End of game, Celtics win 94-86: The challenge for Monday night will be how to get motivated to play such a delinquent unit again.
This game was not as close as the final score indicated. The Celtics could have pushed the lead to more than 20 if they had to, but they didn't because the Wizards have no clue. If a younger Washington team gets the victory in Boston on Monday in the second leg of this home-and-home, we'll know that the aging Celtics are truly hopeless in back-to-backs, because the Wizards are not in the same category as the Celtics as a basketball team.
Kevin Garnett toyed with Washington's talented yet flawed big men, registering season highs with 24 points and eight rebounds. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen looked like they were pacing themselves, but to be fair there was no reason for them to really exert themselves.
Rajon Rondo was the story, though. It could be argued that he has been the best player on the court in every game he's played this season (yes, you could even say he played better than LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or even Norris Cole in the Heat game). He finished this one with 18 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds. As much as he handled the ball, his three turnovers is impressive, even if it doesn seem like a high total for him.
The Wizards are very bad. The Celtics are very good, and on Sunday they were rested. That combination allowed the old Celtics to play like it was days of auld lang syne on Sunday.
Fourth quarter, 1:39, Celtics 94-79: Rondo left the game with 18 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds. Garnett took a seat as well with a final line of 24 points, nine rebounds and three assists, and was perfect in six free throw attempts.
Fourth quarter, 2:44, Celtics 94-79: It doesn't get much more lazy than Blatche.
The 6-foot-11 big man lost a rebound to Rondo, which gave the Celtics point guard his 10th rebound — and a triple-double. Rondo has 18 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists.
Wait, make that 14 assists. He finds Garnett again underneathe for an and-one assist, and KG converts the free throw.
Fourth quarter, 4:14, Celtics 91-77: Who needs the other three guys? Garnett and Rondo are doing fine on their own.
The Celtics swung the ball around a few times before Garnett received the ball in the high post and delivered a no-look pass to Rondo for a wide-open layup. Blatche missed a jumper badly, and Rondo brought up the ball.
Standing at the top of the key, Rondo waited for McGee to turn his head and then delivered a bullet to Garnett, which he converted for an and-one layup.
Unless the Wizards make a surprising run, it looks like Pierce's night might be done after 27 minutes.
Fourth quarter, 6:44, Celtics 86-73: Like flipping a switch, the Celtics turn it on and put their lead back at a comfortable margin.
Marquis Daniels made a perfect read to pick off a pass and toss an outlet to Allen in one motion, giving Allen and fastbreak layup. After another defensive stop, Rondo accelerated down the line and dropped a precision bounce pass to Garnett for the finish and a 13-point lead.
Fourth quarter, 7:49, Celtics 80-73: Almost like clockwork, Stiemsma showed a lot of nice things and started to get exposed just as his minutes hit double digits. After his jumper gave the Celtics a 75-65 lead and his third block rejected McGee, Stiemsma started to have trouble with the Wizards' more athletic bigs. McGee easily stepped around him in the post for a reverse layup and Booker gave a slight shot fake and burst past Stiemsma for a left-handed layup.
End third, 73-60: Brandon Bass gave the Celtics a decent boost in the third quarter, but overall that 12 minutes won't be frozen in carbonite and saved for posterity.
The Celtics saw their lead cut down to nine and then increased back to nine by the end of the quarter. Garnett, who had a hot first half, scored just two points and Rondo shouldered most of the scoring load, increasing his game total to 16 points.
Third quarter, 5:28, Celtics 60-49: Despite a day without a game Saturday and controlled minutes in the first half, the Celtics starters came out flat to begin the third quarter and saw their lead almost cut in half.
A 6-0 run by the Wizards ended with a layup by Young, getting an animated Doc Rivers off the bench to call a timeout. Out of the timeout, Rondo dropped a baseline jumper to push the lead back to double digits.
The Celtics are even in danger of matching the Wizards in turnovers with nine.
Halftime, Celtics 51-34: The last few plays of the first half encapsulated the Wizards' issues.
Allen hit one of two free throws to stretch the Celtics' lead to 19 at 49-30. A little over a half-minute later, Wall threw an alley-oop to McGee and the Wizards reacted as if that highlight meant something.
The play lessened the score to 49-32.
On Washington's next possession, Wall went to a double crossover and knocked down a step-back J. A nice play, and Wall made it clear he felt that way, too, by keeping his follow-through held as he jogged backwards down the floor.
His jumper cut Boston's lead to 49-34.
As long as the Wizards celebrate highlight reel plays while they're losing by double digits, they'll have a lot more double-digit deficits to celebrate.
For good measure, Rondo drew a foul on Crawford with 3.7 seconds to go and hit both free throws.
The Good: Kevin Garnett may be playing his best game of the season. In 14:01 he has 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, six rebounds, a steal and an assist. … Rajon Rondo is challenging the Wizards, who love to push the ball, by pushing it even more. He has nine assists and no turnovers in 15:34. … JaVale McGee is having a decent game despite 3-for-8 shooting. He has nine points and six rebounds (three offensive) in 16:12.
