Final, Celtics 99-88: It won't go down as the prettiest game you'll ever see but it has to feel fantastic for the Celtics, who overcame an early nine-point deficit and slammed the door on the Wizards' attack in the fourth to snap a three-game slide.
Essentially, Boston did what most other teams have been doing to the Green of late.
The C's held Washington to two field goals and a grand total of 10 points in the fourth quarter. They finished shooting 54.8 percent from the floor, made 28-of-36 free throws and got six players into double figures.
It's win No. 30, finally, and it sends the Celtics into a three-game homestand on a positive note. Next up is Miami on Wednesday. The Heat are likely still smarting at the way their last matchup with Boston went (remember? Pierce to Rondo alley-oop?) and Boston has played poorly at home, so it could be a good one.
Fourth quarter, 1:04, Celtics 93-88: In case anyone is keeping track, the Wizards have a total of two baskets in the fourth quarter.
This is the kind of defense we expect to see from this Celtics bunch.
By the way, Rajon Rondo was just fouled on purpose. Hack-a-Rondo has begun. He missed both free throws.
Fourth quarter, 2:28, Celtics 91-86: Another great sequence for Tony Allen as he forces a turnover and then gets a hoop on the fast break to give Boston its largest lead since it was 20-15.
Allen plays such great defense and makes a handful of hustle plays every game that you can live with the occasional blunder when he is forced to handle the ball too much. He had 14 points and a pair of steals against Los Angeles and is now up to 10 points and five rebounds in this one.
Fourth quarter, 3:54, Celtics 87-84: I was just about to mention that all the starters were back when it was pointed out to me that Paul Pierce, who left late in the third, has yet to return.
It's Tony Allen's role for the rest of the game.
Fourth quarter, 4:50, Celtics 86-82: You gotta love seeing Rasheed Wallace getting points in the post. That is two short jumpers he has hit over Brendan Haywood this quarter.
Meanwhile the Wizards offense has disappeared.
Fourth quarter, 6:06, Celtics 84-82: We talked at length earlier about the Celtics getting to the line much less frequently than their opponents, but they are making plenty of appearances there in the fourth quarter.
Boston has taken the game's last six free throws. It has made just three, however.
Fourth quarter, 7:22, Celtics 84-82: Some nice hustle by Glen Davis keeps the Wizards from picking up another offensive board and leads to a fast break that results in two free throws by Tony Allen.
It gives Boston its largest lead since early in the second quarter.
Fourth quarter, 8:46, Celtics 81-80: Ray Allen, for all his struggles of late, comes up with a huge 3-pointer to give the Celtics their first lead since it was 28-27 with over nine minutes left in the second quarter.
Allen started slow but now leads the C's with 17 points.
Fourth quarter, 9:40, Wizards 78-76: It took a while for anyone to get anything here in the fourth but Tony Allen gets free underneath for a dunk and the C's are within a basket again.
End of third quarter, Wizards 78-74: The Celtics' starters flirt with tying or taking the lead a few times in the third, but after the bench comes in, the Wizards quickly push the lead up to eight.
Four straight Boston free throws cut that advantage in half but it will be a big four or five minutes to start the fourth with the benches opposing one another.
Caron Butler scores 12 points for the Wizards in the third.
By the way, if the Celtics lose, their lead in the Atlantic Division would be down to four games, and hard-charging Toronto's next four games are against Indiana, New Jersey, Sacramento and Philadelphia, the last three of those at home. It's not out of the realm of possibility for Boston to head into the All-Star break with a lead in the division of just a couple games.
Winning this fourth quarter would go a long way toward keeping the Raptors at bay.
Third quarter, 1:36, Wizards, 73-70: As Glen Davis checks in for the first time, we hear a heckler chanting "Baby" over and over. I guess you lie in the bed you made.
Third quarter, 2:43, Wizards 71-67: Kevin Garnett is 6-of-7 from the floor after drilling a jumper. While most people are waiting to see him throw down a dunk or swat an opponent's shot into the second row for verification that he is back to health, his shot is just as good an indicator.
When he looked a bit shy on his right leg earlier this season, Garnett turned it around in late November with a stretch that saw him almost never miss — inside or outside. After making 18-of-40 shots in his first four games back last month, he has hit 11-of-16 in the last two.
Third quarter, 4:10, Wizards 67-65: The Celtics' 14th turnover sees Tony Allen fire a pass roughly 45 feet too high for Paul Pierce, who turns and gives a "What the heck was that?!" look to Allen.
