Celtics spellbound in 85-83 loss to Wizards

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Celtics spellbound in 85-83 loss to Wizards

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WASHINGTON It was the perfect shot for Paul Pierce. A bigger defender was on him who bites on his rock-a-by jab step. The defender stepped back. Pierce pulled up and clang?

It was that kind of night for Pierce and the Boston Celtics, as they followed up a commanding first half lead over the Washington Wizards with a cringe-inducing collapse in the second half that ended with a disappointing 85-83 loss.

"I really thought we deserved to lose the game," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

Boston's loss snapped a five-game winning streak, while the victory ended a two-game skid for the Wizards (13-29) who are still among the league's worst teams.

"They played much harder than us in the second half," Rivers said. "Think about all the loose balls, tips, they dominated the 5050 game. We gave them a chance to see that they had a chance to beat us. When that happens, you lose games."

While the Celtics pride themselves on being a defensive-minded bunch, it was their offense that seemed to be in a major funk Saturday night.

It wasn't just that they were missing shots; they were missing the shots that on most nights, you can can count on going down.

Pierce's shot at the end of the game was an open look.

A few possessions earlier, Ray Allen had a wide open 3-pointer.

Before that, Allen missed a dunk.

Rajon Rondo. Garnett. Glen Davis.

Every Celtics player, at some point on Saturday, came up short when it came to making one of their bread-and-butter baskets.

And down the stretch, the Wizards were at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Arguably the biggest shot of the night was a 3-point bank shot by John Wall that gave the Wizards a 84-81 lead with 57.7 seconds to play.

"I didn't call it, but I knew it was going to hit backboard," said Wall, who finished with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists. "I thought it was going to be a hard brick."

It ricocheted pretty hard off the backboard, but that didn't matter.

Wall's shot attempt achieved what so few of the Celtics' shots down the stretch could do - it went in.

"He (Wall) made some big plays," Rivers said. "The 3? Let's just say that's the basketball gods punishing us for the way that we played."

Added Pierce: "You see what happens. John Wall makes a bank shot that puts them ahead. It just came back to haunt us."

Even though the C's got a bunch of good shot attempts late in the game, Rivers was bothered by the game's pace.

"They were good shots, but they were all jump-shots," Rivers said. "My problem was our pace; we were walking the ball up the floor. We dribbled the life out of the game, everybody. We didn't go to the post. It was a jump shooting contest. When you're up 10 or 15 (points), jump-shots are easy. Then you squander the lead and then you're wide open, that trigger gets a little tighter."

Boston shot just 43 percent from the field, and misfired on 18 of their 23 shots in the fourth.

"When we had to get a bucket and we needed it, we couldn't," said Garnett.

As both teams misfired one off-the-mark shot for another, Washington gradually cut away at Boston's lead.

It wasn't until a driving lay-up by Wall with 2:35 to play did the Wizards take their first lead of the game.

The C's responded with a basket by Glen Davis that tied the score at 81 with 1:20 to play.

There was Wall right back at the C's, banking in a 3-pointer that gave Washington an 84-81 lead.

"It could have broken the backboard, but it went in for us and it was a game-changer," Wall said. "It was a big turning point for us."

And the C's to some degree, are at a turning point of sorts as well.

They don't play again until Tuesday against Cleveland, a game that they should win with relative ease.

But if there is a lesson to be learned, it's that no opponent, no matter how bad their record, no matter if you're home or on the road, can be taken for granted.

Because if you let them hang around too long, which is what the C's did on Saturday, it can hurt you.

Badly.

"You can't give up big leads like that," Garnett said. "It's all about progress. We'll look at this and learn from it."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."