Win Over Boston Is Deja Vu
Wizards Surge Late To Take Rematch, Too: Wizards 88, Celtics 83
Tuesday, January 15, 2008; Page E01
BOSTON, Jan. 14 -- Caron Butler started at his knees and slowly lifted his arms toward the rooftops, a playful jesture calling for some noise from the sellout crowd at TD Banknorth Garden on Monday. The 18,624 fans in attendance couldn't make as much as a whimper, as they looked on in stunned silence.
This wasn't supposed to happen. Not again. Not in the home of the Boston Celtics.
If the first time was improbable, the second time was incredible.
Going on an unlikely 25-6 run over the final 5 minutes 57 seconds, the Wizards came back from a 14-point deficit to defeat a Celtics team with the league's best record, previously the only team in NBA yet to lose back-to-back games this season.
"Real recognizes real," said Butler, who scored a team-high 21 points as the Wizards (20-16) improved to 17-11 without Arenas. "We respect them, they respect us. Obviously, they are one of the better teams in the league, but we're making a name for ourselves as well. We're a force to be reckoned with as well."
The Celtics (30-6) are in the midst of their first slump of the season, having lost three of their past four games. They appeared set to avenge their 85-78 loss at the Verizon Center on Saturday, as they took a 77-63 lead with 6:22 remaining when Eddie House nailed a long jump shot.
The Wizards' offense had betrayed them early in the fourth quarter, as they went without a field goal the first six minutes of the period -- and it would've been longer if Garnett hadn't been so kind as to accidentally tip in a Roger Mason miss.
"When our back is against the wall, we always find a way to get it done," said forward Antawn Jamison, who recorded his 24th double-double of the season with 20 points and 10 rebounds. "We said, 'We got one more run left in us.' " Jamison got it started with a three-pointer, and DeShawn Stevenson tied the game at 79 with a three-pointer from the right baseline with 1 minute 8 seconds remaining.
"We felt it was up for grabs then," Stevenson said.
Butler scored 11 points during the decisive run, with seven coming in the final 40.1 seconds. After Garnett broke the tie with a rebound tip, Butler was fouled as he hit a difficult, off-balanced runner over Garnett's outstretched arms. He then extended his string of consecutive free throws made to 38 in a row, to give the Wizards their first lead of the second half, 82-81.
Paul Pierce (18 points) followed responded with two free throws, but Butler put the Wizards ahead for good when he drove around Pierce -- a player whose game he tried to emulate in college at Connecticut -- and hit a driving finger roll off the glass. After Butler added two more free throws to give the Wizards an 86-83 lead, Celtics guard Ray Allen (16 points) had an opportunity to tie the game in the final seconds, but his three-pointer came up short.
Coming into the game, the Wizards expected the worst after they ended the Celtics' 10-game road winning streak with an emotional victory that saw them come back from a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit and close out with a 15-4 run.
No doubt, the Wizards were expecting the Celtics to come out with the same intensity and aggression as they did in the season opener, when Boston hammered the Wizards by 20 points in a game that left the lasting image of Celtics all-star forward Kevin Garnett sending Gilbert Arenas to the floor with a humiliating rejection.
But so much has changed for both teams since that night. Garnett, with the assistance of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, has the Celtics off to one of the best starts in NBA history, while the Wizards have adjusted quite well to life without Arenas.
"We're getting there," Stevenson said. "It's taking time, but we're getting there at our own pace. We believe in each other at the right time. We doing all this without Gilbert. Imagine if we had him."