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Wizards Take Down NBA's Green Giants

4th-Quarter Rally Leads to Signature Win: Wizards 85, Celtics 78

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Washington Wizards rookie Nick Young (1) shoots and scores against Boston Celtics' Kendrick Perkins, during the first half of their NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2008, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Washington Wizards rookie Nick Young (1) shoots and scores against Boston Celtics' Kendrick Perkins, during the first half of their NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2008, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) (Manuel Balce Ceneta - AP)
Boston Celtics' Kendrick Perkins (43) loses the ball as she is double-teamed by Washington Wizards' Caron Butler, left, and Antawn Jamison during the first half of their NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2008, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Boston Celtics' Kendrick Perkins (43) loses the ball as she is double-teamed by Washington Wizards' Caron Butler, left, and Antawn Jamison during the first half of their NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2008, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) (Manuel Balce Ceneta - AP)
Washington Wizards' Antonio Daniels, right, is fouled by Boston Celtics' Tony Allen as he shoots during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 12, 2008, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Washington Wizards' Antonio Daniels, right, is fouled by Boston Celtics' Tony Allen as he shoots during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 12, 2008, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) (Manuel Balce Ceneta - AP)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 13, 2008; Page D01

Since Gilbert Arenas went out of the lineup with a left knee injury on Nov. 17, the Washington Wizards have shown that they are more than capable of beating the NBA's lower- and middle-class teams.

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Taking on the big boys has been another matter entirely.

Apart from an impressive 12-point win at Dallas on Nov. 26, the Wizards lacked a signature victory without Arenas. That changed last night, when the Wizards charged back from a nine-point second-half deficit against the team with the NBA's best record and took down the Boston Celtics, 85-78, in front of a sellout crowd at Verizon Center.

The Wizards (19-16) pulled it off thanks a mixture of timely shot-making and sticky defense.

The big shot was a three-pointer by Antonio Daniels that gave the Wizards a 75-74 lead with 1 minute 51 seconds remaining. After Boston turned it over on the next possession, Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson drew a foul on Paul Pierce while attempting a three-pointer from the top of the circle.

Stevenson, a 72.9 percent free throw shooter coming into the game, made all three, and after Boston's James Posey missed a three-pointer for the Celtics, Wizards center Brendan Haywood pushed the lead to 79-74 by making 1 of 2 free throws.

After Kevin Garnett made 1 of 2 free throws for the Celtics, Caron Butler made a pair at the stripe for the Wizards. Then Stevenson answered a three-pointer by Pierce with two more free throws with 15 seconds left.

Stevenson closed the deal in emphatic fashion by capping a fast break with a two-handed slam dunk before grabbing the basketball and chucking into the stands as he turned to the Boston bench and shouted.

Stevenson, who was a key factor in Friday's overtime victory at Atlanta, led the Wizards with 19 points and was a perfect 8 for 8 from the free throw line. Antawn Jamison finished with 10 points and 16 rebounds, and Butler added 16 points and 10 rebounds.

The Celtics (30-5) had won 10 straight on the road but were held to 13 fourth-quarter points and shot 41.3 percent for the game. The Celtics, who recently lost at home to the Charlotte Bobcats, have not lost consecutive games this season.

Garnett led the Celtics with 19 points while Pierce, who was defended by Stevenson or Butler most of the night, scored 15 and Ray Allen finished with eight on 3-of-13 shooting. The teams combined to commit 41 turnovers.

The Wizards had not beaten a team that currently holds a winning record since they beat a Cleveland Cavaliers team that was playing without LeBron James on Dec. 5.

Last night's contest was similar to games the Wizards have lost to upper-tier teams such as the San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons and Phoenix Suns in that the Wizards hung around long enough to give themselves a chance before ultimately losing.

The difference last night was that the Wizards finished. The result was the team's most impressive victory since an overtime win at Phoenix on December 22 of last season.

The Wizards will face the Celtics again Monday night in Boston, where the Celtics opened their season with a 103-83 win over Washington on Nov. 2.

Things looked promising for the Wizards early on last night as they led 23-19 after the opening quarter despite shooting 32.1 percent. All five starters scored in the period and Stevenson was particularly effective early as he made 3 of 5 shots and scored eight points.

Washington's first-half lead peaked at eight points when Jamison scored with 5:23 remaining in the half but the Celtics closed strong and drew within 41-40 when Pierce made a jumper off a nice pass from Allen.


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