In Late-Game Execution, Celtics Show Faith In Forgotten Center

Getty Images Jayson Tatum of the Celtics celebrates with Kemba Walker, Daniel Theis and Payton Pritchard after scoring the game winning basket in the Celtics 111-110 win over the Washington Wizards at TD Garden

The Washington Wizards thought they had the Boston Celtics right where they wanted them.

With All-Star Bradley Beal on pace for a career night and after Davis Bertans rattled in a 3-pointer, thus giving the Wizards a six-point lead in the fourth quarter, Washington was zeroing in on its second win against the Celtics in two weeks. And the Wizards’ gameplan for defending Boston’s starters was simple; double up on Jayson Tatum or Kemba Walker and leave Daniel Theis alone at the perimeter.

Theis, coming off of back-to-back games where his offense was essentially non-existent against the Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks, where he combined for two points on 1-of-6 attempts from the floor, bounced back in a big way in a win against the Indiana Pacers, last Friday night. He netted 17 points, including a pair of 3-pointers and the momentum of Theis’ offensive production carried over into Sunday.

Celtics Turn To Daniel Theis On Four Consecutive Possessions In Fourth Quarter Vs. Wizards

Scoring 20+ points for only the second time this season, he finished with 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists but Sunday’s performance differed from all of the others; he played a significant part in the Celtics’ 111-110 win over the Wizards after Theis was practically dared by his opponent to take open shots.

He was left on a proverbial island on defense, possession after possession throughout the fourth quarter but, still, arose to the challenge and thrived. Walker found him for an open 3-pointer on one play and then sought out Theis a second time on the very next play.

And after Walker pulled down a defensive rebound and ran up the floor for options, he found Daniel open for another mid-range jumper. Just when you thought the Wizards were destined to scramble and cover Theis after seeing him make three straight, Walker, who missed a 3-pointer after Theis’ third make, came back down and found an open Theis, who knocked down a 16-footer — which pulled the Celtics to within two (91-89).

“Kemba’s a good playmaker and so are some of the other guys — they get so much attention,” Theis said after Sunday’s win. “If we keep moving the ball, it’s hard for teams to guard us. I had the wide-open shots and four times in a row they didn’t guard me at all. But also, just as a team, if we move the ball, it’s so hard to guard us.

“We have Kemba, J.B. (Jaylen Brown), like whoever’s out there; we have so many guys who can make plays for each other and that’s what we need. We need to play our brand of basketball.”

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks whistled for a timeout. Then, it was Tatum Time.

Jayson “The Closer” Tatum

In response to his childhood friend’s (Bradley Beal) emphatic night (46 points), Tatum scored eight of his team-high 31 points in the game’s final six minutes as he and Walker led the Celtics on a run that recaptured their lead before Jayson closed things out.

He converted on three consecutive takes to the rim, including the game-winning drive.

READ NEXT: Danny Ainge On Building The 2020-21 Celtics: ‘I’ve Made Mistakes’