The Boston Celtics’ beatdown tour of the NBA had to end sometime. Last night, the Washington Wizards handed the league’s best team its second loss in three games.
The Wizards held the Celtics to their lowest point total of the season in an 85-78 win at Verizon Center, limiting Boston to just 13 fourth-quarter points.
Washington (19-16) ended Boston’s 10-game road winning streak. The Cleveland Cavaliers handed the Celtics (30-5) their last road loss Nov. 27 in overtime.
“We have been tested a lot this year and I think for the most part we’ve come through,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “We’ve got good leadership, good character, good pros on the team. There were some character issues, but on a night like this you have to put everything in the pot. There were a whole slew of things going on tonight.”
The Wizards were 27-for-30 from the free throw line and outrebounded the Celtics 49-30. In a win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night, the Wizards made 22 of 24 free throws.
Washington also downed the Celtics with their two best players — Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison — combining to shoot just 9-for-32, including going 0-for-9 from 3-point range.
But most impressive was that the Wizards turned the tables on the Celtics late in the game, doing to them what they have done to the rest of the league this season: shutting them down with defense.
In the fourth quarter, Washington held Boston to just 26.7 percent shooting. The Wizards came back from a 67-60 deficit early in the fourth, when it looked like the Celtics were going to close them out.
Washington went ahead to stay with 1:51 to play, when Antonio Daniels (nine points) put the Wizards ahead 75-74 with a 3-pointer. And they rebuffed the Celtics’ attempts to get back in the game by making eight out of their last nine free throws.
DeShawn Stevenson scored nine of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter, including hitting all three free throws after Paul Pierce (15 points) fouled him on a 3-point attempt. That gave the Wizards a 78-74 lead.
“In the fourth quarter we played defense. Our offense wasn’t there and we knocked down free throws. We did what vets do,” Stevenson said. “They’re a good team and they bring the best out of you when you play them.”
Stevenson and his teammates were so concentrated on the game that they didn’t hear the many fans rooting for the Celtics.
“I have to be honest, I didn’t even hear them, but somebody else said the same thing,” Stevenson said. “But you know, we’ve got to turn our fans into believers. The only way we are going to do that is to win games. It’s sad that it’s like that, but we’ll fight.”
While the hometown fans were at less than full volume, the Wizards’ overall effort wasn’t lacking at all. They won a slugfest, and they did it with many players making contributions.
Jamison notched his 23rd double-double of the season, six more than Boston’s Kevin Garnett. One night after he had a season-high 17 rebounds in Atlanta, Jamison had 16 rebounds to go with 10 points last night.
Butler also had a double-double with 16 points and 19 rebounds.
Third-year player Andray Blatche had a good game off the bench, finishing with nine points and seven rebounds.
In a weird scheduling quirk, the Wizards play the Celtics again tomorrow in Boston.
“It was a good, all-around effort. It shows maturity,” Jamison said. “We had a good performance from everybody in this locker room. I am ready for Monday.”
Last night at Verizon Center
SEEN AND HEARD
Wizards coach Eddie Jordan continues to be intrigued by Andray Blatche. The forward had 13 points, eight rebounds and tied a career high with five blocks against the Hawks on Friday night, prompting Wizards forward Antawn Jamison to declare that the “best all-around game” of Blatche’s professional career.
Jordan said the key to getting the most out of the team’s youngest player is keeping him focused.
“He was very alert and he did things correctly; he played hard,” Jordan said. “That’s Andray’s hurdle, he’s got to learn how to play hard on every play, every night. He has to learn that you have to be alert every possession. When he doesn’t do that his skills don’t come to the floor.”
BY THE NUMBERS
13 Fourth-quarter points for Boston, which led by five through three quarters.
— John N. Mitchell