Tuesday, January 15, 2008

BOSTON — Forty eight hours after winning their biggest game of the season, the Washington Wizards topped that, beating the best team in the league for the second time in as many games — this time on its homecourt.

The Wizards, four games above .500 for the first time this season, handed Boston an 88-83 loss and its first consecutive defeats of the season, outscoring the Celtics 25-6 in the final 6:22.

“We just dug down and relied on our defense,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “We pushed up and closed people out at the perimeter. Just the fact that we wanted to put our head down and close people out defensively, rebound and get after it was big. In the end, we didn’t rely on jump shots.”

Caron Butler led the Wizards (20-16) with 21 points — 11 of them in that crucial stretch in the fourth quarter. Antawn Jamison added 20 points and 10 rebounds for his 24th double-double.

After Washington’s win Saturday, Butler knew beating the Celtics (30-6) in front of a sold-out crowd (18,624) would be tough.

“We knew it was going to be a dogfight,” he said. “[Kevin Garnett] had the crowd pumped up when they got up on us. But we were like, ‘Man, there are still four minutes to go, and we can come back.’ It’s a big confidence booster.”

DeShawn Stevenson finished with 16 points (4-for-7 from 3-point range), and Brendan Haywood added 14 points and seven rebounds.

In the fourth quarter, Haywood’s defense was crucial against Garnett, who had 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists. But he shot just 1-for-6 in the final quarter.

“We didn’t hit shots when we needed to. It’s as simple as that,” Garnett said. “They got some stops.”

After a succession of key stops, Butler gave the Wizards their first lead of the second half when he converted a three-point play for an 82-81 advantage.

Paul Pierce (18 points) gave the Celtics the lead again at 83-82 after Butler sent him to the line with 25.9 seconds left.

After Washington used its final timeout, Butler beat Pierce off the dribble, extended and scored over the outstretched hands of a few Celtics players for an 84-83 lead.

“I had to get it,” Butler said.

After using its last timeout, Boston isolated Garnett against Haywood, but Haywood extended enough to change Garnett’s shot and force a miss. Butler chased down the loose ball, was fouled and made both free throws for an 86-83 lead with 8.3 seconds left.

Washington has won four of its last five games away from Verizon Center and has a winning road record (9-8) for the first time this season.

In their last three games, all victories, the Wizards have overcome fourth-quarter deficits.

“It just shows you what type of character this team has,” Jamison said. “We were down Saturday night, and we found a way to pull it out, and we were down tonight on the road, and we did the same thing. Winning on the road is something we haven’t really done a very good job at. But to beat these guys on back-to-back nights with the way they have been playing shows the type of resiliency this team has. We just keep getting better.”

Wizards report

Last night at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston


 Center Etan Thomas, who has missed the entire season after he had open heart surgery during training camp, was cleared to participate in low-level activities following a visit to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

 Thomas had surgery to replace a leaky aortic heart valve Oct. 11. The surgery was a success, and he is expected to return to playing full time. While a return for this season has not been ruled out, it is likely that Thomas, a six-year veteran, won’t come back until next season.

 Thus far, no timetable for the Thomas’ return has been set. Last season, he started 65 games, including 32 as a starter, and averaged 6.1 points and 5.8 rebounds.


37 Points scored by the Boston Celtics in the first half, the same number they scored in the second quarter of their opening night game against the Wizards.

John N. Mitchell

Today’s game


When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

TV/radio: CSN, AM-980

Probable starters: Wizards — F Caron Butler, F Antawn Jamison, C Brendan Haywood, G Antonio Daniels, G DeShawn Stevenson. Knicks — F Zach Randolph, F Quentin Richardson, C Eddy Curry, G Jamal Crawford, G Fred Jones.

Injuries: Wizards — C Etan Thomas (heart surgery), G Gilbert Arenas (knee). Knicks — none.

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