But while hosting the defending champions Thursday, the Wizards were reminded that this isn’t last year, and they suffered a 122-88 loss - their most lopsided of the season.
The Celtics extended their winning streak to 13 games and improved to an NBA-best 21-2, the best start in the history of the storied franchise.
The Wizards (4-16) on Wednesday swung a three-team trade in attempt to improve scoring output from the backcourt, swapping offensively challenged point guard Antonio Daniels for New Orleans’ Mike James and a draft pick for Memphis’ Javaris Crittenton. Both were in uniform Thursday night but saw limited action because they only had time for a 15-minute crash course in the Wizards’ system.
Washington’s backcourt scoring futility was evident during the thrashing, however. Juan Dixon, who started at point guard and scored 17 points, was the only guard to score more than four. Fellow starter DeShawn Stevenson went scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting, and backup Nick Young mustered just four points.
Seven Boston players, led by Ray Allen and Paul Pierce’s 22 points apiece, scored in double digits. The Celtics owned significant edges in rebounding (41-26), assists (31-16), points in the paint (44-34) and steals (15-8). Washington’s 22 turnovers led to 32 Boston points.
“You dig yourself into a hole - they’re champions for a reason,” coach Ed Tapscott said. “They close you out. We made one little run, cut it down to 10 and they said, ‘OK, [Kevin Garnett] get out there, Paul get back out there and close this out,’ and [coach] Doc [Rivers] was able to give them the rest of the night off.”
Caron Butler led Washington with 19 points, Antawn Jamison scored 17 and JaVale McGee added 11. But no Wizards player other than Dixon reached double digits.
It was a familiar refrain for the Wizards: decent start followed by a first-half collapse, a frenetic rally that didn’t quite do the job and then another game-sealing fizzle.
The Wizards led 10-8 four minutes into the game. Then the Celtics went on a 22-7 run that gave them a 30-17 advantage with 2:50 left in the first. Boston extended its lead to 36-21 heading into the second quarter and to 63-39 at halftime.
Then came the Wizards’ customary comeback. Washington went on a 21-13 run in a 6 1/2-minute span late in the third to cut Boston’s lead to 84-74.
But that was the extent of it. Leon Powe knocked down a pair of free throws to halt the Wizards’ run, and then Eddie House drilled a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left in the third quarter, extending the Boston lead to 15 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Celtics opened the fourth with a 12-3 run to regain their 20-point lead and then inserted their reserves.
“Once again, we’re playing from behind,” Dixon said. “We gave them good effort in the second half, but we were too far behind. We’re sick of it. We’ve got to start taking things personal, man. We step out on that court, those guys, two minutes left in the game and they’re still attacking. We have to have that same mentality. If we want to get back in this playoff race, we have to do things different.”
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