WASHINGTON | With the shot clock running down in the game’s final minute, John Wall banked in a 3-pointer that quieted much of the crowd and gave his team the lead for good.
Finally, a road win for the Washington Wizards?
Well, no. But close.
In front of a sold-out arena wearing more green than blue, the Wizards rallied to beat the Boston Celtics 85-83 Saturday night, overcoming a big early hole one night after Wall had openly challenged his teammates for their lack of heart and fight.
With help from a D-Leaguer who arrived three hours before tip-off and made his NBA debut — and assistance from what several Celtics called the “basketball gods” — Washington snapped Boston’s five-game winning streak and provided some momentum that just might help the Wizards end their 0-20 road start when they visit New York on Monday.
“I think tonight you should give us a road game because there were more Boston people here than Washington,” Washington coach Flip Saunders deadpanned. “So we’re 1-20.”
Wall had 16 points, six rebounds and four assists for the Wizards, who improved to 13-9 at home. His fast-break layup with 2:35 to play gave Washington its first lead, and after the Celtics tied it, Wall made his team’s first and only 3-pointer of the game to put Washington ahead 84-81 with 58 seconds remaining.
And, no, he didn’t call the bank.
“I knew it was going to hit backboard, but I thought it was going to be a hard brick,” Wall said. “It could’ve broken the backboard. Luckily, it went in.”
The shot was probably what Boston deserved after it blew a 16-point, first-quarter lead. The Celtics shot 68 percent in the first quarter but 33 percent for the rest of the game. They went especially cold in the fourth quarter, shooting 5 for 23 and scoring their lowest point total (11) for any quarter this season. The last miss came when Paul Pierce misfired on a potential game-winning 18-footer in the final seconds.
Rashard Lewis had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and JaVale McGee added 16 points for the Wizards. Mustafa Shakur, who signed a 10-day contract from the D-League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers earlier in the day, scored only five points but was an essential spark plug in the first half after Wall had to sit with two fouls.
And, for a change, all the Wizards showed resilience after the Celtics took a 35-20 lead after the first quarter. Washington had pulled within 10 by halftime. Then the same team that Wall claimed had “no heart” and “no fight” in the third quarter of an 18-point loss to Phoenix on Friday showed plenty of spunk and spirit in the same period against the Celtics. The Wizards started taking the ball to the paint and drawing fouls, and the deficit was only two points headed into the fourth.
“We just came out with more energy,” Wall said. “Everybody in the locker room was talking about it. We got out there and went through the layup lines really hard and got a sweat and that’s what we need to do. Most of the time we go out there for the third quarter, everybody’s just walking around lackadaisical like it don’t mean nothing. That’s when the game is won, in the third quarter.”
Kevin Garnett scored 17 points for the Celtics, Allen had 16 points, and Rajon Rondo had 13 points and nine assists. The Celtics played without Shaquille O’Neal, who didn’t make the trip because of a sore right hip, but that was no excuse for not putting away the Wizards early.