C's Look Mortal in Loss


C's Look Mortal in Loss

In the span of a week, the Celtics have gone from phenomenal to mortal.

Last night, they blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter before losing, 88-83, to the Wizards at TD Banknorth Garden.

The Celtics (30-6) have lost two straight - for the first time this season - and three of their last four. They also have lost two straight at home for the first time this season.

Former University of Connecticut star Caron Butler, who had 21 points, scored 7 of Washington's final 9 points to seal the win.

Because of the snowstorm, the Celtics canceled morning shootaround at their practice facility in Waltham. But considering that they just had played the Wizards two days earlier in Washington, it wasn't a major issue for the home team.

"It wasn't a big deal," said coach Doc Rivers. "I thought of canceling it to begin with. The fact that it snowed made the decision easier."

Of concern was that Boston was outrebounded by Washington, 49-30, in Saturday's 85-78 loss. The Celtics were without Rajon Rondo (back injury) in that game, but after a day off, he returned to the lineup last night.

The Celtics and Wizards were knotted at 18 through the first quarter, the highlight of which was Kendrick Perkins dribbling behind his back before dishing to Paul Pierce, who threw an alley-oop pass to Kevin Garnett for a basket with 2:25 left that gave the Celtics an 18-13 lead.

The Celtics took a 7-point lead, 34-27, after Perkins made one of two free throws with 3:48 left in the second quarter. The Wizards responded with an 8-1 run finalized by a DeShawn Stevenson 3-pointer to tie the game at 35 with 21.8 seconds left before halftime.

Ray Allen, however, nailed a 19-foot baseline jumper at the buzzer to give the Celtics a 37-35 halftime lead. They shot 43.8 percent in the second period while Washington shot 35.3 percent.

Garnett had 11 points and 3 rebounds at halftime. Stevenson had 11 points, including three 3-pointers for Washington. The Celtics outrebounded Washington, 19-15, in the half, gave up only one offensive rebound, and allowed zero second-chance points.

A dunk by Butler tied the game for the Wizards at 47 with 6:34 remaining in the third quarter. After being fouled while shooting a 3-pointer, Ray Allen nailed three free throws to give Boston a 56-49 lead. A Garnett jumper gave Boston a 58-50 lead.

James Posey nailed a 3-pointer to give Boston a 63-56 lead, but Antawn Jamison responded with a 3-pointer with 6.8 seconds left in the third to slice the Celtics' advantage to 63-59. Washington outrebounded Boston, 11-7, in the quarter.

Tony Allen has used dunking as a barometer of how his left knee has recovered from surgery. With 9:11 left in the fourth quarter, Allen appeared to be much better as he threw down a baseline lean-in dunk that gave Boston a 68-59 lead. A fired-up Allen screamed in excitement, to the roar of the sellout crowd.

A Pierce dunk down the lane gave Boston a 72-63 lead with 7:54 remaining, and they went up by 12, 75-63, on an Eddie House 3-pointer with 7:13 left.

Smelling blood, Garnett threw his arms in the air to rev up the fans, and another 3-pointer by House gave Boston a 77-63 lead with 6:22 left.

Washington used a 7-0 run to slice the lead to 77-70, but with the crowd chanting, "MVP, MVP," Garnett nailed two free throws to give Boston a 79-70 advantage with 3:29 left.

A Brendan Haywood dunk sliced it to 79-74, a lay-in by Jamison trimmed it to 79-76, and a Stevenson 3-pointer tied it at 79 with 1:08 remaining.

A Garnett putback, however, gave Boston the lead back at 81-79 with 51.5 seconds left.

Butler earned a 3-point play to give Washington an 82-81 lead with 40.1 seconds left. After being fouled on a shot, Pierce made two free throws with 25.9 seconds left to give the Celtics an 83-82 lead. Butler responded with a lay-in with 19.6 seconds left to push Washington back ahead, 84-83.

Garnett missed a short jump shot in the paint with 8.9 seconds left, and after being raked around his eyes during a foul, Butler nailed two free throws to give Washington an 86-83 lead.

After a missed 3-pointer by Ray Allen, Stevenson nailed two free throws with 0.5 seconds left.

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