- The Washington Times - Monday, March 14, 2005

BOSTON — Time off really didn’t help the Washington Wizards.

Playing their first game in five days, the Wizards blew a 10-point third-quarter lead last night, then watched the Boston Celtics score 37 points in the fourth quarter to beat them 105-101.

Boston, which has won seven of eight games since reacquiring Antoine Walker from the Atlanta Hawks, did what it had to do against the Wizards (33-27), who lost for the eighth time in 11 games.

The fourth quarter was a case study in dominance. The Boston subs, led by rookie Al Jefferson’s 10 points, scored more points (32) than the Wizards’ entire team. Boston scurried after all the loose balls and pounded away underneath, winning the fourth-quarter rebounding battle 17-5.

Boston (34-29) made 14 of 27 shots, or 51.9 percent, in the quarter. For the game, the Celtics hit 44.2 percent.

Nonetheless, the Wizards were pretty much in it all the way — even if they had the look of a beaten fighter trying to hang on.

The Celtics added the final crusher when reserve Ricky Davis converted a 3-point play with 21.1 seconds to play. After being fouled by Brendan Haywood (seven points, 12 rebounds), Davis broke the sixth tie of the fourth quarter and gave the Celtics a 102-101 lead.

Washington’s Larry Hughes (26 points, nine rebounds) then committed the Wizards’ 15th turnover, and another Boston sub, Tony Allen, made two free throws to give the Celtics a three-point lead.

Gary Payton provided the final margin when he hit one of two free throws with 9.3 seconds left. Paul Pierce led Boston with 20 points, and Raef LaFrentz added 19. Walker finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

With the defeat, the Wizards continued to struggle on the road. They have lost seven of their last eight road games.

The loss also demonstrated how tight the race is getting in the Eastern Conference. Forget that the Wizards went in with the fourth-best record in the East. What matters is they are in a battle with at least four other teams for the final playoff spots. Five Eastern Conference teams are separated by just three games.

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said his team’s confidence isn’t shaken even though 10 of the team’s remaining 22 games are on the road, where they are 11-18.

“Our team’s confidence is pretty good,” Jordan said. “We talk more on defense than ever before; we’re very active defensively. There was a lot of positives to come out of here. We just lost the game.”

Antawn Jamison, who saw his streak of 386 consecutive games played end against New York last week, returned to the starting lineup. However, the tendinitis in his right knee had him grimacing and limping noticeably, especially in the second half.

In 36 minutes, Jamison had just 14 points and two rebounds. His availability will be a game-time decision tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers at MCI Center.

Helping to make up some of the slack for Jamison was Jared Jeffries, who finished with 13 points and a season-high 16 rebounds.

Gilbert Arenas led the Wizards with six assists. However, he struggled to get his 25 points, going 7-for-22 from the floor, including 1-for-7 on 3-pointers.

The Wizards are 22-9 at home heading into tonight’s game against the Lakers. But seven of their next eight games will be on the road.

“We’re still positive being six games over .500,” Hughes said. “But right now we’re a step slow. I think the confidence is there, but I think we’re a little shaken.”

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