“I think that lit a fire under the team,” Lewis said afterward. “The guy landed on top of me, and it was clearly a foul. [Saunders] stood up for his players. Even though he was in the locker room, we stood up for him, as well.”
But an inspired effort — summarized by Blatche playing through severe pain in his left foot throughout the second half — was not enough to overcome a determined, championship-tested Celtics team that held the Wizards at bay and made huge shots down the stretch, as Washington lost, 100-92.
“That’s how we have to play every game. For us to be successful, we’ve got to compete like that,” Blatche said after he scored a season-high 28 points with nine rebounds. “We should just build off it, and know that’s what it takes for us and it’ll carry over to games. If we played like this at the beginning of the season, everything about our record would be different.”
The Wizards are off to an 0-5 start for the first time since the 2008-09 season, but they were encouraged by a performance in which they were engaged from start to finish and never fell behind by double digits. They continued to push the tempo, force turnovers and take advantage of their superior speed and athleticism. It wasn’t enough to compensate for the Celtics’ savvy and ability to perform under pressure.
“It’s no fun being 0-5, we also have to look at it another way,” said Wizards assistant coach Randy Wittman, who filled in for Saunders. “It was the hardest we’ve played, as well as we’ve played together. Right now, with a team like this, you try to teach them how to play and how to win, you have to have steps like this. Did we get the win? No. But we played them down to the wire. I thought the effort for 48 minutes was as good as we could ask for.”
With 10:20 left in the first quarter, Lewis missed a baseline jumper and Saunders immediately shouted at Roe, asking how he didn’t call a foul on the play. Saunders thought that Lewis was fouled twice — first when Stiemsma appeared to hit Lewis’s elbow on the shot, and then when he toppled over him.
Ray Allen buried a three-pointer on the other end, but Saunders wasn’t done. After Roe gave him a technical, Saunders ran onto the court to chase down Roe, then grabbed his left arm, seeking an explanation for the non-call and the technical.
“I didn’t know I was coaching until about halftime, it happened so fast,” Wittman said with a laugh.