Wizards 110, Celtics 105
The Washington Wizards conceded just 42 points in one half, then they gave up 42 points in one quarter against the Boston Celtics, erasing an impressive defensive effort with one that should have cost them the game last night at MCI Center.
They entered the fourth quarter trailing by 12, but as forward Antawn Jamison said: "Six buckets is nothing to us. That's all it was -- twelve points. With our offense, we can make that up in no time."
The Wizards (4-4) did just that, but they pulled out an improbable 110-105 overtime win because they found it in themselves to play defense when it counted. "We stepped it up two notches on the defensive end," Coach Eddie Jordan said after his team improved to 1-4 in games in which it allowed 100 points.
The Celtics had 100 at the end of regulation but the Wizards held them scoreless for the first 4 minutes 45 seconds of overtime to help end a two-game losing streak.
Jamison led the Wizards with 27 points and gave the Wizards a 102-100 lead with an 18-foot jumper with 3:38 left in overtime. Guard Larry Hughes added two free throws, then point guard Gilbert Arenas drove right down the lane to scoop in a left-handed layup to secure a game in which the Wizards blew a 17-point first-half lead.
"I know [in the third quarter] people were saying, 'Oh, here were go again,' " said Hughes, who had 21 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. "But we don't feel like we are the same old Wizards. We feel like we can slow it down, get our composure, get some buckets and come out on top."
Making his first start of the season, forward Jared Jeffries had a career-high 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. He also played unrelenting defense on Celtics guard Paul Pierce. Pierce scored a season-high 37 points, including 18 of 20 free throws, but Jeffries pressured Pierce into two misses in the final minute to force overtime. And, Pierce didn't score in overtime until a relatively meaningless three-pointer in the closing seconds.
With Jordan imploring Jeffries to "get in" Pierce on defense, Jeffries responded. The 6-foot-11 forward held Pierce to just two shot attempts in overtime and he rejected one. Jeffries also stepped in front of Pierce to take a charge with 1:05 left. "Jared did a great job," Jordan said. "We really stressed to make Pierce a driver. If you are out there solo with him on the perimeter and you let him get his rhythm, his step-back move and his hesitation move is deadly."
The Celtics finally scored in overtime after point guard Gary Payton (17 points, seven assists) tossed an alley-oop pass to Ricky Davis with 14 seconds left. The Wizards kept up their defensive intensity until the buzzer sounded, as Hughes hit two game-clinching free throws, then leaped to intercept a pass from Davis -- his sixth steal -- at the end of the game.
At halftime, the Wizards came out of the huddle screaming, "Defense!" They did anything but play defense in the third period, when the Celtics outscored them 42-17, turning a 13-point halftime deficit into an 84-72 lead going into the final period.
In the third period, the Celtics shot 13 of 20 from the field (14 of 15 from the foul line) while the Wizards were just 5 for 17. In addition to their shooting touch, the Wizards also lost control of the ball and their tempers in the period. They had nine turnovers, which led to 14 points for the Celtics, and they also picked up three technical fouls in a span of 21/2 minutes.
With 6:42 left in the third, Jordan got a technical protesting a foul called on Michael Ruffin when Pierce collided with him. Arenas was called for a double-dribble, then he picked up a delay of game and a technical when he grabbed the ball and sat down in an empty chair in the stands. Then, Jamison got a quick technical when he jumped and screamed in anger after fouling Pierce. Jamison kicked the scorer's table in disgust.
"They rattled us, basically," Hughes said. "We lost our composure a tad, just a tad."
The Celtics, who came into the game shooting 48.3 percent, finished at 40.2 percent, a season low. "If we cut out a third quarter like that, and that's a blowout win for us," Jeffries said. "We beat a team by 20 points."