Somehow, there is a worse way to lose a game than to miss two free throws in a tie at the end of regulation. As Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams learned, you could have talked about trash before chess.
A road game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday was bad enough for Boston, which had lost three of its last four games and trailed by 15 points in the second and third quarters. The Cavaliers were down double digits with 4:15 left in the fourth, but rallied to tie the game at 109-109 in the closing seconds.
The Celtics had the ball with 5.8 seconds left after a pair of free throws from Donovan Mitchell. A missed layup from Payton Pritchard landed in the hands of Williams, who was fouled with 0.8 seconds left.
That set up a pair of potentially game-winning free throws for Williams, who had been an 86.4 percent free throw shooter the past two seasons. The game should have been over for Boston, and Williams knew it, because he looked like he was really saying “I’m going to do them both” to Mitchell:
You can probably tell where this leads. Williams didn’t do both.
To the Cavaliers’ credit, they tried to do everything they could to ice Williams after his first free throw missed. But at the end of the day, we should expect a player like Williams to make at least one of the shots, instead of missing both and sending the game into overtime:
The extra period hasn’t gone the Celtics way either, especially when Mitchell threw a massive dunk midway through. The Celtics lost 118-114.
Mitchell confirmed to journalists after the game that Williams indeed said he would make both free throws. Mitchell too said the statement was the product of foul language on his part:
Just try playing with him mentally and see what happens. I have no doubt in my mind that if Grant is in that position again tomorrow or the day after, he will make both free throws. He’s a good player, he just tries to find a way to get into his head a bit.
Williams finished the game with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting with four rebounds. Those free throw attempts were his only trip to the line of the night. Meanwhile, Mitchell had 40 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, his third 40-point game of the season against the Celtics.
The 45-21 Celtics are now two games behind the Milwaukee Bucks, who themselves suffered a brutal loss to end a 16-game winning streak. The Cavaliers are 4.5 games behind them at 41-26.