Saturday, November 3, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Celtics 89, Wizards 86
By Greg Payne
Rapid reaction following the Boston Celtics' 89-86 victory over the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center Saturday night.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 27 points on 10-of-22 shooting to go with seven rebounds, while Kevin Garnett chipped in 15 points and seven rebounds. Rajon Rondo added his usual double-double, scoring 12 points to go along with 12 assists and five rebounds. The Wizards were paced by two of their key reserves, with Jordan Crawford putting in 21 points and Kevin Seraphin scoring 19.
TURNING POINT: The Celtics got the start they wanted, sprinting out to a 17-2 lead seven minutes into the game, finishing the opening quarter with a commanding 26-12 lead. But Washington, led by Crawford and Seraphin, mounted a slow, steady comeback, getting to within two (69-67) with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Jeff Green and Pierce opened things back up for Boston, but Washington refused to fold, and a Seraphin jumper with 2:51 to play gave the Wizards their first lead. Pierce fired right back with a deep right-wing 3-pointer that ended up being the game's final bucket, as both teams squandered final-minute scoring opportunities before Jason Terry sealed things with two free throws with 1.2 seconds remaining.
BOLD PLAY OF THE GAME: Five minutes into the third frame, Garnett secured a rebound and launched a three-quarters-court, two-handed pass to a sprinting Brandon Bass, who made an impressive catch on the run, missed his initial layup bid but corralled the offensive board and slammed home a putback while drawing a foul.
PIERCE LEADS THE WAY: Paul Pierce went into Saturday's bout having averaged 17 points in his first two games to start the season and proceeded to unleash his strongest scoring effort yet. He scored in typical Pierce fashion, with a host of midrange jump shots and 3-pointers complementing steady drives to the rim. One attack of the basket included a nifty fake into the paint and an ensuing spin along the left baseline into the lane for a layup. Pierce knocked down four of his eight 3-point field goal attempts, with his final one serving as the go-ahead bucket for Boston after the Wizards had just secured their first lead of the ballgame.
RONDO MATCHES STOCKTON: Rondo reached double figures in assists for the 27th consecutive regular-season game, tying Utah Jazz great John Stockton for the fourth-longest streak in NBA history, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
SULLINGER STARTS: Jared Sullinger recorded the first start of his NBA career, contributing four points and seven rebounds over 30 minutes. Bass had started the Celtics' first two games of the season, but coach Doc Rivers noted throughout training camp that he would experiment with multiple starting lineups during the regular season, and this was the first example of that.
UNSUNG HERO: Jeff Green put in 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting in just 16 minutes of action. Green is clearly still carving out a niche with this Boston team but found himself open on a number of kickout opportunities and obliged by knocking down a handful of shots. He got a quick start with a strong right-baseline drive off an upfake late in the first quarter and added a slew of jump shots from there.
WHAT IT MEANS: It wasn't pretty, but the Celtics won't complain about picking up their much-needed first win of the young season. Compared to their first two outings, there was a noticeable improvement in their offensive execution, with veterans such as Pierce and Garnett shouldering the scoring load, which was needed given the growing pains this team is still fighting through. It's clear Rivers is still figuring out which lineups he likes best, but he saw signs of the dominant defense this team is capable of, particularly during the first quarter, when the Celtics held the Wizards to just 4-of-19 shooting (21.2 percent). Boston still needs more consistent scoring from its bench, as Terry once again struggled through a difficult shooting night (2-for-8, 8 points). But as this team continues to jell, it will be able to find ways of getting the likes of Terry and Green easier scoring opportunities. Boston will enjoy a day off Sunday and will likely resume practice early next week before a rematch with this same Wizards club Wednesday night at TD Garden.