Celtics Live Blog: Rajon Rondo, C’s Survive Late Scare to Beat Wizards 89-86

Celtics Live Blog: Rajon Rondo, C's Survive Late Scare to Beat Wizards 89-86

Game over, Celtics win 89-86: So, Webster missed a fall-away over Garnett, then a Wizard knocked the ball out of bounds. Terry converted the free throws off the intentional foul, and Jannero Pargo’s desperation three-quarter court shot missed everything.

The Celtics got win No. 1 but it was far from pretty.

Rondo scored 12 points and handed out 12 assists, but a stellar beginning turned for the worse in the fourth quarter. The Boston point guard had only two points and two assists, as well as his only two turnovers of the game, in the final 12 minutes. Pierce finally found some offensive rhythm with eight points in the fourth, including a huge 3-pointer, while Garnett slowed down after a strong start to miss all five shots he took down the stretch. Garnett totaled 15 points and seven rebounds. The Celtics once again were outrebounded, this time 46-35.

Crawford led all scorers with 21 points, followed by Seraphin with 19 points and seven rebounds. But it was Seraphin’s turnover in the final minute the sealed the loss for the Wizards, so do not give the second-year forward from French Guiana too many laurels.

Fourth quarter, :04.5, Celtics 87-86: Well, so much for solid execution. The result of the Celtics’ timeout was a fadeaway 15-footer by Garnett, which rimmed out. Wizards ball.

Yuck, all around.

Fourth quarter, :28.2, Celtics 87-86: No one can say the Celtics did not give the Wizards a chance.

The Wizards had possession with 40 seconds left and isolated Seraphin on the left side against Garnett, but Seraphin pivoted and passed the ball to — nobody.

Seraphin’s pass sailed acorss the court and out of bounds. With solid execution, this one should be in the books for the Celtics.

Fourth quarter, 1:20, Celtics 87-86: On a crucial fourth-quarter possession, Crawford took a horrible 3-point shot because he is Crawford and missed badly. Celtics ball. Shots like that are the reason the Wizards went 20-46 last season.

Fourth quarter, 1:35, Celtics 87-86: Pierce may have finally found his rhythm. On his way to an up-and-down night in the capital, Pierce responded with a clutch 3-pointer to reclaim the lead for Boston.

Seraphin put in a layup as the Wizards edged ahead with three minutes remaining, but Pierce popped off a screen on the right wing and swished a triple to push the C’s ahead again by one point.

This one had become a nail-biter. Ugly or not, the Celtics would take a win however it came.

Fourth quarter, 4:52, Celtics 82-79: Rondo picked a horrible time to commit his first turnover.

As the Celtics clung to a five-point lead, Rondo telegraphed a pass to Pierce flashing off a screen by Sullinger. Cartier Martin read the pass — it really was not very difficult — and converted the layup at the other end to cut Washington’s deficit to three points.

More than 35 minutes of playing time and 11 assists into the game, Rondo finally had turnover No. 1.

Fourth quarter, 9:51, Celtics lead 73-69: Garnett was on the floor to start the fourth, which was a good move.

Consider that dead horse beaten.

There was an interesting wrinkle in the choice of personnel, however. Green and Terry were on the floor to begin the final quarter, so we will see how they hold up until Pierce (definitely) and Lee (possibly) retake the court.

End of third quarter, Celtics lead 71-67: Rivers is lucky he parceled out minutes conservatively to Garnett, because he will need his big man in the final quarter.

The Celtics were immensely effective with Garnett on the court — specifically with Garnett, Rondo and Lee together on the court — and the Celtics would be well-served to go with that trio the rest of the way. Their small lineup held off the Wizards at the end of the third and Green’s bank shot restored a two-possession lead, but tricky lineup maneuvering is no substitute for good, old-fashioned defense and ball movement.

Third quarter, 2:28, Celtics 69-62: Easing in two players coming off heart surgery was not going to be easy. Chris Wilcox finally made an appearance on Friday and got extended action in this one, as the veteran forward was working on his eighth minute of play in the third quarter.

As encouraging as it was to see Wilcox back on the floor, his performance was not flawless. Wilcox failed to clog the lane on the secondary break, leading to an easy layup for Crawford. Without Garnett on the floor, the Celtics needed to figure out some way to shore up the middle.

Third quarter, 5:44, Celtics 65-52: Garnett was inconsistent in the first two games, yet in this one the Garnett of last season was back. The Celtics were a different team with him on the court, which is both good and bad. On one hand, the Celtics would like to be as good whether or not Garnett was playing. On the other hand, they have to be happy to have their difference-maker back.

Garnett had 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting, providing the frontcourt balance to Rondo’s backcourt production. The point guard had 10 points and nine assists without a single turnover, plus a reverse-scoop layup on a fast break to extend the Celtics’ lead.

Halftime, Celtics lead 49-42: As impossible as it seemed after the first quarter, the Celtics found a way to let the Wizards back into the game in the second quarter. Allowing the Wizards to shoot 14-for-21 from the field and dish out eight assists while giving them five gift turnovers helped Washington’s cause considerably.

Kevin Garnett posted a strong start but his 10 points and five rebounds were not enough in limited minutes. Paul Pierce continued to struggle offensively, while Jared Sullinger’s work on the glass was offset by his shortcomings on defense. Rajon Rondo posted a quiet eight points and six assists with no turnovers.

