Give the 2013-14 Boston Celtics this: They're awfully entertaining.
Sure, there have been the occasional blowouts (at Houston, at Indiana) that have left Gerald Wallace ranting at times about the team's play, but even while laboring through some tough stretches, these scrappy Celtics have more often than not played extremely hard and hung around deep into games.
Entering Wednesday's visit to Washington, Boston had dropped three heartbreakers in a row by a total of 12 points. Playing without their starting backcourt of Rajon Rondo (precautionary day off on back-to-back) and Avery Bradley (sprained right ankle), Boston could have been forgiven if it struggled against a Wizards team trying for the fifth time this season to get over .500.
But a starting backcourt of undrafted rookie Phil Pressey (career-high 20 points, including five 3-pointers) and veteran Wallace (nine points, nine assists) joined forces with Jeff Green (season-high 39 points on 14-of-26 shooting with eight 3-pointers) to lift Boston to a thrilling 113-111 overtime triumph at Verizon Center.
There's a small population of Boston fans that likely watched the final moments of Wednesday's win and pounded their fists in anger after Wallace's driving layup with 2.5 seconds remaining proved to be the winner. The Celtics, those fans will lament, missed an opportunity to slip behind the Philadelphia 76ers (winners over the New York Knicks) for the fourth-worst record in the NBA.
Those fans missed another extremely entertaining and hungry effort, as well as one of Boston's better wins this season. Guys were diving on the floor, hustling for loose balls, and making big shots. A win like this can help players like Pressey and Green far more than another loss would aid Boston's draft chances.
A handful of takeaways from Wednesday's game:
IN THE ZONE: Playing in his old college gym with plenty of friendly Georgetown supporters on hand, Green found a zone that he's rarely visited this season. He knew it from the start (when he pulled up for a 27-foot triple a little more than a minute in). The Wizards were up three with 80 seconds to go when Green dribbled into a double-team on the left wing, then calmly put up a 27-foot fadeaway off one foot that dropped to tie the score and force overtime.
That's the Green many were hoping to see without an All-Star supporting cast around him. Green added 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 assist and 1 block in 46 minutes. He was a team-best plus-10. Coach Brad Stevens joked after the game that nobody was happier for five extra minutes of play than Green.
PHIL-ING UP THE STAT SHEET: Pressey has used a depleted backcourt and an increased opportunity to strut his stuff in recent games. Averaging 25.6 minutes per contest in his past five outings, he has posted 31 assists with only nine turnovers (five of which came in Wednesday's win) while showcasing his calming influence and quarterbacking skills. But the knock on Pressey remained his shooting ability. All the pint-sized point guard did against Washington was connect on 7-of-10 shots, including 5-of-6 beyond the arc, while scoring a career-high 20 points in 34 minutes, 31 seconds.
Going up against one of the toughest covers in the league (John Wall, who posted a triple-double) and battling foul trouble for much of the night, Pressey was his usual ball of energy on the court. He not only directed Boston's offense, he played inspired defense (forcing a jump ball against Wall on a breakaway, and winning the ensuing tip). A reminder that the Celtics have Pressey locked up for less than $1 million in each of the next two seasons.
SECRET-WEAPON WALLACE: Veteran Gerald Wallace had produced one basket in his first 40-plus minutes of game action Wednesday night, a fast-break layup that he couldn't have passed up if he wanted to. Taking the inbounds from Green with less than 10 seconds to play in overtime, it's fair to say everyone at Verizon Center figured the ball was going back to Boston's red-hot scorer. Instead, Wallace turned back the clock and kicked on the afterburners while attacking Martell Webster and muscling in the deciding layup with 2.5 seconds to go.
Wallace sure knows how to pick his spots. With Bradley expected to miss a couple of weeks with a sprained right ankle, Wallace will get first crack at those available minutes at shooting guard. Wallace might not shoot the ball a lot, but when he does, he makes the most of his opportunities. The only negative from Wednesday: He was a minus-8.
LOOSE BALLS: D-LEAGUERS IN FOCUS: Chris Johnson, one of Boston's two 10-day contracts who had a breakout night against Miami on Tuesday, came back with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting with four steals, two rebounds and an assist in nearly 30 minutes. Johnson's hustle and energy, especially on the defensive end, are making good things happen. ... Vander Blue, formally signed to the other 10-day deal Wednesday morning, drove to D.C. after spending his most recent D-League stint with the Delaware 87ers. Blue had a coast-to-coast layup (while drawing the and-1 foul) and Boston built as much as a 19-point first-half lead.