The Bad: The Wizards, who are collectively shooting 28 percent from the field and have six team assists. (The Celtics have 12.) … Nick Young and Jordan Crawford are 1-for-11 shooting with three fouls. Their shot selection is beyond bad, missing all five of the 3-pointers they have attempted. Maybe before they jack another 25 footer they should try a few from short range. Just a thought.
The So-So: Jermaine O'Neal, who has six points in 13:44, is what he is. He balanced strong play with weaker play and committed three fouls. … Rashard Lewis has played 18:03 and been incredibly unselfish. He has six points and three rebounds and has swung and kicked the ball at the right times, which is more than can be said for most of the Wizards.
Second quarter, 2:54, Celtics 46-28: The Wizards are even worse than advertised. They're running an offense that seems to be some sort of hybrid between playground and CYO, and the danger is that the Celtics will get caught up in it.
O'Neal made a few more nice plays offensively, including a turnaround jumper in the post over Ronny Turiaf to increase the lead to 38-25. He committed an offensive foul over McGee, then made up for it by drawing a charge on Young, but then committed his third foul on a drive by Wall and had to leave with 4:34 left. As always, i's a mixed bag for O'Neal.
Garnett banked in a jumpshot off a pick and roll with Rondo to give the Celtics a 17-point lead, but after that both teams basically stopped running any sets. Stiemsma seemed to have a clean block on a Wall dunk, but Stiemsma was given a late foul. (The whistle on O'Neal's third foul was also very late.)
Second quarter, 7:38, Celtics 32-25: Well, the Wizards don't look great, but without Rondo on the court the Celtics were no work of art, either.
After pushing their lead to as many as 13 points, the Celtics subbed out Rondo. The backcourt of Dooling, Bradley and Allen did OK for a while, but a spin move in the post by Lewis cut the Celtics' lead to single digits at 32-23. Shooting guard Nick Young, who led Washington in scoring a year ago, got on the board for the first time with a pull-up jumper along the baseline, eliciting a timeout by the C's.
End first quarter, Celtics 28-17: The Wizards are trying very hard to find the right combination of players to team with Wall, and from the looks of it, they might be trying for a while.
Washington used eight different players on the floor with Wall in the first quarter, and the results were disjointed no matter the lineup.
Jordan Crawford showed why, despite being a double-digit scorer, he is a team killer. In a six-second span, he took two shots for the Wizards. One was an airball and the other was a brick off the back of the rim. There are too many players who want to shoot and not enough basketballs for this Wizards team.
Greg Stiemsma keeps playing solidly as the Celtics' backup center. He registered a blocked shot and two rebounds in just under two minutes of playing time in the first quarter.
First quarter, 5:56, Celtics 14-9: At 6-foot-10, Wizards "small" forward can back down Pierce and shoot over him whenever he wants, but one has to wonder what good that does the Wizards. Washington's best plan is to develop its young talent and teach Wall to lead the offense, and a 32-year-old forward is not going to be part of their long-term future plans.
Lewis is averging just nine shot attempts in the Wizards' three games thus far. For the team's sake, that's just about right. He looks intent on putting up more than than against the Celtics, though, with four field goal attempts already.
First quarter, 9:02, Celtics 7-5: Everything looks in synch offensively for the Celtics, but yet again the Celtics do not look fully comfortable on defense.
Pierce nailed his first shot, a 3-pointer a step beyond the arc, and Rondo found Garnett for a dunk off the pick-and-roll. O'Neal even showed something offensively with a short turnaround jumper.
On defense, it's a different story. Garnett and O'Neal looked confused as to who would rotate over on a Wizards possession, giving McGee and easy basket.
4:55 p.m.: The full complement of starters is expected to take the floor for the opening tip for the Celtics in Washington, D.C.
Paul Pierce is back in the starting lineup, two days after logging almost 23 minutes in his first game back with a bone bruise in his right heel. Jermaine O'Neal will start at center hoping to build off his 19-point, seven-rebound performance in the win over the Pistons.
John Wall headlines the starters for the Wizards, who are athletic but undisciplined under coach Flip Saunders. The team encountered an embarrassing situation last week when Roger Mason checked into a game, scored, but was then found to not be listed on the official roster. The flub led to mockery, but it was no laughing matter for the Wizards.
Here are the projected starters:
8 a.m.: With a home win in their back pocket, the Celtics return to the road Sunday to take on the winless Wizards.
Unlike almost every other team in the league, Washington (0-3) has yet to play on consecutive nights. That will change Sunday and Monday when they play a home-and-home two-game set against the Celtics (1-3).
The Celtics' starting lineup is expected to be at full strength for this game. Paul Pierce, who returned to the lineup Friday and scored 12 points in his season debut, should get the nod at small forward, while Jermaine O'Neal, fresh off his strongest showing of the young season, is penciled into the starting center spot.
Tipoff from the Verizon Center is set for 6 p.m. Join us shortly before gametime for live updates and analysis.