Jordan Crawford and Kevin Seraphim scored 10 points each off the bench to give Boston a scare. Yes, the Wizards, without John Wall or Nene, were putting a scare into the Celtics.

Second quarter, 2:31, Celtics 42-37: The Celtics may have taken that whole “sleepwalking” thing a little too seriously.

Led by the nifty passing and defense of Jan Vesely, the Wizards scraped back within five points of the sloppy C’s. Pierce committed two turnovers and was 3-for-10 from the field as the Celtics captain struggles to find his offense early in the season. Vesely, the second-year forward from the Czech Republic, snuck behind Sullinger for an easy layup. Sullinger looked very bad defensively as he and Bass scrambled to protect the rim in one of Boston’s smaller lineups.

Second quarter, 8:47, Celtics 32-23: The beauty of Crawford’s game (at least if you are his opponent) is that if you cause him enough frustration, you can make him single-handedly lose the game for the Wizards. If a defender stays in his chest and troubles every shot, Crawford often responds by taking even wilder shots as Washington’s offense devolves further.

The Celtics failed to keep Crawford under wraps, though, and as a result may have given him some deadly confidence. Crawford hit his first 3-pointer and had a bounce in his step.

End of first quarter, Celtics 26-12: Paul Pierce and his teammates probably could sleepwalk through the final three quarters and come out of the Verizon Center with a victory. And if the Celtics did sleepwalk, they would greatly resemble the Wizards.

The Wizards shot 4-for-19 from the field and registered two assists in the first 12 minutes. They got to double-digits in points, somehow, even with starters Beal, Ariza and Price shooting 0-for-9 combined. Jordan Crawford hit one of his three low-quality shots, which is par for the course with the Xavier product.

Much was made of the Celtics’ two losses to begin the year. If they do not exit with a wide victory in this one, it may be time to worry.

First quarter, 2:38, Celtics 19-7: After scoring their first basket of the game, the Wizards took more than five minutes of gametime before disturbing the net again. Even then, it was debatable.

Trevor Booker bowled down the lane and ran into Jared Sullinger as Booker’s awkward layup rolled into the hoop. Sullinger appeared to have position for a blocking foul, but venerable referee Joe Crawford signaled and-one.

The Wizards were finally back on the board. It probably was not the worst thing for the Wizards to get some assistance from the officials. They may need all the help they can get.

First quarter, 6:49, Celtics 11-2: A.J. Price and Okafor were fine players in college, and Okafor was even a respectable pro center for a while after he won the 2005 NBA Rookie of the Year award. Both players are complementary pieces at best, though, and it was not a good sign for the Wizards that those two players combined for six shots in the first five minutes.

Okafor scored the only make in those six shots and the only basket for Washington, period. Garnett, who looked for his own offense in the early going for the second straight game, doubled up the Wizards’ scoring production all by himself with four points.

6:40 p.m.: In the third game of the season, Doc Rivers finally showed off one of his “transitional” starting lineups.

The Celtics started a static starting five in the first two games, but they replaced Brandon Bass with Jared Sullinger for game No. 3. Rivers and the rest of the Celtics pledged changes after Friday’s loss, but the removal of Bass from the lineup seems somewhat unfair. Bass was one of the few players to play reasonably well in the first two games.

Anyway, the projected starters appear below.

Celtics
Kevin Garnett
Jared Sullinger
Paul Pierce
Courtney Lee
Rajon Rondo

Wizards
Emeka Okafor
Trevor Booker
Trevor Ariza
Bradley Beal
A.J. Price

5:55 p.m.: The Wizards took an unusual approach to rebuilding their roster last offseason. Unlike most perennial losers, who stock up on unproven talent they hope can develop into a workable core, the Wizards accumulated consummate pros who are focused on hard work and defense.

The Wizards tried the other method. It did not work.

Now Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza are the veteran leaders of a squad that will lean heavily on John Wall and Nene. If only Wall and Nene were healthy, we might actually be able to judge whether Washington took the smart route.

Without their two best players, the Wizards were bullied by the Cavs in the season opener on Tuesday. Neither Okafor nor Ariza looked good, and rookie Bradley Beal looked hesitant. Jordan Crawford and Martell Webster proved that Washington has not completely rid itself of the free-shooting crew.

Beal promised to play more aggressively against the Celtics, telling The Washington Post’s Michael Lee that “I just kind of disappeared.” A big reason for that might have been the irresponsibly short leash given to Beal by coach Randy Wittman. After a turnover in the third quarter, Wittman yanked Beal. With a team that is trying to win now, that might be the right move. With a team going nowhere this season or next, the Wizards have to allow their young players to make mistakes.

Tip-off is in a little more than an hour.

8 a.m. ET: Whoever it was that showed up Friday at the TD Garden wearing the home uniforms, that team did not resemble the squad that the real Celtics insist they can be.

They are what their record says they are, however, and entering Saturday’s game in the nation’s capital, the Celtics were 0-2. In front of them was an underwhelming Wizards team dealing with injuries to its two best players, Nene and John Wall, that should be a walkover for last year’s Eastern Conference finalists. Nothing can be taken for granted this early in the season for a team that experienced as much roster turnover as the Celtics, though.

Jason Terry has vowed greater production from Boston’s bench, and coach Doc Rivers has asked his players to display a greater sense of urgency.

Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 7 p.m.