BOSTON (AP)Jaylen Brown scored 32 points, Jayson Tatum had 22 and the Boston Celtics cruised to a 144-102 victory over the Washington Wizards on Sunday in their regular-season home finale.
Jockeying for one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference, Boston posted a season-high 39 assists en route to its 13th win in 16 games with three games left in the regular season.
The Celtics enter the final week in the East’s No. 2 spot, trailing top-seeded Miami by two games.
”Man, we’ve come a long way,” Brown said of his team’s resurgence.
The Celtics were struggling with a 16-19 record in late December. They’ve gone 33-11 since.
”I’m feeling comfortable. I’m being aggressive, just trying to take it to the next level heading into the playoffs,” Brown said. ”Making the right reads and the right passes. Shots fell tonight, which is good.”
Derrick White added 17 points, Grant Williams 16 and Payton Pritchard 14 for the Celtics, who finished 28-13 at TD Garden. Tatum had seven assists and six rebounds, while Brown added seven boards with five assists.
Boston closes with a tough road trip to Chicago, Milwaukee and Memphis.
”It’ll be a great test,” coach Ime Udoka said. ”This all kind of leans into going into the playoffs, and it’ll keep us sharp and focused.”
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kristaps Porzingis each had 17 points for Washington, and Ish Smith finished with 16.
Eliminated from playoff contention earlier this week, the Wizards had won four of five.
”I think we got hit and we were playing catch-up the entire game,” Smith said. ”That train continues to move. They’ve been playing the best of anybody in the NBA since January 1.”
Appearing bored by the lack of challenge by Washington, the crowd started the wave in the final quarter, something rarely seen at home games.
Boston opened a double-digit lead late in the first quarter on Tatum’s driving layup and was never tested.
The Celtics, who scored 35 points in each of the first two quarters, led by 13 after one quarter and 11 at halftime.
They pushed the lead to 20 – 80-60 – on Al Horford’s 3 from the top of the key three minutes into the second half.
”We became stagnant and weren’t moving the ball,” Caldwell-Pope said. ”We couldn’t get a shot moving to the basket. They played great defense. They switch one-to-five and make it tough.”
Boston led by 25 points after three quarters, allowing Udoka to rest his starters.
Udoka said before the game he’s most concerned with how his team’s performing going into the playoffs.
”It’s a balance, we’re worrying about ourselves and how we’re playing more so than the opponent and where we’re going to fall,” he said.
He’s also planning on trying different lineups after center Robert Williams III was lost for 4-to-6 weeks following left knee surgery on March 30.
”We need to keep looking at rotations and see what works best for us going forward,” he said.
LIKE FATHER LIKE SON
Tatum warmed up before the game, slowly jogging with a resistance band around his waist being held by a member of the team’s staff with his 4-year-old son, Deuce, running in front of him.
Wizards: Opened a three-game road swing Sunday. … Porzingis scored the Wizards’ final eight points of the first half after a relatively poor start.
Celtics: Tatum didn’t play the final quarter and Brown saw just a couple of minutes. … Udoka said Tatum tested his sore right knee to see if he was able to play, as he has since he missed a game in Toronto on March 28. ”It’s kind of been the process the last few games,” the coach said. … Marcus Smart addressed the crowd before the game on Fan Appreciation Day, thanking them for ”being the best sixth man you can ask for.”
Wizards: At the Timberwolves on Tuesday.
Celtics: At the Bulls on Wednesday.
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