By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 12, 2008
As if the Washington Wizards needed another reminder that this is definitely not last season, when the team overcame a rash of injuries to win 43 games and make the playoffs, it came in harsh fashion last night with a 122-88 loss to the defending champion Boston Celtics.
The Wizards beat the Celtics three times last season -- they were the only team to do so -- but those Wizards and the current version share little in common other than the absence of three-time all-star Gilbert Arenas.
While the Celtics won their 13th straight game and improved to 21-2 for the first time in the history of their franchise, the Wizards suffered their worst loss of the season and are still looking for their first winning streak.
Washington's 4-16 start matches the 1966-67 Baltimore Bullets for the worst in franchise history.
Caron Butler led the Wizards with 19 points, while Antawn Jamison and Juan Dixon each added 17. Boston placed seven players in double figures and shot 55.7 percent while finishing with a 41-26 rebounding edge.
"I think you saw the best team in the league," Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott said. "They really took it to us."
Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld altered the makeup of the team with Wednesday's trade that sent veteran point guard Antonio Daniels to New Orleans in exchange for a package that brought in guards Mike James (from New Orleans) and Javaris Crittenton (from Memphis).
The newest Wizards arrived yesterday morning and were able to suit up after the NBA cleared all the details of the trade about an hour and a half before tip-off. James entered at the start of the second quarter and played 10 minutes, but missed all six of his shot attempts and finished with one point and one assist.
Crittenton played the final six minutes, long after the Celtics had put the game away. The only statistic he recorded was four turnovers.
The Celtics used a 15-5 first-quarter run to blow the game open and went ahead 30-17 when Kendrick Perkins followed a Ray Allen three-pointer and a miss by Wizards guard Nick Young with an emphatic reverse dunk over JaVale McGee.
Tapscott called a timeout but the momentum was firmly in Boston's corner and the Wizards never really recovered.
The Boston lead reached 24 twice in the second quarter and again early in the third when the Wizards showed some life with an 8-0 burst that included three-pointers by Jamison and Dixon and a jumper by Butler.
The Wizards closed to 84-74 on a Butler jumper, but the Celtics finished the third quarter with a pair of Leon Powe free throws and a three-pointer by Eddie House to carry an 89-74 lead into the fourth.
When House made back-to-back three-pointers to give Boston a 101-77 lead early in the fourth, Wizards fans started heading for the exits.
"You dig yourself into a hole and they are champions for a reason," Tapscott said. "They closed us out."
The goal for the Wizards now will be to figure out what they have in their new players. The key figure in Wednesday's trade was the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Crittenton, who had been buried on the bench in Memphis after seeing limited action with the Lakers early last season.
Crittenton, who was taken with the 19th pick in the 2007 draft by the Lakers before being traded to Memphis, repeatedly used the word "excited" to express how he felt about the trade.
"I'm happy to be a part of this organization," Crittenton said. "They were in need of a guard and I think I can contribute and help this team right away. I'm going to get into the playbooks, get into the film room and try to come out and contribute."
Tapscott said he felt comfortable playing James early on last night because the veteran has some familiarity with the team's offense after playing in a similar system in New Orleans. He will use today's practice to start introducing Crittenton to some basic concepts.
"We obviously like versatility but somebody who can create a play for us, that would be terrific," Tapscott said. "Someone who can create offense and make some possessions easy rather than hard, that would be a welcome, welcome addition."