End of game, Celtics win 100-92: The sky is no longer falling in Boston. The Celtics, who began the season 0-3, are now back to .500 after winning three straight.
On the second night of a back-to-back, home-and-home set with the Wizards, the Celtics veterans found second life after halftime to hold off the surging Wizards. Paul Pierce scored a season-high 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting, including 4-for-9 on 3-pointers, and Ray Allen scored 27 points while hitting six of the seven deep balls he attempted. The Celtics shot 10-for-20 from downtown as a team.
Rajon Rondo delivered an uneven performance a game after posting his 14th career triple-double. He had 13 assists but turned the ball over seven times, tying the season high he set against the Heat.
A day after looking completely lost on both ends of the floor, JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche played the way the Wizards envision them playing on a nightly basis. McGee scored 17 points, missing just one shot of the nine he took, hauled in 14 rebounds and registered three blocked shots. Blatch overcame an inconsistent first half to finish with 28 points on 10-of-20 shooting, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots in 38:06. He also hit eight of 10 foul shots.
Washington's backcourt trio of John Wall, Nick Young and Jordan Crawford were 8-for-33 from the field.
With Jermaine O'Neal out with a sore right hamstring and Chris Wilcos still dealing with a sore shoulder, the Celtics bench got a huge boost from Brandon Bass. Bass had 14 points and five rebounds in 31:09. Greg Stiemsma, who started in place of O'Neal, gave the Celtics 21 exciting minutes by scoring 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting with seven rebounds and two blocked shots.
The Celtics get a needed day without a game on Tuesday before returning to the parquet Wednesday to take on the hapless Nets.
Fourth quarter, :30.7, Celtics 98-91: Did the forecast call for rain? If not, the arcing shot Pierce just buried to put a dagger in the Wizards may have pierced a rain cloud to cause some precipitation.
Pierce's shot pretty much assures the Celtics will win their third straight game.
Fourth quarter, :51.9, Celtics 95-91: Whether it's tired legs or just lackadaisical effort, the C's continually make it too easy for the Wizards to get back into the game. Blatche pounded home a dunk — his 27th and 28th points of the night — then a Rondo traveling violation gave the ball back to Wall, who easily slipped Rondo's defense for a foul line jumper.
Fourth quarter, 1:30, Celtics 95-87: Blatche has played an impressive second half and has 26 points, but his last three were of questionable origin.
Blatche seemed to lean into Bass on the perimeter and drew a three-shot foul on the Celtics forward. He hit all three to narrow the margin to 92-87.
The Celtics got a makeup call when the Wizards assumed possession on a Wall block of Rondo, but the refs halted a Wizards break to cal a Celtics 24-second violation.
Pierce and Allen teamed up to wipe out Blatche's questionable three-shot foul. Pierce picked off a pass, then found Allen for a corner 3 to put the difference back to eight points.
Fourth quarter, 4:30, Celtics 89-80: Blatche's and-one layup gave him 21 points and closed the deficit to four points, but then Rivers said, enough is enough. Pierce was subbed in to team with Garnett, Rondo, Allen and Bass and the C's got serious.
Allen hit an easy (for him) jumper curling off a Garnett screen, then received a pass from KG on the secondary break and drilled a 3 for a nine-point lead.
The Celtics have found their second wind. Allen has 24 points.
Fourth quarter, 6:36, Celtics 82-76: Youth only goes so far. The Wizards made a few plays that showed their inexperience while the Celtics executed some impressive plays down the stretch.
After a Blatche steal, Crawford took a terrible fallaway 20-footer, then made a bad foul. Rondo found Bass for a jumper for a three-point lead, and after Young hit a runner to pull within one, Daniels ran a perfect flex cut off a Rondo/Garnett pick and roll. Daniels' layup and foul shot gave the Celtics an 80-76 lead.
On Washington's next possession, Young shot a brick that caused a shot clock violation. A perfectly executed pick and pop with Allen and Bass led to a Bass bucket.
Fourth quarter, 8:39, Celtics 75-74: Blatche has been huge in the second half for the Wizards and he added two more jump shots as the Wizards are still a thorn in the C's side.
Daniels knocked down two free throws, though, and an Allen 3 gave the Celtics the lead. Rondo's active hands forced a Wall turnover, and the Celtics have to take control down the stretch to avoid becoming victims of the feared second-game-in-two-nights syndrome.
