- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 8, 2006

The Washington Wizards wanted Paul Pierce to dribble to his left. Check.

They wanted to double team him. Check.

They wanted him to take an off-balance shot. Check.

“We did everything we were supposed to do,” Wizards forward Antawn Jamison said.

But Pierce did what he was supposed to — connecting on a 22-footer from the baseline as overtime expired to give the Boston Celtics a 116-115 victory over the Wizards last night at Verizon Center.

“We double teamed a terrific player, and we made it tough for him and he hits a shot fading away,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “That’s the NBA. You have to suck it up.”

The Wizards (30-29) squandered a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter, when they scored a season-low 14 points.

“The thing that bothers me is that it should have never got to that point,” Jamison said of overtime.

The Wizards don’t have time to lament the defeat. They play at Miami tonight — the Heat have won nine consecutive games. And they play host to Detroit on Friday — the Pistons are an NBA-best 48-11.

The three Celtics-Wizards games this season have been decided by a combined four points. On Jan. 25, Pierce missed a similar shot as the clock expired.

Pierce finished with 31 points on 8-for-20 shooting. Gilbert Arenas had a game-high 39 points on 11-for-26 shooting. Shooting over Pierce, Arenas’ 18-footer with 14.3 seconds left gave the Wizards a one-point lead.

Pierce, who hit a 3-pointer on Boston’s second-to-last possession, ran down the clock before being forced to his left by Caron Butler.

“I knew I wanted to take the shot regardless,” Pierce said. “I think I’m stronger moving to my left, and I have taken that shot a number of times.”

Said Wizards guard Antonio Daniels: “Paul Pierce hit a heckuva shot. He’s an All-Star player, and he showed why.”

Arenas showed why he is one of the league’s elite players in the second half. He had only 11 points in the first half as the Wizards fell behind 57-54. Boston rookie Ryan Gomes scored 21 of his career-high 27 points in the first half. His previous season high was 19 points.

But led by Arenas, the Wizards started the third quarter with a 17-8 run. Trailing 65-64, the Wizards scored three quick buckets — Daniels on a scoop-type layup, Arenas with a 3-pointer and Butler on a driving layup — to make it 71-65.

Washington’s lead was 90-80 after three quarters and swelled to 95-82 with 10:55 left after Jamison drove for a layup and hit a 3-pointer. The Wizards then hit a drought, not scoring again until Michael Ruffin’s dunk at the 5:23 mark.

Boston, meanwhile, used a 17-4 blitz to tie the score on Orien Greene’s 3-pointer with 3:15 left. During the comeback, the Celtics’ Al Jefferson beat Jamison with inside moves for two buckets.

“We had a couple turnovers and missed some shots and they hit some shots,” Daniels said. “They went to Al Jefferson four, five times in a row and made us pay.”

Pierce and Arenas both missed shots in the final 10 seconds of regulation.

Arenas scored the Wizards’ first seven points of overtime, and his 3-point play pushed Washington ahead 111-107. But the Wizards went three straight possessions without scoring. Two free throws apiece by Gomes and Pierce tied the score for the 16th time.

While Pierce and Arenas basically fought to a draw, Boston had a distinct advantage inside. In addition to Gomes, Jefferson scored 12 points.

Wizards center Brendan Haywood did not play at all in the second half and overtime. He was replaced by Ruffin.

“They had some matchups that were pretty good for them,” Jordan said. “They were big with their guards and small forward, but we had to punish them in the paint, and we didn’t take advantage of that.”

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