Game over, Celtics win 100-94: The Celtics are back to .500, but there will not be — or should not be — any celebration. They looked shoddy for most of the game, only discovering some of their winning pedigree when they absolutely needed it.
Kevin Garnett was the strongest player in white, scoring 20 points with 13 rebounds, and Rajon Rondo had 18 points and 14 boards. But once again the box score for individual players did not reflect the play on the court. The Celtics’ 20 turnovers and 4-for-13 shooting from downtown, as well as Chris Singleton’s stellar fourth quarter, let the Wizards stay within striking distance and force overtime.
A win is a win, but the Celtics still have issues to address.
Overtime, :13.9, Celtics 99-92: That was… interesting.
Following a Wizards turnover forced by the Celtics and the ensuing time out, Rondo had difficulty inbounding the ball. Rivers appeared to call a timeout before Rondo committed a five-second violation, but the referee did not recognize Rivers’ signal. The turnover ended up being all for naught when the Wizards missed two decent looks and Garnett drained two foul shots, but… still.
This game was ugly enough without the officials making it uglier.
Overtime, :37.7, Celtics 97-92: In the pivotal moments, the Celtics’ defense did show up. It took do-or-die situations in the fourth quarter and overtime to bring it out of them, but eventually it did happen.
Garnett and the C’s forced a stop that led to a rousing dunk by Bass leaking out on the break, bringing a roar from the crowd and potentially putting the punctuation on this game.
Overtime, 1:51, Celtics 95-92: The Celtics may have approached this game as one they could just show up and win, but at least they did not approach overtime in the same fashion.
Every member of the Celtics got involved somehow in the first three minutes of the extra session, with Bass chipping in a physical layup to give Boston a three-point cushion. Similar to Saturday’s ugly win, this one will not win the Celtics’ any admirers, but right now they are in the mode of needing to win any game, any how.
End of regulation, game tied 88-88: Rondo felt good about his jump shot with good reason, having hit a couple early in the game and a big one down the stretch. But it was hard to imagine the Celtics could not have gotten some sort of shot better than a deep jumper by Rondo out of a timeout.
Rondo’s 3-pointer predictably missed (finally, something that really did go as expected), and we are headed for overtime.
Singleton was massive in the fourth quarter. Playing the entire 12 minutes, Singleton scored 12 points and added four rebounds, two assists and two steals to enable Washington’s late push.
Fourth quarter, :09.4, game tied 88-88: Singleton came up big again for the Wizards. Nobody on the Celtics decided to cover Singleton, which was an odd choice. Singleton answered by barreling down the lane unmolested for a dunk.
Fourth quarter, :26.4, Celtics lead 88-86: In more news that was entirely expected, Rondo responded to two game-tying free throws by Singleton with a step-back jumper.
The Celtics managed to put themselves in position to win despite playing terribly in every facet for most of the game.
Fourth quarter, :53, Celtics lead 85-84: In an entirely expected turn of events, Kevin Seraphin was at the center of the action when it mattered. We all knew that would happen, right?
After he tried to wrap up Garnett to draw a jump ball, Seraphin was on the receiving end of a couple elbows from the fiery Celtics center. Garnett drew a deserved technical foul, giving Washington a potentially damaging extra point. But some stellar defense by Garnett and Pierce may have bailed out KG.
Pierce left his man on defense to go for the steal as Seraphin tried to back down Garnett from the top of the key. Pierce’s steal and the resulting foul by Seraphin gave Pierce two free throws. Pierce split the pair to give Boston the lead.
Fourth quarter, 2:54, game tied 80-80: The Celtics’ go-to players, both old and new, were inconsistent on some crucial possessions in a tight game.
After losing an 11-point lead, the Celtics had quality looks for Terry and Pierce, but both traditionally clutch players missed their shots. Terry helped get Boston to 80 points with an isolation three from the top of the key, but he could not find his stroke in transition a few moments later.
Pierce just had a tough time overall. His latest miss made him 2-for-10 from the field in the game.
