Somehow, there is a worse way to lose a game than missing two free throws in a tie game at the end of regulation. As Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams learned, you could have talked trash before the misses.
A road game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday was already rough enough for Boston, which had lost three of its last four games and led by 15 points in both the second and third quarter. The Cavaliers were down by double digits as late as 4:15 left in the fourth, but rallied to tie the game at 109-109 in the final seconds.
The Celtics had the ball with 5.8 seconds remaining after a pair of game-tying free throws from Donovan Mitchell. A missed Payton Pritchard layup landed in the hands of Williams, who was fouled with 0.8 seconds left.
That set up a pair of potential game-winning free throws for Williams, who had been an 86.4% free throw shooter over the last two seasons. It should have been game over for Boston, and Williams knew it, as he very much looked like he was saying “I’m gonna make ’em both” to Mitchell:
You can probably tell where this is going. Williams did not make them both.
To the Cavaliers’ credit, they tried to do everything they could to ice Williams after his first missed free throw. But at the end of the day, a player like Williams should be expected to make at least one of the shots, instead of missing both and sending the game to overtime:
The extra period didn’t go the Celtics’ way either, especially when Mitchell threw down an enormous dunk midway through. The Celtics lost 118-114.
Mitchell confirmed to reporters after the game that Williams indeed said he would make both free throws. Mitchell also said the statement was a product of some trash talk on his part:
You just try to mess with him mentally and see what happens. I have no doubt in my mind that if Grant’s in that position again tomorrow or the next day, he’s going to make both free throws. He’s a good player, just trying to find a way to get in his head a little bit.
Williams finished the game with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting with four rebonds. 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 now sit two games back from the first-place Milwaukee Bucks, who had a rough loss of their own to end a 16-game winning streak. The Cavaliers sit 4.5 games behind them at 41-26.