After rolling off a seven game winning streak, the Boston Celtics hit a wall last night, and that wall was the Washington Wizards. The Wizards controlled most of the action in their 109-95 victory over the Celtics, and became the only team in the NBA to beat Boston for the third time this season. After a dominating opening night performance in which the C’s downed the Wizards 103-83 back in early November, the Wizards have had a spell cast over their Eastern Conference foes that can not leave anyone in beantown feeling good about a possible playoff match up.
The Wizards came out runnin’ and gunnin’ early scoring 30 points in the first quarter. Six members of their lineup would score in double digits led by Antawn Jamison’s 27 point performance. One of his buckets was a high light reel dunk directly over Kevin Garnett on a baseline drive that brought the Washington crowd to their feet. Not too shabby for a 10-year NBA veteran.
“It’s just letting the young fellows know I still got it,” said Jamison with a laugh. “I joke with them all the time. For me, it was an aggressive move going to the basket, and I was able to find it.”
With the top seed and home court wrapped up throughout the playoffs, a fan might see the lopsided score and think the Celtics were resting starters and just didn’t put in the effort to win. Well, that wasn’t the case in this one, with the big three all playing at least 31 minutes a piece and still in the game late into the 4th quarter. Last night was just a prime example that the hungrier team will feast on the weaker prey and it looked like the Wizards hadn’t eaten in days.
“It says a lot to beat them three games to one throughout the regular season,” Jamison said. “I think if the match up was to occur as far as meeting them in the second round or whatever, it gives us the confidence to know that we can match up with them. We’re taking their best shot.”
Paul Pierce led the Celtics scoring 28 points on a 10-15 shooting performance from the floor and was 6-9 from behind the arc. Garnett played typical KG basketball in the post dropping 22 and grabbing 14 boards in 31 minutes. Ray Allen was the only other Celtics player in double figures dropping only 13 points on a poor 4-13 shooting display from the field. Coach Doc Rivers was disappointed with the loss but understands that the games result is not a setback by anyone’s standards.
“We didn’t play with much intensity, but, honestly, I understand that,” Rivers said. “This is the game I wanted to use minutes with the starters, and I probably will do it one more time. After that, we are just getting ready for the playoffs.”
The regular season wraps up mid next week and both the Celtics and Wizards are gearing up for the post season run. The Wizards are looking at their remaining games a little differently then most teams heading into the playoffs because for the majority of the season key members on the roster were injured. Gilbert Arenas missed 66 games due to knee surgery and last night played in only his third game back. He scored 13 points.
“A lot of teams are resting their starters because they’re in the playoffs,” Jamison said. “But for us, I think we had too much rest throughout the season. It’s time to get the rotations down, get the chemistry down.”
The Wizards are currently 5th in the Eastern Conference standings, two games behind Cleveland for the last home court spot in the first round of the playoffs. As they continue to gel, the Celtics wait patiently to find out who their first round opponent will be, which may not be determined until the very last game of the season. Currently the Atlanta Hawks are in the 8th spot, and the Celtics will see them on Saturday in Atlanta for the two team’s last regular season meeting.
When asked about a possible second round match up between the Wizards and Celtics and if the three consecutive losses to them will play into the series Paul Pierce said, “I don’t know—unless you let it get in your head, psychologically. I still feel that we’re the better team. Maybe we can see them in the playoffs, who knows, and go from there.”
First round playoff tickets are now available for the Boston Celtics!