- The Washington Times - Monday, January 14, 2008

Players and coaches like to lump all 82 regular-season games into just that, games.

But the Washington Wizards, who will get their second look at the Boston Celtics in the span of 48 hours tonight in Boston, know that is not true.

After they held the team with the league’s best record (30-5) to a season-low 78 points, after they played better fourth-quarter defense than the league’s best defensive team and after they sank clutch free throws, they know the Celtics and their raucous fans anxiously await them at TD Banknorth Garden.

“Yeah, they are going to be super amped up,” Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson said Saturday after the Wizards ended Boston’s 10-game road winning streak. “You just have to be smart, get a lot of rest in Boston and we have to come with it. Nobody likes losing, especially if you are a winning team. So you know they are going to come with it.”

That’s exactly what the Wizards did in their 85-78 victory Saturday. Their stifling defensive play negated their 36.8 percent shooting.

What a difference a few months can make. When the teams met in Boston back on Nov. 2, the Wizards absorbed a 103-83 loss. Along the way they set an NBA record for 3-point shooting futility, missing all 16 of their attempts.

In winning for the fourth time in five games Saturday, the Wizards (19-16) surmounted a fourth-quarter deficit with a 15-4 run.

None of that, however, inflated any of the Wizards’ egos.

“We have to look at this as it’s just one game, the 35th game of 82,” guard Antonio Daniels said. “It’s very good to get wins like we have lately, and they give you a lot of confidence. They worked to build your confidence. But you put that behind you, and you move on to the next game. We are heading there, and we know we know it’s going to be a huge challenge. Look at their record. That’s a great team, and we have to be ready to play.”

The Wizards also overcame a fourth-quarter deficit in their previous game at Atlanta and won it in overtime. Often when a team plays a grueling first game in a back-to-back it has nothing left for its second contest.

That was not the case for the Wizards on Saturday, and it could be seen as a sign of the team’s progression.

“It’s maturity,” said Antawn Jamison, who leads all Eastern Conference forwards in double-doubles. “We found a way to get it done [Friday at Atlanta]. To play focused against the best team in the league says a lot about the character of our team. A lot of teams wouldn’t believe that they have a chance from the get go, but we play well when our backs are against the wall. We had a good performance from everybody in the locker room [Saturday]. I am ready for [tonight].”

Today’s game


When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: TD Banknorth Garden, Boston

TV/radio: CSN, AM-980

Probable starters: Celtics — F Kevin Garnett, F Paul Pierce, C Kendrick Perkins, G Ray Allen, G Rajon Rondo. Wizards — F Antawn Jamison, F Caron Butler, C Brendan Haywood, G DeShawn Stevenson, G Antonio Daniels.

Injuries: Celtics — G Ray Allen (pinched nerve), F Glen Davis (knee). Wizards — C Etan Thomas (heart surgery), G Gilbert Arenas (knee).

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