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Boston goes 17-for-17 FTs in fourth quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) -- After blowing a 16-point lead without Antoine
Walker, the Boston Celtics put on a balanced finishing act and sent
the Washington Wizards into soul-searching mode.

Not only did seven Celtics score in double figures, but all
seven scored in the final 5 minutes in a game-ending 21-12 run in
Tuesday night's 116-108 victory.

Paul Pierce scored 25 points, Raef LaFrentz had 21, and the
Celtics made all 17 of their free throws in the fourth quarter --
including 13 in a row after the Wizards took a one-point lead with
5:35 remaining. The Celtics had lost five of six and were playing
their second consecutive game without Walker, who has a deep knee
bruise, but the victory moved them 3 games ahead of idle
Philadelphia for first place in the Atlantic Division.

"When we had that spurt and won 10 out of 11, we were doing the
same thing we did today," said Gary Payton, who had 14 points and
11 assists. "Today we showed each other what we should do. We
should move the ball because a lot of us on this team can score and
do a lot of things. We've got to keep this up to keep winning
games."

Gilbert Arenas made 21 free throws on 25 attempts -- both career
highs -- and tied his career-high with 43 points for Washington.
Antawn Jamison, activated from the injured list earlier in the day,
returned after an 11-game absence due to a sore knee and scored 30
points -- including 16 straight Wizards points in the third quarter.

But a slow start and a weak finish sent the Wizards to their
second straight loss, costing them in their battle for the Eastern
Conference fourth seed and home-court advantage in the first round
of the playoffs. Washington hasn't made the playoffs since 1997,
and coach Eddie Jordan said the recent performances are indicative
of a "team not really knowing how to play at this time of year."

Some of his players agreed.

"We're on cruise control," Arenas said. "I don't know why,
but we need to go out there like we need to win some games.
Whatever it is, we're not doing it on purpose. It's just that we're
comfortable playing at home, and we know we can turn it on -- but
it's not the beginning of the season anymore. People are coming
after us. They're coming at us real hard. We've got to match their
energy."

Added Jamison: "I don't think we understand the importance of
having home-court advantage throughout the first round. We might
say it, but our actions are not there."

Boston coach Doc Rivers shook up his lineup, starting Kendrick
Perkins and rookie Delonte West in place of Mark Blount and Tony
Allen. The switch paid dividends immediately: Perkins and West
scored Boston's first six points for a 6-1 lead before Perkins sat
down with two quick fouls.

Perkins played only eight minutes because of foul trouble. West,
however, finished with 15 points in his fifth career start.
Meanwhile, LaFrentz made 8 of 13 shots after getting a lecture from
Payton about passing up open looks during Sunday's loss to
Philadelphia.

"Needless to say, when Gary speaks, everybody tends to
listen," LaFrentz said. "So shoot, they gave me the green light,
so I was going to gun it."

The Wizards opened the fourth quarter with a 14-4 run to take
their first lead of the game, 92-91, with 7:37 to play, but then
they went cold again, making just three field goals the rest of the
game. At the same time, Pierce, LaFrentz, West, Payton, Ricky Davis
(13), Al Jefferson (12) and Blount (10) added to their point totals
-- making it the eighth time this season Boston has had seven
players in double figures.

Game notes
Rivers said Walker could return for Saturday's game at New
Jersey. ... The Wizards had no scoring off the bench until Michael
Ruffin's dunk with 1:37 to play in the third quarter. Reserve Kwame
Brown heard a chorus of boos during a sequence in which he missed
two free throws, got called for defensive 3 seconds and fumbled a
sure layup out of bounds. Ruffin later left the game with a scratch
eyelid. ... Wizards guard Larry Hughes, nursing a sprained elbow,
made just 3 of 16 shots and scored nine points. ... The Wizards
failed again to get their 42nd win, which would clinch their first
winning season since 1997-98.