Toronto on Friday with neck spasms. The Wizards again fell short while trying to make a fourth-quarter rally after trailing by double digits.
“We have to take wins because no one’s going to give them to us,” said Washington assistant coach Joseph Blair, who was serving as acting head coach with Wes Unseld Jr. in health and safety protocol. “No matter who we play, no matter where we are, we can give up 20 and no one’s going to falter and say, okay, well, they’re the Washington Wizards, we can stop now.
“We have to learn to keep fighting back.”
Bradley Beal scored 25 points against Toronto. He is averaging a team-leading 23.7 points per game, followed by Kuzma 15.7, reserve forward Montrezl Harrell at 14.5 and Dinwiddie at 13.7 points per game.
Harrell posted double-doubles in each of Washington’s first two games against Boston, both of which were Wizards wins. He went for 25 points and 11 rebounds in a 116-107 Wizards victory on Oct. 27, and 20 points with 14 rebounds in a 115-112 double-overtime win on Oct. 30.
Harrell last scored more than 18 points on Dec. 1 when he posted a season-high 27 points against Minnesota.
Boston comes into Sunday’s matchup with its own leading scorer, Jayson Tatum, ranked 10th in the NBA at 25.2 points per game. Tatum scored 23 and 27 points in the Celtics’ two previous meetings with Washington.
Tatum has the lowest field-goal shooting percentage of the NBA’s top 10 scorers at 41.6, and shot 40.9 and 31.3 percent in the two losses to the Wizards.
Despite scoring 27 points and flirting with a triple-double at 10 rebounds and seven assists in the Celtics’ 109-105 loss Friday to Portland, Tatum struggled with his shooting. He went 0 of 6 from 3-point range, marking the third consecutive game in which he failed to make a 3-pointer.
Tatum is 0 of 17 from deep over that stretch, and 1 of 22 with 20 straight misses from deep in Boston’s last four games.
“It bothers you, as it should. But you can’t go back in time,” Tatum said Friday. “It’s just get back in the gym, watch some film, learn from your mistakes, and try to improve on them.”
The Celtics have hovered near .500 consistently throughout the season, and have yet to lose or win more than three consecutive games. They are on a two-game skid heading into Washington, dropping a 111-102 decision on Wednesday to Charlotte before Friday’s 109-105 loss to Portland.
–Field Level Media