Fourth quarter, 5:21, Celtics 77-73: Chris Singleton and Trevor Booker will not miss Garnett after this game.
Garnett got into it, both physically and verbally, with both youngsters. He finished an oop layup off a pick and roll with Rondo and was jawing about it as he jogged back up the floor. After failing to get a whistle on what appeared to be hard contact around his shoulders, Garnett laid a hard hip into Singleton as he sprinted back on defense.
Washington may not be a traditional rival of the Celtics (at least not as the Wizards), but in the last two games they have appeared worthy of the honor.
Fourth quarter, 6:58, Celtics 75-69: The Celtics might have finally found their backup center in Wilcox, provided he can stay healthy, but they still have the same old issues on the wings.
Terry and Green kept up their tendency to alternate positive plays with mostly negative ones. Terry made a midrange jumper to help the C’s preserve their lead, but he and Green made defensive errors that led to Washington buckets. Terry and Green are set to be part of Boston’s crunchtime lineup, so Rivers cannot afford to have those two players committing such egregious mental errors in the final quarter of a relatively close game.
End of third quarter, Celtics lead 66-58: Chris Wilcox had not made much of an impact coming into this game. He played scant minutes in the last two games and had a grand total of two points on his register. In his first three minutes against the Wizards, though, he sparked a run that helped Boston surge into the lead. How long that lead lasts is anybody’s guess, of course.
Wilcox drew a quick foul and knocked down both free throws, then used active hands to slap away a ball on defense before drawing an and-one finish on the break. The flurry of activity was impressive for a guy who is just a few months removed from heart surgery.
Third quarter, 2:56, game tied 56-56: The Wizards finally got their first free throw, but Bradley Beal’s freebie did not exactly set off a march to the foul line. After Beal’s and-one free throw with 7:19 left in the third quarter, the Wizards attempted exactly zero foul shots in the next four minutes.
The Celtics should be happy the Wizards have not been able to get to the line, because that was almost the only thing Boston’s defense had going for it.
Third quarter, 5:50, Wizards 51-50: Somewhere between Causeway Street and South Beach, the Celtics’ consistency is sitting idly, waiting to be rediscovered.
Since their season ended in last season’s Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics have been maddening to watch. Their inconsistency continued in the second half of this one, as they finally stormed ahead on a 3-pointer by Terry — only to lose the lead on the very next possession on a jumper by Ariza.
One of the greatest sins in today’s NBA is not covering the corner, and the Celtics have been repeat violators early this season. That will have to change if they plan to compete deep into May or even June.
Halftime, Wizards lead 42-37: How does a team hold its opponent to zero free throws yet still trail by five points at halftime? Allowing six 3-pointers (on 15 attempts) and committing 10 turnovers might have something to do with it.
The Celtics looked strong in stretches and horrible in others, allowing the Wizards to turn a five-point deficit after one quarter into an edge at halftime. Washington outscored the Celtics by 10 points in the second quarter thanks to good long-range shooting and Seraphin’s inside presence. The 6-foot-9 forward scored six of his 10 points in the second frame to help the Wizards pull ahead.
With a few exceptions, the Celtics have not looked exceptional. Garnett was in rare form, especially on a defensive possession late in the first half. Garnett got caught covering A.J. Price on a switch but did not fall for any of the point guard’s fakes. Garnett then dashed into the post to block Booker’s layup attempt. The effort drew a roar from the crowd, but that was one highlight in a sea of lowlights. Pierce had another rough offensive half in which he shot 1-for-5 from the field. Rondo got hot early and hit four of his first six shots for eight points and also added five assists. The Celtics’ best game plan in the second half might be to let Rondo go to work against an inferior opponent in Price.
Second quarter, 6:08, game tied 28-28: The box score does not care how the points are scored or how the players look scoring those points. All that matters is that the ball goes in the hoop. It does not matter if it looks ugly.