Third quarter, 6:23, Wizards 63-60: The C's have been the better team early in the third and have the ball with a chance to get within one point or tie it, but the key minutes in this game will come a little later on when the benches are emptied.
Washington's reserves outscored Boston's in the first half 23-6, and there are more and more moments when you realize that the C's bench has limited scoring options unless Eddie House and Rasheed Wallace are hot from the arc.
Third quarter, 6:40, Wizards 63-60: Building on a theme established early in the Celtics' current losing streak, the Wizards take the first five free throws of the second half.
A lot can play into why the Celtics' opponents have been taking so many more free throws (lack of aggression on offense, slow-footedness on defense), but the fact remains that it is hurting Boston in this slide.
Third quarter, 7:55, Wizards 61-58: Rajon Rondo is one of the few players who could just pull off the play he made right there, catching a pass with one hand while running toward the hoop and scoring in one motion without ever using the second hand.
Third quarter, 8:45, Wizards 59-56: The first three players in double figures are all Celtics, who continue to trail. Kind of an oddity.
Third quarter, 10:40, Wizards 55-50: Kendrick Perkins starts the scoring in the second half before Kevin Garnett gets whistled for a defensive three-second call, to which he loudly and clearly protests.
Halftime, Wizards 54-48: Perhaps one of the strangest scenes to end a half I've ever seen.
Paul Pierce and Caron Butler trip over each other (again) with 0.9 seconds left in the half jockeying for position on a relatively meaningless in-bounds pass. The two lie there in a spooning position for a few seconds before both limp off.
Anyway, given their tendency to shrink after halftime, the C's were in a danger zone there, down nine and looking a step slow.
But they have a 10-2 run a little before the break to establish something going into the break.
Interestingly enough, both teams are shooting 52.9 percent from the floor (18-of-34), but the Wizards have forced 10 Celtics turnovers and have already shot 12 more free throws than Boston.
Over their last three-plus games, the C's have now taken 37 fewer free throws than their opponents.
Second quarter, 2:56, Wizards 47-42: It seems so obvious that when the Celtics attack on the offensive end they have success, but the stretches when they stagnate are becoming so much more common.
Rajon Rondo does just that and finds Kendrick Perkins underneath for a basket and a foul.
Second quarter, 3:53, Wizards 47-38: Washington has yet to miss in eight attempts this quarter and has its largest lead again. The Wizards have been the quicker team up the court all night, a sure sign of who is more rested.
Second quarter, 5:52, Wizards, 40-36: The starters are trickling back in for both teams after the Wizards' bench outscored the Celtics' reserves 19-6.
Second quarter, 6:25, Wizards 40-36: I promised a Shelden Williams note for all of you fans of Candace Parker's husband and here it is.
Since Kevin Garnett returned, the role Williams once had has been filled in large part by Glen Davis, rendering Williams an afterthought. Yet the Duke product was one of the team's most consistent defensive rebounders and still ranks second to Kendrick Perkins in terms of boards per 48 minutes. The C's can use all the help they can get in that category.
Williams has not played in seven straight games. Wondering if he will ever see any more meaningful minutes.
Second quarter, 7:56, Wizards 35-30: The second unit looks lost for the Celtics. They have really been a Jekyll and Hyde bunch of late.
The worst play of this last swoon, however, was just served up by starter Ray Allen, who may have some issues with his confidence right now. Allen just laid a pass out for an easy steal by Andray Blatche.
Blatche will be at the line when we resume, with Paul Pierce back in the lineup.
Second quarter, 8:55, Wizards 31-28: Man, is Ray Allen off.
He just laid a brick on a jumper from about eight feet. We will take a closer look at his shooting numbers a little later on. They were pretty ugly for Allen in January.
Meanwhile the Wizards are on an 8-0 run and have the lead back.
Second quarter, 11:00, Celtics 28-23: Despite missing that layup at the end of the first quarter, Rasheed Wallace is having a great few minutes here.
He has four points and a steal in the first minute of the second quarter and had a nice block late in the first.
We just got word that Paul Pierce had his ankle wrapped and is preparing to return.
End of first quarter, Celtics 24-23: The Wizards close the first quarter on a 12-4 run, which included an offensive rebound and basket for Andray Blatche, who had a tremendous game against the Celtics back in December.
In a losing effort, Blatche came off the bench to post 17 points and five steals in 26 minutes.
