Despite trailing by 21 entering the final frame, Boston rallied within six late thanks to an offensive spark by two players that previously could barely get off the bench.
Nate Robinson erupted for a trio of 3-pointers over a 17-second span while scoring 13 points over 3 minutes, 28 seconds of action in the fourth quarter, while Marquis Daniels chipped in 8 points over that same span as the Celtics closed to within two possessions before an ill-advised foul helped Washington hang on for the win.
"Well, it wasn’t a surprise, I mean it’s their job -- it’s what they should do," Rivers said of the spark provided by Daniels and Robinson. "I was more surprised that they could be that effective after sitting that long and then come in and make shots. That’s always nice to see."
Robinson capped his 3-point barrage by banking in a trifecta in with 50.4 seconds to go and trimming Washington's lead to 97-91. But he then fouled Andray Blatche and the Wizards made enough freebies to seal the victory.
"I thought with that last group in, they just played harder," said Rivers. "You know, honestly, they had livelier legs. We shouldn’t have fouled. We didn’t want to foul... We always try to get the eight-second count first, but that’s something that Nate has never worked on because we haven’t worked on that with him. It’s been with the other guys, and he didn’t know that. So we’d prefer, in those situations, six-point game, try to get an eight-second count. And even in that case you didn’t have to foul. You could play the defense out. But, listen, they were going so hard, I didn’t care."
While Robinson and Daniels have fallen from Rivers' playoff rotation unveiled in Sunday's win over the Cavaliers, he suggested that Robinson will win Boston a playoff game.
"I think Nate can just wake up and make shots -- that’s who he is," said Rivers. "Like I told you guys last week, Nate is not in our rotation right now, but he’ll win a playoff game for us. There will be a game where we are flat and we are going to need somebody to come in and make something happen. And Nate will do that. I told him that [Thursday], that there will be a game where he’s going to win this -- he’s going to win us a playoff game.
"[With] Marquis, it’ll depend on how the guys are playing and how he’s working and practicing and everything else. But Nate’s more of an X-factor offensively.”
Doc takes blame, players suggest otherwise
Rivers tried to deflect blame for Friday's lopsided loss by suggesting his lack of scheduling a morning shootaround prevented his team from establishing an offensive rhythm.
Trouble with that logic is that Boston's longstanding pattern is to skip practice the day after a back-to-back (like the one it played earlier this week on the road against New York and Toronto), and simply hold a pregame walkthrough before the next contest.
“No, I don’t think that was the reason, I just think he’s trying to put it on his shoulders," admitted captain Paul Pierce. "It really comes from the players. When we go out there and put that type of effort, I don’t think we really played with any toughness against this Washington Wizards team that has been struggling all year long. There’s really no excuse for it, I just think when you say playing with toughness, a lot of things come along with that -- loose balls, having energy, a sense of urgency. All those little things come into play when I say we didn’t play with any toughness and that’s what it was tonight, we just got an old-fashioned butt whooping.”
Echoed Ray Allen: "No, Doc is going to look at himself first and figure our what he could do better, but as a team we have to take responsibility as well. You know, Doc can’t get out there on the floor. It’s whoever is out there."
Loose balls: Ray keeps faith, Blatche keeps quiet, Rondo's award
* Ray Allen said it wasn't for a lack of trying that Boston generated only 14 second-quarter points.
“I felt like we had good shots," said Allen. "Guys had great shots. We got the free-throw line, [but] missed free throws. We have faith, and I have faith in Rasheed [Wallace] on the free-throw line. I have faith in him on the post. Kevin [Garnett] had a lot of mid-range shots. I missed a couple of easy shots. We have faith in [those shots].”
* Wizards forward Andray Blatche might have aided Boston in a comeback the last time the two teams met in Boston by jawing at Kevin Garnett. This time around Blatche kept quiet and Washington hung on thanks to his efforts.
Blatche connected on 12-of-23 attempts for 31 points, while Boston's Big Three combined for 11-of-35 shooting for 27 points.
“The No. 1 thing is I have a lot of respect for my coach [Flip Saunders]," said Blatche. "Last time he said, 'Just don’t say nothing.' So this time I just didn’t say nothing at all. I have respect for my coach.”
And when Garnett jawed at him, Blatche said he kept quiet.
"My coach said don’t say nothing, just play your game, let your game talk, and that’s what I tried to do."
* Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo received the team's annual Red Auerbach Award before Friday's game. Click HERE for more details on the pregame ceremony that featured Boston legend Bob Cousy handing out this year's hardware.