End third quarter, Wizards 70-69: At 34, Pierce has shook off the rust he showed in the first half and exploded in the third quarter. He has a team-high 18 points entering the fourth, but the bad news for the Celtics is that he's just about all they had going in the third.
McGee continued his strong play in the post and Blatche has managed to string together a few nice plays. Each has 14 points to give the Wizards a one-point lead.
Third quarter, 4:55, Celtics 63-62: Garnett managed to almost single-handedly give away the Celtics' lead after a Stiemsma jumper put them up 54-50.
Garnett committed consecutive turnovers, leading to a McGee layup and a Young dunk, the missed badly to lead to a Blatche go-ahead jumper on the baseline.
Losing the lead wasn't as scary as Rondo's hard fall after committing a charge on a fastbreak, however. As Rondo fell over Wall's body, Young jumped and landed on Rondo's wrist. The C's point guard got up wincing and holding his wrist.
Pierce followed his own miss to hit a jumper and give the Celtics back the lead, but the longer this stays close, you have to think it helps the younger Wizards.
Halftime, Wizards 48-47: About halfway through the second quarter, the Celtics' age started to show in the second game in as many nights.
Nick Young's first points of the game came on a jump shot and gave Washington a 46-44 lead. The Celtics looked slower and slower on their defensive rotations, opening up Lewis for a layup on Washington's second-to-last possession.
A Pierce 3 from Rondo made things look close just before halftime, but the Celtics definitely need to recharge because they're in for a track meet in the second half.
The Good: Greg Stiemsma played the greatest 14:01 of his career in the first half. He entered halftime with five points, five rebounds, two blocked shots and two assists. … When JaVale McGee finally gets everything figured out, he's going to be a good one. The Wizards center showed excellent touch and footwork in the post, scoring at will against Stiemsma with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting. He already has 10 rebounds and three blocks in 15:27.
The Bad: Pierce looks less than 100 percent for the second straight game. Never a burner in a footrace, he's looked a step slow on a couple of dribble drives. He is 4-for-11 with two turnovers and has been blocked in 19:36. … Nick Young and Jordan Crawford are supposed to be competing for a starting shooting guard spot, but is it OK if the Wizards just start four players? The two are 2-for-10, the second straight atrocious first half for the pair.
The So-so: Andray Blatche offsets positive plays with bonehead plays. He was 4-for-11 shooting in the first half, but those four shots were a mixture of pretty-looking jumpers and turnaround floaters. He has 12 points and seven rebounds in 18:49. … Rajon Rondo controlle the tempo as usual, but he was not as sharp as he was in the first five games. He posted two points and five assists with two turnovers in 18:56, missing four of the five shots he took. … A day after putting up 19 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, John Wall is a bit off. He missed four of his six shots and had three assists, but also two turnovers in 19:29.
Second quarter, 2:46, Wizards 42-42: OK, so Rondo can't shoot and doesn't play great defense on the ball, but small things separate him from the league's other elite point guards.
With Wal running full steam on a break, Rondo stepped up and braced himself for a charge to temporarily protect a one-point Celtics lead. It did not last, as the Celtics and Wizards went back and forth, with a Lewis 3 giving the Wizards the lead.
The Celtics put up a valiant attempt to retake the lead, missing two 3's by Allen and Pierce, but offensive rebounds by Stiemsma and Rondo gave them a third chance. Stiemsma was fouled and hit one of two free throws to tie the game.
Second quarter, 6:08, Celtics 37-34: Stiemsma isn't the only member of the Celtics' normal bench squad giving them good minutes.
Avery Bradley harassed Crawford and Wall throughout the quarter, causing Crawford to ask for a sub out. Stiemsma had difficulty establishing defensive position in the post, though, and McGee capitalized with two straight turnaround hook shots in the deep post.
On the bright side for Roger Mason Jr., he hit a shot, and this time it counts for him. Mason hit a jumper Friday but the points were credited to Lewis when it was found Mason was never placed on the Wizards' official roster.
Second quarter, 8:34, Celtics 32-27: There was a momentary glitch in the matrix with the Wizards taking the lead, so Pierce took care of that.
A baseline jump shot at the 10:38 mark tied the game at 27-27 and gave Pierce his first points of the game, and he didn't waste any time adding to it. On the next possession, KG hit a cutting Pierce for the go-ahead layup. After another defensive stop, Pierce hit a layup in traffic plus the ensuing and-one free throw to set the Celtics' lead back at five points.
End first quarter, Wizards 24-23: As soon as the Celtics started turning the ball over against this quick Wizards team, they were in trouble.
