WASHINGTON — As painful as it was to see his Washington Wizards let a glorious opportunity to defeat the Eastern Conference’s best team slip away mainly on a couple of blows of the officials’ whistle, head coach Scott Brooks, while defending his team’s resolve, acknowledged that his team deservedly was on the wrong side of one of the best games of the season.
The Wizards’ late-game comeback to take the lead was undone by a touch foul from Markieff Morris as Celtics guard Kyrie Irving was shooting a three-pointer late in the game, and the latter’s successful three free throws forced overtime in a game that the Celtics ended up winning 110-104 in the extra session at Capital One Arena on Thursday night.
Morris got the slightest touch on Irving with 10 seconds remaining in regulation and the Wizards up 98-95, and, after the game went into overtime, it was déjà vu; Morris again caught Irving on the elbow on an Irving three-point attempt with the game tied at 100 with 3:45 remaining in the overtime. Irving made those three free throws as well, as Boston did not trail for the rest of the game.
As upset as Morris was, and as riled up as the Capital One Arena crowd was in seeing those calls against the Wizards go against them, the head coach took the high road.
“I saw it live. It was a foul, and the referees called it,” Brooks said about the two calls that went against Morris on the two Irving perimeter jumpers. “You can argue about it all you want but they called it a foul. We got to do a better job there but I thought our guys battled.”
And battled they did, as Washington, continuing to play without starting point guard John Wall and dealing with the uncertainty of what their roster would look like going into this game given the rumors that involved the team, came back from a 10-point deficit in the final 5:23 to put themselves in position to win another game against an elite team while shorthanded.
“Resiliency,” said Brooks about what led to his team’s comeback. “We just kept fighting, kept playing for each other and gave us a chance.”
Somehow, the Wizards had a chance to win despite the fact that they committed 22 points, which led to 24 points for the Celtics. Like what Isaiah Thomas did to the Wizards in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals series that the Celtics won in seven games, the point guard, Irving, took over late in the game. Irving scored 12 of Boston’s last 17 points of the game to assure the Celtics stayed one game ahead of the Raptors for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
“Every game for us is a learning experience, and it’s almost like a must-win,” said Irving, who scored 28 points in his second game back from a thigh injury. “Just based on the amount of expectations and what we put on ourselves and one another on a game-to-game basis.”
The learning experience was most evident with new acquisition Greg Monroe, who was signed by the team after his release from the Phoenix Suns. In 19 minutes, Monroe filled the stat sheet, as he had five points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals.
“I felt good — it felt good out there,” said Monroe. “Just gotta get in the rhythm. Like I said, I haven’t played in a while, but as far as getting up and down and everything I felt good.”
Markieff was not the only Morris who played a big part in tonight’s result, as Marcus Morris, Markieff’s twin brother, scored 15 points and had eight rebounds for the Celtics. Another big contributor for the Boston was Jaylen Brown,
who scored 18 points and made three three-pointers. Brown’s three with 1:03 remaining in overtime gave the Celtics a 108-103 lead, sealing the win.
“We needed this one, we needed this one,” said Brown. “[The Wizards] make it tough. It’s really hard to win here. I knew that first hand in the playoffs, in the Eastern Conference [semifinals]. Come here, win in Boston, and then come back here and lose by 20-plus points. Just because their fans, their crowd gets into the game. I think they have one of the best crowds in the league. When they get it going, you can definitely feel them. So, it’s always fun to play here in DC and getting the win here was great too.”