- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 25, 2012

BOSTON — The Wizards have lost three straight games, the third coming in near-blowout fashion, 88-76, to the Boston Celtics on Sunday night at the TD Garden. The Wizards managed to close the gap enough to make the final score a bit more respectable, but this one wasn’t close.

Playing without Nene, who was a late scratch due to back spasms, the Wizards had trouble finding any offensive firepower from the opening tip, and put on a dismal first half performance, as the Celtics opened up a 25-point lead.

“They just started off with great defense,” John Wall said.

“We didn’t do a great job moving the ball as a team, we were taking bad shots and they executed. They were getting whatever they wanted offensively, and got a big lead.”

The Wizards scored a season-low 12 points in the first quarter, and had just 34 by the end of the first half. Despite being without Ray Allen, who sat out the game with a sore right ankle, the Celtics couldn’t have played much better.

They shot over 60 percent in the first half, highlighted by guard Avery Bradley’s career-high 23-point performance. Bradley got the start in place of Allen, but with the Wizards’ porous defense, Bradley went well beyond the four points per game he usually averages, with 19 of his total points coming in the first half.

“I could have scored those layups,” Wizards’ coach Randy Wittman said of Bradley’s easy shots.

“I am being serious. We didn’t have anybody guarding him. When I was a player, if you gave me four layups to start the game, I’d have a petty good groove on to make some jump shots.”

Unlike the Wizards’ last two outings, where strong performances through three quarters looked like potential wins, but turned into difficult, buzzer-beating losses, this one seemed over by the end of the first quarter.

“There was no fight in the first five minutes of that game. That was a layup drill with no defense. I don’t know why it happened. It was just disappointing to see that, but then I challenged them at halftime.”

To their credit, the Wizards did manage a third-quarter run, and actually closed the game to within eight points, but the Celtics didn’t waste much time opening up the lead back up, and giving the Wizards little hope, and little doubt, about the outcome.

The Celtics shot 48.6 percent for the game to the Wizards 34.5. It is the Wizards’ second lowest shooting percentage of the season, just slightly better than the 31.0 percent they shot against the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 11.

Jordan Crawford led the Wizards with 20 points on 8 of 18 from the floor, but was just 1 of 5 from three-point range. John Wall continues to struggle offensively, and scored just 12 points on 5 of 17 from the floor.

Wall did have one positive statistic – nine assists to three turnovers. Kevin Seraphin also played well in Nene’s absence, and scored a career-high 15 points on 6 of 15 from the floor.

“It doesn’t mean [anything] to me, because my team lost,” Seraphin said.

Jan Vesely, who has often looked completely lost on the floor, also scored a career-high 11 points of 5 of 6 from the floor.

The Wizards won’t have time to rest up from, or dwell on, this loss either – they will play their third game in three nights when they take on the Detroit Pistons on Monday night at Verizon Center.

• Carla Peay can be reached at cpeay@washingtontimes.com.

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