- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 14, 2004

For much of last night’s game at MCI Center, Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas and Boston’s Paul Pierce were in an offensive duel. But in the final four minutes, Arenas and the Wizards ran out of ammunition as the Celtics rallied for a 111-102 win before 14,789.

Pierce scored 26 of his game-high 37 points in the second half to help Boston send the Wizards to their sixth consecutive loss.

The Wizards led 102-96 with 3:46 left in the game, but the Celtics (30-38) closed on a 14-0 run. Pierce was a big part of it, getting 13 of Boston’s final 25 points and single-handedly outscoring the Wizards 13-12 in the last eight minutes.

“All nonplayoff teams we must [beat],” Pierce said. “The Washington Wizards are a team that mathematically is probably not out of it, but that’s a game we’ve got to have.”

In addition to his scoring, Pierce yanked down a game-high 12 rebounds and added four assists and three steals.

“Obviously, Paul Pierce had a great game and he is an All-Star,” Celtics coach John Carroll said. “Usually, when he gets 37 points or he gets 12 rebounds, we always are going to be in the game and have a chance to win.”

Knowing Pierce was going to be Boston’s go-to man down the stretch, Washington coach Eddie Jordan put 6-foot-6 guard Jerry Stackhouse on Pierce to slow down the Celtics’ star. Stackhouse, who was playing in only his second game since missing six with ankle and leg miseries, got torched by Boston’s franchise player.

“I thought the guy we had in there was good enough,” Jordan said. “Pierce is very good against a big three [small forward].”

Offensively, the Wizards (20-45) simply failed to execute late in the game. Stackhouse missed two open jumpers in the final two minutes and also missed a breakaway layup with the game tied 102-102.

“I came back and jumped on the seventh-leading scorer in the NBA, a guy that is getting the ball every time,” Stackhouse said. “That takes a toll on you, spinning and trying to guard guys like that.”

Arenas finished with a team-high 28 points, while Etan Thomas had a career-high 21 for the Wizards.

“We just didn’t make the winning plays down the stretch and they did,” Jordan said. “I thought we had good looks. We executed the right way very well and enough to get the open looks for the right people. There were a couple turnovers along the way, but we just don’t have enough [talent] right now.”

Both teams played on the road the night before, but the Wizards showed no jet lag in the first half with a sizzling shooting display, hitting 59.5 percent (22 of 37). It was the second-best shooting performance in a half this season by the Wizards, behind only a 62.9 percent first half against the Indiana Pacers on Jan.24.

Four Wizards scored in double figures in the first half alone, with Stackhouse and Arenas each getting 15. Shooting guard Juan Dixon had 10, and backup center Thomas contributed 10 points off the bench.

Stackhouse, who started for just the 14th time in an injury-plagued season, made six of 12 shots from the floor in the half. He finished with 19 points.

With so many hot hands, the Wizards led 38-28 early in the second quarter and 60-54 at halftime.

Thomas and forward Kwame Brown carried the team in the third quarter when the Wizards’ perimeter players cooled off. Thomas and Brown combined for 15 of Washington’s 23 points.

Brown finished with 13 points with 11 rebounds.

In the second half, the Wizards lost their shooting touch, making only 17 of 45 shots (37.8 percent). Stackhouse made only two of 10 shots in the half.

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