Final: Celtics 86, Wizards 83. Thanks to a Herculean effort from their veteran leaders down the stretch, the Celtics manage to seal the deal.
Randy Foye puts the Wiz temporarily out in front with a mid-range jumper to make it 83-82, but Kevin Garnett recovers a loose ball after a long fracas on the following Washington possession, and a huge Ray Allen 3 on the other end puts the Celtics in front for good. The Celtics get a stop when Andray Blatche misses the game-tying jumper with seven seconds to play, and Kevin Garnett ices it with a free throw on the other end.
Al Thornton gets one last chance to force overtime, but he misses a three at the buzzer and that's that. Game over.
The Celtics have earned their fourth win this week, an impressive win streak for a team that was coming off an embarrassing loss to New Jersey a week ago. For the Wizards, it's five losses in their last six.
Fourth quarter, 1:24, Celtics 82-81: Another big stop from the Celtics' defense, another big rebound from Kendrick Perkins, and another big bucket from Rajon Rondo. Rondo drives the lane, sinks a driving layup, and manages to draw a foul from Al Thornton, sending him to the line for the and-one. He misses it, but Perk kicks the rebound out to Ray Allen in the corner, and Ray gets off a 3 right away. Swish. The Celtics have the lead.
Fourth quarter, 2:55, Wizards 79-76: The C's manage back-to-back stops for what seems like the first time in an eternity, and they get a couple of buckets closer on a driving layup by Rajon Rondo and a beautiful jumper from Paul Pierce. This game is absolutely not over — although you have to wonder why it took the Celtics more than 40 minutes to muster this kind of energy.
Fourth quarter, 4:38, Wizards 79-72: A 6-0 run serves to move the Celtics to within striking distance with under five minutes to play. Pierce, Rondo and Allen each get two for the Celtics to lead the charge back, with Allen dunking in transition off a beautiful bounce pass from Rondo, launching the Garden crowd into hysterics and forcing a timeout out of Wizards coach Flip Saunders. The Celtics still trail by seven, but the Wizards are in "run and hide" mode. Momentum has swung Boston's way, big time.
Fourth quarter, 6:33, Wizards 79-66: Al Thornton is back on the floor, and in a development that should surprise no one, Thornton is once again torching the Celtics. Thornton is now 10-for-15 from the floor for a game-high 24 points, making it the best game yet for the third-year forward since being traded from the Clippers to the Wiz at the trading deadline last month. The C's are running out of answers.
Fourth quarter, 9:09, Wizards 71-62: Just about three minutes in, and the Celtics are still scoreless in the fourth quarter. Rondo is making nice passes, but nothing's happening. A missed Davis hook shot down low, a couple of botched drives for layups, a couple of stupid turnovers. The Celtics have to execute way better offensively down the stretch to even have a chance in this thing. Nothing is going right for the C's right now. Nothing at all.
End of third quarter, Wizards 66-62: Ray Allen has been nothing short of heroic in this third quarter, and Rajon Rondo makes a nice contribution himself with a driving layup and a rare 3-point jumper in the last couple minutes of the third quarter. But the rest of the Celtics are asleep on the job out there. And what good do a couple of nice offensive plays do for you if the defense can't get a stop to save its life? And by the way, yes, it has been almost a full 10 minutes since anyone but Allen or Rondo has scored a single point.
Third quarter, 3:10, Wizards 62-50: The good news? Ray Allen knocks down back-to-back huge jumpers, a 19-foot two and then a 3 from the wing off an assist from Rajon Rondo. The bad? It hardly matters when no other Celtic has scored since the 9:56 mark in the third quarter. The Wizards are just manhandling the Celtics in the third quarter, and the Celtics can't do anything about it besides jacking up shots from outside. This isn't working.
Third quarter, 6:16, Wizards 56-45: This is now a double-digit basketball game, and the Celtics are looking far too lethargic out there to do anything about it. They're settling for jumpers on the perimeter, they're not finishing strong inside, and they're looking lazy defensively as Thornton and now JaVale McGree are starting to light them up. Doc has got to do something to fire these guys up — this should not be an 11-point game in the third quarter.
Third quarter, 9:27, Wizards 52-45: Far too many times this season, we've seen the Celtics jump out to a double-digit lead in the first half, only to choke it all away in the third quarter and make a game out of it. Maybe this time, just once, the converse could be true? This could be the Celtics' turn to erase a halftime deficit. So far, though, they haven't gotten it done. Al Thornton now has 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, and it's still all Washington.
Halftime, Wizards 44-38: Ray Allen does everything he can to get the Celtics back in this game before the break, driving inside for a layup and then knocking down a big 3-ball for five straight points and a big chunk taken out of the Washington lead. But it still isn't enough. The Wiz keep piling it on, as Al Thornton adds four more points in the span of 24 seconds to give himself a game-high 15 and his team a six-point lead again. A Rondo airball at the buzzer seals the deal, and the C's head to the locker room at the half with a lot of work to do.
Second quarter, 3:01, Wizards 38-32: The big boys are back on the floor, but it's not making much of a difference. Al Thornton is on fire for the Wiz, now shooting 5-for-9 from the field tonight for a game-high 11 points, and the Celtics defense is looking anemic no matter who's on the floor. The C's will have to hit quite a few big shots in these final minutes to make this game look respectable by halftime. So far, tonight has not been a good way to represent the C's on national television. Yikes.
