The Starting 5: Celtics vs. Wizards

February, 2, 2010
2/02/10
12:24
AM ET
A collection of news, notes, observations and analysis from afar after the Boston Celtics posted a 99-88 triumph over the Washington Wizards Monday night at the Verizon Center:

1. Sky's not falling for Celtics

While the Celtics certainly weren't pleased with their collective effort in dropping their three previous games to a triumvirate of the league's elite in the Magic, Hawks and Lakers, coach Doc Rivers said Boston wasn't quite ready to fold its hand on the 2009-10 season -- even as some prognosticators were writing them off.

So while some some have suggested that Kevin Garnett will never be the same player he was, and that Ray Allen was destined to be traded, the Celtics simply maintained their course and started their recovery process with a monster win in the nation's capital.

Rivers even mocked the panic a bit, noting that both the Orlando and Los Angeles games came down to the final possession, and had the Celtics' final shots fallen, Boston could just as easily have been 3-1 after this four-game stretch.

"But we're 1-3 and the sky is falling," said Rivers, shaking his head. "It really isn't.

"This was a good team win for us. A lot of guys did a lot of good things. Rasheed [Wallace] and Kevin did a terrific job. The second unit held their own, and I think they got us a lead when they came out [in the fourth quarter]. Tony [Allen]'s defense, Baby [Glen Davis] gave us energy in the second half -- this was a good one for us."

While the Celtics were confident going into Monday's game, a win didn't hurt their psyche.

“We just needed to get a win regardless of the past few games," said point guard Rajon Rondo. "We wanted to come out tonight and end the four games in five nights on a good note.”

Added Ray Allen: “When you lose a couple in a row, the next time you win is definitely a relief. It snowballs in both directions. It’s important that, when you lose, you stick together and get that ball rolling again.”

2. Pierce: 'I think I'll be all right'

Celtics captain Paul Pierce suffered a left foot injury when he got tangled with Washington's Caron Butler while diving for a loose ball in the first quarter. Pierce returned to the court in the second quarter, but was limited to 28 minutes overall and did not play in the fourth period. He finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds.

Pierce said after the game that he would get X-rays, but didn't think the injury was too severe.

“It rolled over when Caron landed on it," Pierce said of his left foot. "I think I have a mild foot sprain. I'll get some X-rays [Tuesday], but I think it's not going to be too bad. I would have known by now. I think I'll be all right."

Rivers said he simply played it safe with Pierce.

"I just didn't want to take a chance," said Rivers. "I shouldn't have played him in the second half. I think I messed that up. He wanted to go out and he wasn't playing bad, but I just didn't think he was moving well enough. Why take a chance?"

3. KG passes Bird on scoring list

While Garnett has rarely looked himself since returning to the lineup after missing 10 games with a hyperextended right knee, Monday's game should quiet some of the speculation that he's not the player he used to be.

Garnett connected on 8-of-9 field goal attempts for a team-high 19 points. In 32 minutes of action, he added six rebounds, three assists and a steal. More importantly, Garnett keyed the Celtics' defense, particularly late in the game when Washington registered just two field goals in the fourth quarter.

Garnett slipped past Celtics legend Larry Bird into 24th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list with 21,792 career points. Next in sight for Garnett: another former Celtic in Gary Payton, who is a mere 21 points ahead.

4. Opposing view: Tough bench, tough D

Washington coach Flip Saunders was particularly impressed by Boston's bench.

“The Celtics' bench was big in the fourth quarter. I think that, in the fourth, they got extremely aggressive and we missed a lot of shots around the basket. There is no question that [forward] Antawn [Jamison] was bothered around the basket. I think that a lot of the guys were frustrated, but especially Antawn. We played hard but we did not play as well as we needed to in the fourth.”

“Everyone on their bench played well -- Tony Allen, Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis -- they played big down the stretch. Those guys were huge for them. Those guys added freshness to the team.”

How did Washington's Nick Young sum up the Boston defense? The stuff of champions.

“It seemed that Boston picked it up defensively," he said. "I felt we had some good looks at the basket, but they just weren’t falling. It seems like a lot of the games have been like that this year. We had them on their toes, but once it got to the three-minute mark, they turned into the champion Boston Celtics."

Said Washington center Brendan Haywood: "Boston really clamped down during those last six minutes, which caused us not to get any real good looks at the basket. You have to give Boston a lot of credit. As a competitor you have to play through every play and you can never think that it’s over. I think whenever a team only scores 10 points, you have to credit your opponent for playing good defense, but is also shows that we have to do a better job of executing on the offensive end.”

Despite that praise, Haywood did take a bit of a jab at the Celtics and the referees.

"You're playing against the Boston Celtics, so you're not going to get a lot of calls," he said. "KG's going to set illegal screens; they're not going to be called. That's just part of the game. You're going to go to the basket, and if it's not basically just a straight-up WWF body slam, you're not getting the call."

5. Loose balls

Celtics second-year guard J.R. Giddens is set to undergo surgery Tuesday to repair a small tear in the meniscus in his left knee. He is expected to miss about a month after surgery ... Tony Allen on earning extended minutes in the fourth quarter in place of Pierce: “Coach put me out there to defend and make plays. I was fortunate enough to do that. Caron Butler got going. My role was to go out there and contain him because he’s a great player. I think I did a pretty good job of that and we were fortunate enough as a team to clamp down and we got the win.” Allen finished with 10 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a block.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
18.4 2.0 1.2 35.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.4
AssistsR. Rondo 10.7
StealsR. Rondo 1.7
BlocksJ. Sullinger 0.9