The Celts led the first quarter by as many as nine points and had a great chance to take a three-point bulge into the second but Rasheed Wallace missed a layup on the back end of a nice pick-and-roll.
Boston was 8-of-18 in the quarter after opening 7-of-9.
First quarter, 1:42, Celtics 22-19: I was typing up a note on Shelden Williams of all things when Paul Pierce came up lame, sending a lump into the throats of Celtics fans everywhere. A few possessions earlier he also seemed to stop short and limp for a few steps.
Pierce was in a lot of pain after this one, which saw Caron Butler roll up on his ankle, but he is looking a bit more comfortable on the bench now.
First quarter, 2:48, Celtics 20-15: Some up-and-down action over the past couple of minutes, and you figure the Wizards would love to push the issue when they can.
Boston is playing its fourth game in five days, as we know.
First quarter, 4:02, Celtics 20-13: Coming off a terrible performance, at least offensively, on Sunday, Ray Allen has a bad turnover and now two fouls and is on the bench early in this one.
Allen has failed to reach double figures in points in five of his last eight games.
First quarter, 5:15 Celtics 18-11: Paul Pierce has had some monstrous first quarters of late and he's at it again.
He drains the C's first 3-pointer of the game (nearly everything is coming inside) and now has nine points, three rebounds and a steal.
First quarter, 7:08, Celtics 11-7: Some really excellent interior passing here early by the Celtics. Rajon Rondo is the latest recipient, with Kevin Garnett on the delivery.
The Celtics are on a 9-2 run and Paul Pierce will be at the line when play resumes.
First quarter, 8:15, Wizards 7-6: A good look from Kendrick Perkins to Kevin Garnett yields a dunk and then Garnett hits a jumper to give the Celtics a short-lived first lead.
First quarter, 11:15, Wizards 4-0: A freshly-shorn Mike Miller opens the game with a long jumper and a foul, then gets the offensive rebound on his own miss from the line.
Miller nearly had a triple-double Saturday against New York, so he is doing much better with the clean haircut.
First quarter, 11:55, 0-0: One thing to watch as we get underway here is the rebounding of the Wizards, who rank among the top teams in the league in that category. Brendan Haywood is third in the NBA with 4.2 offensive boards per game, an issue which has killed the C's at times this season.
7:03 p.m.: There have been so many questions asked about the end of Sunday's loss to Los Angeles (missed shots, the offensive foul call on Paul Pierce, Bryant's shot, the personnel on the Celtics' last possession and their decision to go for a 3-pointer) that we have completely forgotten that they did play some of their best basketball all season earlier in that game.
I know the season-long issue of late-game execution obviously remains an issue, but at the very least we know what this team can look like when all is going well. And remember, that was against the best team in the NBA.
It's hard to find reasons to be optimistic about the C's right now, but those are a few as we head into a game that should see some of those dominant stretches.
6:45 p.m.: We are about 20 minutes from the start of this one at the Verizon Center and starting lineups are in.
The Celtics go with their usual starting five, which is now 2-3 since Kevin Garnett returned from a long layoff. Garnett starts with Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins.
Washington, which is seeking its first three-game winning streak this season, starts Randy Foye and Mike Miller at the guards, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler at forward and Brendan Haywood underneath.
Back in a bit for some more pregame talk.
2:35 p.m.: For about 30 minutes of Sunday's game with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Celtics played like many thought they would entering the season. They were strong on defense, attacking on offense and riding the energy from a raucous crowd.
But as is often the case, Kobe Bryant had the last word, hitting a jumper with 7.3 seconds left to seal the C's latest late-game swoon.
By blowing an 11-point fourth quarter lead, Boston ran its losing streak to three and lost for the 11th time in 17 games overall. Coupled with Toronto's win later Sunday, Boston's lead in the Atlantic Division had shrunk to 4 1/2 games.
The straight talk after the game was about simply getting back to work as soon as possible, and the Celtics will have a chance to do just that when they visit Washington to complete a stretch of four games in five days.
We will be following the game right here as Boston tries for the fourth time to reach the 30-win mark.
The last time the C's lost four in a row was in January of 2009, a slide they followed up with 12 straight wins.
The Wizards have won two straight after Saturday's 106-96 victory over New York. Mike Miller flirted with a triple-double in his best game of the season, going for 25 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Rajon Rondo had 21 points and 11 assists in a 104-102 win over Washington at the Verizon Center back on Dec. 10. It was the Celtics' fourth straight win in the series.
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