After taking care of the ball for more than seven minutes, the Celtics committed four costly turnovers. The last of those, by backup point guard Keyon Dooling, led to a foul on Wilcox that gave Crawford two free throws. Crawford hit both to give the Wizards their first lead since 2-0.
Stiemsma picking up two fouls in the first quarter underscores something Doc Rivers has been trying to say all season — Jermaine O'Neal's foul trouble is not O'Neal's fault. Rondo and Allen need to halt a dribble drive at some point or the Celtics' bigs are never going to shed the foul bug.
First quarter, 2:14, Celtics 23-19: The Wizards started to take Stiemsma's play personally and reminded the world why he was considered a D-League player entering the season.
McGee made a drop step in the post right around Stiemsma for a dunk, then Wall smoked Rondo and threw down a one-handed dunk on a helpless Stiemsma. Wall was given a technical for taunting Stiemsma, but that won't save Stiemsma any face.
At the 5:14 mark Stiemsma committed his second foul and had to exit. Chris Wilcox, who has missed three games with a shoulder injury, checked in.
The Celtics finally committed their first turnover of the game with 4:52 to go in the first. That cut the Celtics' lead to 18-15, but a quick flurry of Celtics activity built the lead back up. A defensive three-second violation by McGee gave Allen his fifth free throw of the game (he hit three of them), and a Rondo spin move in the post against Wall pushed the Celtics' lead to 21-15.
First quarter, 7:04, Celtics 16-10: Flip Saunders has had to deal with a lot of headaches with the Wizards, but for this night at least he can get an early rest.
Stiemsma has energized the Celtics and the TD Garden crowd, blocking two jump shots in the early going. The first set off Saunders.
Lewis received the ball on the left baseline and launched one of his catapult jumpers, but Stiemsma stuffed the shot before it left Lewis' hand. The two collided, and as they went down, Lewis looked incredulously at the referee.
Allen collected a behind-the-back pass at the other end to hit his first 3-pointer of the game, by which time Saunders was almost at center court. Saunders was given a double technical and tossed.
On the replay, it really did look like Stiemsma got all ball.
It didn't take Stiemsma long to get on the board. He missed a layup on his first touch but put back his own miss for his first points and tie the game at 2-2. After Allen's 3 and one of two technical free throws, Stiemsma assisted a hoop underneath by Garnett, then blocked a jump shot attempt by Blatche, who had already knocked down two jumpers in the early going.
7:10 p.m.: Jermaine O'Neal will not play Monday against the Wizards, which means Greg Stiemsma will get his first NBA start.
Stiemsma, a first-year player out of Wisconsin, is averaging 2.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. He also averages a team-high 3.3 blocks per game despite playing an average of only 16 minutes.
Stiemsma played a career-high 20:16 against the Hornets after not appearing in the Celtics' first two games.
O'Neal has a sore left hamstring.
6:47 p.m.: Although Wizards point guard John Wall would probably jump at the chance to play with his former Kentucky teammate, second-year forward DeMarcus Cousins is not coming to Washington in the near future, Michael Lee of the Washington Post reports.
Cousins, who coach Paul Westphal said was benched Sunday for his bad attitude and for requesting a trade, will not be moved by the Kings. A Wizards staffer even stopped Wall from answering a question about Cousins, according to Lee.
In a warped way, that's a shame, because Cousins would fit in well with this group of talented, yet flawed, players. The Cousins-less Wizards are expected to send out the same starting lineup Monday in Boston as they did Sunday, as are the host Celtics.
The Celtics will again monitor small forward Paul Pierce's minutes. Pierce showed no ill effects Friday in his return from a heel bruise, but he shot just 2-of-8 from the floor with three turnovers Sunday. Rajon Rondo more than made up for that by posting his 14th career triple-double and helping set up Kevin Garnett for a 24-point night.
Here are the projected starting lineups:
8 a.m.: After three tough losses, the Celtics have made it look easy the last two games by posting consecutive blowout wins.
That's what can happen when the opponents are the Pistons and Wizards, two teams that aren't expected to do much this season. The Celtics (2-3) will face a challenge Monday against the Wizards, (0-4), though: They have to beat a younger and more athletic team on consecutive nights.
Coming off Rajon Rondo's triple-double and Kevin Garnett's best game of the season, the Celtics will try to bury the Wizards again and pull their record to .500. Join us for live updates during the game, which is due to tip off at 7:30 p.m.
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