The Wizards tried to make it look as ugly as possible, but that was irrelevant. A botched alley-oop attempt from Jannero Pargo to Beal turned into a pass back from Beal to Pargo for the game-tying 3-pointer. It was a circus-like play that nonetheless continued the Wizards’ tendency to trouble to Celtics.
Kevin Seraphin also proved to be a handful for Boston. The young big man had six points on 3-for-6 shooting and was only going to get better looks once Garnett exited the game for one of his usual rests.
Second quarter, 9:18, Celtics 25-20: Some of the Celtics’ early-season issues can be blamed on a lack of chemistry with the newcomers, but some problems can be explained away much more easily.
The Celtics employed a lineup of Garnett, Bass, Green, Terry and Barbosa to begin the second quarter. Three out of those five have reputations as below-average defenders, while Green is considered a more or less average defender, although both Green and Bass have vastly improved in recent years. Lineups like those could explain some of the Celtics’ defensive deficiencies, but as Rivers has noted, those players have to play at some point and they have to learn how to play through some of their weaknesses.
End of first quarter, Celtics lead 21-16: One thing that cannot be denied about the Wizards is that they have oodles of athleticism.
JanVesely, a 6-foot-11 swing-forward out of the Czech Republic, is the latest Washington big guy with loads of hops. He flashed those ups with a putback dunk, then muscled with Brandon Bass defensively to force Bass into an offensive foul.
The Wizards still lack discipline, but if the Celtics are careless — as they were for more than 2 1/2 quarters in the last game — then the Wizards’ pure talent can make any game interesting.
First quarter, 2:53, Celtics 15-14: In addition to repeating their underwhelming play after a hot start on Saturday, the Celtics were repeating a troublesome habit from last season.
When Garnett left the court last year, the Celtics dropped off considerably at both ends of the court. With Garnett off the court in this game, Boston watched its lead shrink to one point and needed to talk it over again.
Fast starts are good for the Celtics, but only if they can maintain those starts for more than a few minutes.
First quarter, 5:26, Celtics 11-7: The Wizards have almost been begging Bradley Beal to come out of his shell. He scored 10 total points in the first two games while taking only 13 shots. The Wizards are counting on Beal to combine with point guard John Wall, who is sidelined with a strained foot, to create a star backcourt tandem.
Beal showed some aggression early against the Celtics, taking four shots in the first six minutes and hitting a 3-pointer. Washington’s five straight points cut the deficit to four points, prompting a timeout by Rivers to remind his team that the Wizards wiped out a huge deficit rather quickly just four days ago.
First quarter, 8:31, Celtics 11-2: Where have we seen this before? For the second straight game, the Celtics hopped out to an early lead over the Wizards, this time powered by Pierce’s five points and Garnett’s four boards.
Whether the Celtics’ intensity lasts this time remains to be seen.
7:10 p.m.: Jared Sullinger will be back in the starting lineup, which makes sense. Celtics coach Doc Rivers has indicated he would set the starting lineup based on matchups, and since Sullinger started Saturday in Washington because Rivers liked the matchup, it figures that Rivers would start Sullinger on Wednesday against the very same team.
Sullinger seemed remarkably unimpressed with his impending second start. That could explain why the rookie has so quickly become a favorite of his coach and veteran teammates. Unlike many young players, the 20-year-old forward is not intimidated by the speed and pressure of the NBA game.
The Celtics hope for a similar result as Saturday — that is, a win — to give them their first home win and to even their record at 2-2.
The projected starters appear below.
4 p.m. ET: Already, the Celtics are thinking about getting their record back to .500.
It might seem a little early in the season to focus on something that will not matter for another few months, but the Celtics cannot afford to slip farther back in the season’s opening month. The Knicks have looked like a legitimate contender for the Atlantic Division crown (at least so far), and every game the Celtics fall back is another game they must make back later on.
Wednesday’s opponent should be easy pickings, but the Wizards overcame an atrocious first quarter on Saturday to make the C’s sweat in crunch time. Washington looks to complete the job this time.
Join us for updates and analysis from the TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m.