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Celtics Take Out Frustrations From Rough Trip on Wizards

Boston Celtics guard Paul Pierce, left, drives to the basket against Washington Wizards forward Antawn Jamison (4) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Friday, Jan. 2, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Boston Celtics guard Paul Pierce, left, drives to the basket against Washington Wizards forward Antawn Jamison (4) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Friday, Jan. 2, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) (Charles Krupa - AP)

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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 3, 2009

BOSTON, Jan. 2 -- Somebody was going to pay after the Boston Celtics lost three out of four games on a recent West Coast trip, and as things turned out, that team was the Washington Wizards.

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In a game that stopped being competitive late in the first quarter, the Wizards (6-25) were overwhelmed by the Celtics (29-5) in every phase en route to a 108-83 loss at TD Banknorth Garden.

The Wizards went 3-1 against Boston last season but have lost by a combined 59 points in two games against the defending champions this season, with one more meeting to come.

"Buzz saw," said Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott. "They jumped on us early, we couldn't get untracked and then we made some uncharacteristic -- missed free throws -- and they were very, very efficient."

Paul Pierce set the tone by making all five of his first-quarter shots, including a trio of three-pointers, en route to scoring 26 points in 26 minutes for the Celtics, who improved to 18-1 at home.

Antawn Jamison (14 points on 6-of-20 shooting) and Nick Young (15 points) were the only Wizards to reach double figures. While the Wizards finished with 22 assists as a team, Boston point guard Rajon Rondo posted 14 by himself.

"Their ball movement was excellent, especially early," said Butler, who returned after missing three games with a sprained left ankle. "They weren't holding it and then they made shots and that just put us in a hole we couldn't get out of."

That's been a common theme all season for a Wizards squad that has lost four games by 20 points or more and is 2-13 on the road.

Part of the problem is that the Wizards don't look anything like the team owner Abe Pollin and team president Ernie Grunfeld put together with the idea of competing against teams like the Celtics.

Gilbert Arenas, Brendan Haywood, DeShawn Stevenson and Andray Blatche all factored heavily into plans entering the season. Arenas (left knee) and Haywood (right wrist) have yet to play, Stevenson is expected to miss up to 2 1/2 weeks with a lower back problem and Blatche went down with a sprained left ankle in the first half Friday night.

Butler was back but finished with a quiet eight points and five assists in 32 minutes.

Clearly, it was a Celtics team that was not pleased with recent road losses to the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers.

"They came home, they were fired up and gave us their best shot," Jamison said. "Two things: You can't struggle offensively and then allow them to shoot close to 60 percent from the field. That can't happen against them."

The schedule won't get any easier for the Wizards, who return home to face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday and then visit the Orlando Magic on Tuesday.

The Wizards dropped a close one at Cleveland on Christmas night and are 0-2 against Southeast Division-leading Orlando.

It's hard to identify a real turning point in a blowout like Friday's but if there was one, it occurred with just over three minutes remaining the first quarter.

The Celtics already led 17-10 when Pierce capped a 10-2 run with back-to-back three-pointers.

From that point on, the Wizards never threatened.

The Celtics held a healthy lead for the entire second half and toyed with the Wizards while doing it. Boston closed the third quarter with an 86-55 advantage after Rondo flipped a nifty behind-the-back pass to Ray Allen, who drained a three-pointer from the corner.

Blatche sprained his left ankle five minutes into the game while getting back on defense and limped off with assistance. He later returned for a brief stretch of the second quarter. However, he wasn't moving well on the ankle and took a seat for good.

Blatche, the only Wizard who has appeared in every game going back to the start of last season, will be re-evaluated Saturday.

With Stevenson out, Mike James and Butler split time at guard with second-year players Nick Young and Javaris Crittenton, as well as veteran Juan Dixon.

Wizards Note: Second-year forward Oleksiy Pecherov, who has recently been out of practice with the flu, saw his first action since Dec. 15.

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