Second quarter, 5:29, Wizards 34-26: You can tell from watching the first half of this game that the Celtics have much bigger fish to fry than taking a first-half lead against the Wizards in March. The C's are down eight midway through the second quarter, and Doc looks content to leave Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on the bench, keeping them rested and letting the second unit play despite sub-par play offensively. Sheed, Davis, Marquis Daniels, Nate Robinson and Tony Allen are a combined 2-for-14 from the floor in this game, and the C's stars are watching from the sidelines.
Second quarter, 9:31, Wizards 27-20: Years from now, that will still be remembered as one of the great bloopers in NBA history. I'm convinced of it. Glen Davis dives into the seats chasing after a loose ball in transition, and he ends up about six rows deep, landing on a pile of fans well behind the Wizards bench. It's still not clear exactly how he got there. But instead of hopping out of the seats ASAP and rushing back onto the floor, Davis stops to chat with the fans for a minute, making sure everyone's OK. Maybe he was asking for a handful of popcorn as well. That too remains unclear. Meanwhile, his teammates are across the floor playing four-on-five.
That alone would be great, but after about five seconds, Big Baby makes the story even better by springing out of the sixth row, ambling back to halfcourt, taking in a pass from Nate Robinson and heaving up a 16-footer from the top of the key.
It's blocked by JaVale McGee.
You can't make this stuff up.
End of first quarter, Wizards 25-19: Rasheed Wallace has come off the bench, and for him, he's looked surprisingly willing to get inside and score rather than settling for jumpers on the perimeter. Unfortunately for him, though, it just isn't working against these tough Washington defenders. The first quarter is in the books, and Sheed's touches include a missed dunk, a missed layup off a quick turnaround move and a missed 15-foot jumper. He does have two free throws, though, but it's not nearly enough to keep the Celtics' second unit afloat in this first quarter. The Wiz lead by six at the first break.
First quarter, 3:25, Wizards 19-15: Washington goes with a fairly undersized lineup when JaVale McGee comes off the floor and James Singleton goes out there in his place. The Celtics are doing everything they can to exploit their matchups accordingly — they've been working the ball inside to Kendrick Perkins a lot more than usual, with Perkins shooting 2-for-3 from the floor and also kicking it out a couple of times with ease. But as Andray Blatche and Randy Foye continue to shoot the lights out for Washington, it hasn't mattered. Wizards by four nearing the end of the first quarter.
First quarter, 6:22, Wizards 13-11: The Wizards' execution has looked a lot better after spending the first couple of minutes shaking off the cobwebs. They're moving the ball around nicely against the Celtics D, making nice crisp passes, and creating good looks at the basket. All five Washington starters have scored already, and the Celtics aren't doing much defensively to combat the balanced Washington attack.
First quarter, 9:44, Celtics 4-0: The Celtics seize control early, getting an early 4-0 lead behind easy buckets inside for Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. But the real attention-grabbing play of the first three minutes is a shot that doesn't fall — Andray Blatche makes a bone-crushing block on a Kevin Garnett layup attempt, swatting it so hard that they could hear the sound of palm on basketball up in the nosebleed seats. It's little plays like that that make you think "You know, the old KG never would have let that happen."
7:22 p.m.: This just in: no Finley tonight. The veteran guard will be on the bench with the team, but not on the active roster for tonight's game against the Wizards. Doc Rivers explained that because Finley just got into Boston around 8:45 p.m. yesterday and has barely had any chance to work out with the team, he wasn't comfortable playing him yet. No ETA yet for Finley's first game action. Maybe Tuesday in Milwaukee, maybe not. The Celtics are taking things slowly.
6:45 p.m.: Michael Finley is here and working out with the team in pregame warmups. To all outward appearances, he looks ready to go. But will he play? That's a tougher question.
"That's a good question," Finley said just moments ago. "Your guess is as good as mine. I don't know. I'll probably find out in the next five to 10 minutes."
Finley has been rehabbing an ankle injury since December, but he insisted tonight that he's back to 100 percent and ready to take the floor. Whether the Celtics plan to activate him right away, however, is an entirely different question. At the moment, it remains unanswered. More to come from Doc later.
6:20 p.m.: Now the Celtics are really rolling. With another victory in Philadelphia on Friday night, the C's are winners of three straight, and they're starting to climb back up the Eastern Conference ranks. At the moment, they've reached third place. By next week, who knows where they'll be?
The C's return home Sunday night to take on a Washington Wizards team that is deep into a long-term rebuilding effort. The Wiz have parted ways with Gilbert Arenas for the rest of this season and cut ties with Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison at the trade deadline as well. Since said deadline, they're 3-5.
Tonight the Celtics welcome not only the visiting Wizards, but also 15-year veteran Michael Finley, a newcomer to the Celtics making his debut at the Garden tonight. Whether Finley will play, and how much he plays, remains to be seen, but Finley's quiet leadership and championship pedigree will no doubt be an asset in Boston.
Tonight will be the C's first look at Finley, and their third glimpse of the Wizards this season. Boston is 2-0 so far.