In their latest opportunity to stake claim to a winning record, the Washington Wizards appeared to be given a gift in a depleted Boston Celtics team that had lost 11 of its previous 12 games and arrived at Verizon Center without all-star point guard Rajon Rondo. Yet even that wasn’t enough to help inspire a complete effort from the Wizards, who fell behind by 19 points before deciding to compete.
With former Bullets legends Elvin Hayes, Bobby Dandridge and Bernard King in attendance, the Wizards again squandered an opportunity to go above .500 in January for the first time in six years, falling to Boston in overtime, 113-111.
John Wall recorded his second career triple-double — and first since his rookie season — and overcame a poor shooting night to finish with 28 points, a season-high 11 rebounds and 10 assists. But Wall missed a potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer, lowered his head and walked off the court. He has now played 225 games without having a winning record, third most by a No. 1 overall pick.
“It starts with me. Took too many shots,” said Wall, who missed 20 of his season-high 29 attempts from the floor. “I didn’t move the ball like we’re supposed to in the first half and only had [seven] assists at halftime and nine turnovers. That’s not the way to lead your team.”
When asked about his triple-double, Wall said, “That don’t mean nothing.”
If the Wizards are fortunate enough to make it to the playoffs for the first time in six years, or fail to get their desired position, they will look back with regret on nights like Wednesday. Once again, a chance for respectability awaited them and they greeted it with disdain.
This time, the anger, frustration and disappointment was palpable in the locker room. Not only because Wall missed an off-balance three-pointer that could’ve won the game as time expired, or Nene missed two jumpers above the foul line that could’ve won the game in regulation, or even that Bradley Beal was only allowed to play the final three seconds of overtime because he remains constrained by a 30-minute limit due to his right leg injury. The emotion Wednesday stemmed from the fact the Wizards realize they had no business being in that situation.
“You can’t screw with the basketball gods like that. If you don’t give them respect, that’s going to happen,” Coach Randy Wittman said.
Hyattsville native and former Georgetown star Jeff Green had his best game as a pro at Verizon Center, scoring a game-high 39 points by hitting an assortment of ridiculous shots, including a one-legged fadeaway three-pointer that tied the game late in regulation. A few moments later, with the game still tied, the Wizards were so focused on keeping Green from taking the last shot that Celtics forward Gerald Wallace easily drove down the lane for the game-winning layup with 2.5 seconds remaining.
Boston was without Rondo and his back-court mate Avery Bradley, who sprained his ankle the previous night in Miami. But that only meant that the Wizards had to face an odd lineup featuring many players in positions they hadn’t scouted. Undrafted rookie Phil Pressey surpassed his career high with eight points in the first quarter and finished with 20 points. Pressey also made 5 of 6 three-pointers after entering the game just 6 of 38.
“Our guys think that if certain players aren’t in the lineup they can play differently. These guys have been in the league,” an angry Wittman said. “Gerald Wallace has been in the league, Brandon Bass, he’s been to the Eastern Conference finals. Jeff Green is a player. All these guys have played in playoff games and we haven’t.”
The Wizards came back from an 18-point deficit when the teams met in Boston on Dec. 21, and Wednesday they again took a long time to finally wake up. They trailed 67-50 when Beal made a lazy pass to Trevor Ariza that was picked off by Wallace, who raced up the floor for a dunk.
Martell Webster helped the Wizards complete the rally by converting a four-point play that put his team ahead, 88-87, but the Celtics scored the next four points to regain control. Ariza buried a three-pointer from the right corner to put the Wizards up 99-96, but Green answered by hitting a fallaway three-pointer with two Wizards defenders hounding him.
“He was hot,” Ariza said of Green. “He just had one of those nights where everything was good for him. The basket was pretty big for him. He hit a lot of tough shots.”
All five starters reached double figures for the Wizards, who had a chance to finish off a homestand that included a wins over the two-time defending champion Heat and the Chicago Bulls, but will leave in dour spirits after losses to sub-.500 foes Detroit and Boston.
The Wizards had failed on four other attempts to get over .500, losing their season opener and when they had reached 9-9, 14-14 and 19-19. They will start a four-game West Coast trip Friday in Phoenix. They will also play Utah, Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers before returning home to play a difficult stretch vs. Oklahoma City, Portland and San Antonio.
“I don’t know. I guess we just got to come to the game and let the team punk you,” Marcin Gortat said after scoring 11 points with 13 rebounds. “It’s tough. Seriously, I don’t know what to tell. I don’t have any excuses anymore. I mean, we’re grown people and we let people come in here and do this stuff. I don’t know what to tell you.”