Skip to main content

The playoffs need to start soon for the Boston Celtics because this is getting embarrassing. Even the best NBA teams are going to have off nights, but a lack of effort is inexcusable.

The Celtics put together arguably their worst game of the season Tuesday night when they traveled to face the Washington Wizards, a team that had lost five of its last six games and is on the outside looking in at a playoff spot. Two games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the No. 1 seed in the East, the Celtics played down to their opponent, and it showed.

Lack of effort isn’t something new for the Boston Celtics

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics reacts against the Washington Wizards during the first half at Capital One Arena on March 28, 2023, in Washington, DC. | Patrick Smith/Getty Images.

Maybe the Boston Celtics are bored with the regular season. That seemed to be the case Tuesday against the Wizards, who entered with a 33-42 record. Boston headed into the game as an 11.5-point favorite. Washington played without Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma. Boston played without heart.

The Celtics showed a lack of intensity and lack of drive as they were completely outplayed by the short-handed Wizards. Washington made this look easy as Boston went through the motions, especially on the defensive side of the ball, in a 130-111 loss.

This isn’t a Joe Mazzulla problem. The first-year head coach shouldn’t have to motivate men making millions of dollars. He shouldn’t have to light a fire underneath a team fighting for the top seed in the conference. Sure, Mazzulla has his faults, but getting the players to play hard isn’t on him.

The lack of effort is concerning because it came up on several occasions last season. Head coach Ime Udoka called out his team multiple times. Even Jayson Tatum recognized it during a 115-83 loss to the Toronto Raptors in Boston’s home opener last season.

“We know why we lost,” Tatum said, according to Mass Live. “They just played harder than we did, played tougher. It wasn’t rocket science. We’re all professionals. We’re all adults. We understood what had happened.” 

It happened three weeks later when these same Wizards outplayed the Celtics. Udoka had to speak up about the effort once again.

“It’s disappointing,” he said. “If we bring the right intensity, we’ll be OK, but we gotta show up every night. We just can’t pick and choose.”

The Celtics need to turn things up as the playoffs approach

The Celtics probably think they’re good enough to coast after reaching the NBA Finals last year. They’ve had a tremendous season this year, winning 50-plus games again, but complacency is a problem.

Mazzulla chalked the loss up to “an off night.”

Again, Mazzulla shouldn’t have to light a fire under his players, but an off night is when shots don’t fall. An off night isn’t when the team fails to play hard, and that’s what happened Tuesday.

Tuesday’s loss may be the worst of the season for Boston, and there have been a few to choose from. Giving up 150 points in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in January was tough. Falling to the lowly Houston Rockets two weeks ago was brutal. No team is going 82-0, and there will actually be “off nights.” The loss to the Wizards was far from an off night. It was a game the Celtics thought they could coast to victory and just didn’t show up.

The Celtics might be the deepest team in the NBA. They’re a talented group that wants redemption after losing in six games to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. None of that matters if the Celtics play like they did against the Wizards.

It wasn’t an off night. They flat-out didn’t come to play, and Washington made them pay.


Brian Scalabrine Wants No Part of Speculating on Jaylen Brown’s Future With the Boston Celtics