Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards entered Sunday’s game against the Boston Celtics winners of seven of their last eight and looked for all the world like they would leave the game winners of eight out of their last nine.
Instead, the Wizards let Jayson Tatum parade to the rim in the final minute, and Beal himself slipped and fell with 12 seconds remaining — stepping out of bounds and handing the ball back to the Celtics down just one. Tatum’s fourth basket in the closing two minutes put the Celtics up one, and Boston chased Beal into the corner and trapped him on the final possession. Beal forced up a tough shot, and the Celtics escaped with a wild victory.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 1, 2021
“That was some of the goofiest s— I’ve ever seen in my life,” Beal said after the game. “Slipped out of bounds, gave Tatum three layups at the end of the game.”
Beal had reason to be steaming. He poured in 46 points on 29 shots and helped the Wizards build a five-point advantage with just 45 seconds remaining. Even with Tatum’s layups, Washington could have forced the Celtics to fire up 3-pointers by simply making free throws if Beal hadn’t slipped out of bounds.
“We’ve got to win that game, man,” Beal said. “We did everything we could’ve possibly done to put ourselves in position to win. We got to win.
“We’re 7-2 in our last nine. That’s great. We should be 8-1.”
The Celtics, of course, saw things a little differently. Boston overcame the absence of Jaylen Brown, who sat out with knee tendonitis, as Daniel Theis poured in 20 points and Kemba Walker tallied 21 points and eight important assists. More importantly, a struggling team found a way to win a type of game they have mostly lost recently.
“This was going to be a really hard game, especially the way they’re playing and them being pretty full — without Ish [Smith], but pretty full otherwise,” Stevens said. “I’m really happy with our guys, because there were plenty of opportunities to fold there and they just stayed with it.”
And of course, Tatum led the way. His late burst pushed his scoring totals to 31 on 12-for-22 shooting. Beal, who grew up a few years older than Tatum in St. Louis and remains close friends with him, grudgingly offered some appreciation.
“He’s a special talent,” Beal said. “Everybody knows our relationship. Everybody knows we compete but we pull for each other. So, listen, he’s an All-Star for a reason. He’s a special talent. I’m pissed off he actually got to get going against us. He’s been struggling a few times going into the game tonight. But he always picks up his energy when he plays me, so in that regard I was happy for him, just from a fan aspect of being able to get himself going and get out of his little slump or whatever, but I did hate it was against us.”
For his part, Tatum said he hopes he and Beal are on the same team when this year’s All-Star captains split up the teams next weekend.
“I’ve never, in organized basketball, played on the same team with him,” Tatum said. “So that’d be special for us if we can. I mean it’s going to be our first All Star game together, but hopefully, we’ll be on the same team.”
Get Boston.com’s browser alerts:
Enable breaking news notifications straight to your internet browser.