BOSTON — Near the end of 58 exhausting minutes of basketball, while most of the players on the court tried to simply catch their breaths, the Morris twins stood shoulder to shoulder on the blocks during a free-throw attempt, chatting away like they typically do when they cross paths on the hardwood.
The topic du jour: Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris’ defensive miscue at the end of regulation that had helped the visiting Washington Wizards force overtime. A Boston team ravaged by injuries had fumbled away a 20-point lead, but found itself up three with five seconds to play in regulation. All the Celtics had to do was not allow a 3-pointer, but Morris absentmindedly charged at a driving Otto Porter Jr., who alertly fed Jodie Meeks in the corner for a wide-open, overtime-forcing trey.
Marcus Morris found a sympathetic ear in his brother, Markieff.
“When we were in Washington [in February], [Markieff] fouled Kyrie [Irving] at the end to send it into overtime,” said Marcus Morris, recalling how a pair of Markieff fouls beyond the 3-point arc allowed Boston to escape with an overtime triumph in D.C. “This time, I did a bonehead play and came in and they hit a 3 for overtime.
“So twins do dumb s—, I guess.”
Marcus Morris produced one of his finest games with the Celtics, scoring a season-high 31 points on 11-of-22 shooting while trying to carry a Boston team that was without Irving (knee), Al Horford (illness), Jaylen Brown (concussion), Marcus Smart (thumb), Daniel Theis (knee) and Gordon Hayward (ankle). Five of the 10 players available to Celtics coach Brad Stevens were rookies, including Guerschon Yabusele, who drew a spot start after being recalled from the G League for his first NBA action since early February.
Boston came charging out of the gates, building an early double-digit lead. But the young Celtics — and some of their vets too — made a series of uncharacteristic late-game mistakes that allowed Washington to escape with a 125-124 double-overtime triumph.
“Me being a veteran, I put that on me,” Marcus Morris said. “Committing to the ball, knowing they needed a 3, [Porter] made a great play [passing to Meeks], but that was my bad.”
Stevens stressed that Boston wouldn’t have had even a chance to win — both in regulation and the extra sessions — if not for Marcus Morris’ offensive contributions. But the coach also acknowledged the defensive miscue.
“Just one of those plays that I know Marcus would like to have back,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day, when we came out of the timeout, we wanted to be five guys around the 3-point line. You don’t want to give them just an easy-entry layup, but I think that we did a pretty good job initially, and then we should’ve just let Porter lay it in.
“But that happens. And Marcus Morris was one of the main reasons why we were there, and it happens. It happens.”
The Celtics had a chance to steal the win when rookie Jayson Tatum lost his defender with a spin move and got fouled driving at the basket for an and-1 layup with 3.1 seconds to play in the first overtime. But Tatum, an 83 percent free-throw shooter, missed from the stripe.
Otto Porter Jr. drives to the basket and looks like he is going to go for a layup, but kicks it out to Jodie Meeks, who knocks down a 3-pointer in the corner and send the game to overtime.
Tatum got a chance to atone at the end of the second overtime, but he settled for a 3-pointer with Boston down one and his good look kicked off the back iron, allowing the Wizards to escape.
“I wish I hit that free throw,” Tatum said. “Hopefully we wouldn’t have had to go to the second overtime. I wish I hit that last shot [in the second OT], but we play again on Friday, so I’m gonna focus on that game.”
Stevens again wouldn’t pin the loss on a single player.
“Missed shots don’t bother me at all. That’s just part of the game,” he said. “At the end of the day, you control what you can control. He made a great play taking it to the basket [in the first overtime]. I thought he did a lot of good things tonight. There’s no question Jayson Tatum at the free throw line is something we all want.”
Bradley Beal was phenomenal for the heavy-legged Wizards and finished with a game-high 34 points. He liked how Boston’s younger players stepped up on a national TV stage.
“Coach Stevens does a great job making sure those guys are ready to go,” Beal said. “We have to be better than that, as a team and as a unit. We need to be more mentally locked in and come out swinging.”
While the Celtics-Wizards rivalry doesn’t have quite the same pizazz as last year’s postseason when tempers routinely flared as part of a tantalizing seven-game series, Wednesday’s game was a reminder that these teams can be an entertaining pairing regardless of who is on the floor.
It’s always entertaining when the Morris twins get together.
“I know that’s what everyone wants to see anyway,” Marcus Morris said. “That’s fun, just being out there with my brother and be able to compete against him. Growing up together and being in a prime-time game is very fun and competitive. We both kind of have to play well.”
They’ll hope to avoid the miscues if they see each other again in the postseason.