BOSTON (CBS) — For two frustrating games in Washington D.C., Celtics head coach Brad Stevens watched the Wizards easily turn Boston turnovers into points.
During their 121-102 lambasting of the Celtics in Sunday night’s Game 4, the Wizards turned 20 Boston turnovers into 34 points. Nine of those turnovers came in the third quarter alone, eight of which occurred during a 26-0 Washington run that ended the game shortly out of halftime. Those nine miscues by Boston led to 21 points for Washington, who outscored the Celtics 42-20 in the frame.
The 26-0 run happened quick over a six-minute span, and before the Celtics knew what hit them they were down by 21. As stunning as a 26-0 run is, it’s nothing new for the Celtics this series, as they allowed a 22-0 Wizards run Thursday night in Game 3 and also let Washington open the series with a 16-0 run last Sunday in Game 1 at the TD Garden.
Sick of watching the Wizards put on a show in transition, Stevens offered a new strategy the Celtics may have to employ if they keep giving Washington free possessions.
“If you turn the ball over against these guys, you’d prefer to drop-kick it into the stands so that at least you could set your defense,” Stevens said Sunday night. “Their attack in transition killed us. In each of these two games [in Washington], I think that our offense and our turnovers in that run separated the game. [In Thursday night’s Game 3] it was [a 22-0 run] in the first quarter, today it was in the third quarter. They made us pay for it.”
Though he’s not actively calling for his players to actually give the ball a boot if they’re committing a turnover, he may only be half-kidding. It may not be the worst advice against the Wizards, who owned a 25-12 edge in fast break points on Sunday and a 39-18 advantage in their two wins at the Verizon Center.
Stevens attempted to end Washington’s run on Sunday night with a timeout when it was merely at 11-0, but that obviously didn’t work. By the time he called his second timeout it was too late; the Wizards held a 74-53 lead and the Celtics had little fight left in them the rest of the way.
So now the Celtics head home with the series tied 2-2, down to a best-of-three. Two of the remaining games would be in Boston, including a decisive Game 7 if it’s necessary. But if the Celtics expect to win two more games against the Wizards they can’t afford any poor stretches where they get run off the floor and out of the gym. Their turnovers, and poor shot selection, during the series have led to easy Washington points, and that simply can’t happen if they want to win another game, let alone advance in the NBA playoffs.
Stevens had some changes in mind after Sunday’s defeat, but unlike his team with the basketball, he wasn’t ready to just hand those over. If whatever he has up his sleeves doesn’t work at slowing down the Wizards, and they go off on another lengthy run, we may just see him actually put a loafer to the basketball.
Tune in to Celtics-Wizards Game 5 on Wednesday night on 98.5 The Sports Hub — the flagship station of the Boston Celtics. Pregame coverage begins at 7:30pm!