WASHINGTON - Boston's ballyhooed second unit once again came up short.
But unlike the first two games - both Celtics losses - their lack of offensive punch would not be the C's downfall as Boston held on for an 89-86 win over the Wizards.
Even though Boston's backups were outscored by a decisive 62-27, a number of the second unit players came up with big plays down the stretch.
Jason Terry, the leader of Boston's second unit, had just eight points on 2-for-8 shooting. But he had a critical steal down the stretch in addition to a pair of free throws for the game's final points.
Still, the second unit remains in a state of influx as Doc Rivers continues to search out combinations that will work.
"We've just got to find the right group of guys," Rivers said. "Not only just the starters, I'm actually not as concerned with the starters. I'm far more concerned with the second unit. We've got to find a consistent second lineup."
The play of Boston's backups was among the factors that played a role in Saturday's game against Washington. Here are some other keys identified prior to the game, and how they actually played out.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston has looked too often for points from the perimeter. Saturday's game should see a heavy dose of Kevin Garnett in the paint, and the Celtics guards attacking the basket.
WHAT WE SAW: Garnett was a much more effective player around the basket, and the C's for the most part made getting him the ball a priority. He finished with 15 points on 7-for-15 shooting along with seven rebounds.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. Trevor Ariza: The Captain got into early foul trouble, and never found his stride in the loss to Milwaukee. Look for Pierce to come out aggressive offensively which should set the tone for a big night.
WHAT WE SAW: Not. Even. Close. Pierce took over, and Ariza was simply taken out of anything that resembled effective play. The Captain tallied a game-high 27 points on 10-for-22 shooting while Ariza was scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger looked a lot like the Sullinger folks saw in the preseason, in the loss to Milwaukee. With Washington having a more traditional frontcourt, Sully should pick up right where he left off against the Bucks.
WHAT WE SAW: C's coach Doc Rivers tossed Sullinger into the starting lineup, and the rookie responded with a decent night, scoring four points but more important, grabbing seven rebounds.
STAT TO TRACK: Boston hasn't been a very good offensive rebounding team, but they have to do a better job of limiting the second and third chances that they give opponents. Milwaukee had 11 offensive rebounds on Friday. Although they only generated 13 second-chance points, that doesn't factor how those possessions takes away from Boston's chances to score. Keeping the offensive rebound total given up in the low single digits would do wonders for both the C's struggling offense and out-of-synch defense.
WHAT WE SAW: Boston gave up seven offensive rebounds to the Wizards, but it didn't make much of a dent on a night when the C's defense was in back-in-the-day-mode with a four straight defensive stops to end the game. Those second-chance opportunities only netted Washington five points. Meanwhile, the Celtics had six offensive rebounds but generated 11 points off of them.