By A. Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON When you go through the great games in Boston Celtics history, chances are good - OK, great - that Friday night's 104-88 win over the Washington Wizards will not qualify as time capsule-worthy.
But the victory was significant, nonetheless.
Sure, the Wizards (21-58) are one of the league's worst teams and the Celtics (55-24) should have had no problem defeating them at home.
But on the back end of a set of back-to-back games?
Facing a bad team?
For most of this season, it has been a recipe for disaster.
And when you look at the way Boston allowed the Wizards to come within four points with more than seven minutes to play, there was a definite, 'here-we-go-again' feel about the game.
But that's when the Celtics showed us something we haven't seen much of lately - the ability to close out an opponent.
After Jordan Crawford's lay-up cut Boston's lead to 87-83, the C's responded by finishing the game with a 17-5 run.
"It was nice," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, referring to his team's ability to finish the game off strong.
However, he wasn't particularly pleased with the fact that a number of his players had to play extended minutes because the game became closer down the stretch than Rivers would have wanted.
"Too many minutes," Rivers said. "They (players) don't care about the minutes; I do."
One player whose minutes were not an issue on Friday was Jermaine O'Neal, who was held out by Rivers.
Rivers didn't like the way O'Neal was moving around in the second half of Boston's 16-point loss at Chicago, and made his mind at that time to not play O'Neal tonight.
"I just thought, 'let's not take any chances,'" Rivers said.
O'Neal, who has played in five games since returning to the lineup following left knee surgery on Feb. 5, is expected to play at Miami on Sunday and at Washington on Monday. If the Celtics can lock up the No. 2 seed after those two games, there's a chance that O'Neal will not play in the regular season finale against New York on Wednesday.
Even though all five Celtics started scored in double figures, once again they were being led by Rajon Rondo.
He finished with 20 points and 14 assists for his 31st double-double this season. Kevin Garnett also had a big game, tallying his 28th double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Paul Pierce led all scorers with 22 points, although he shot just 5-for-14 from the field.
The bulk of Pierce's points came from the free throw line, a clear indicator of how aggressive he was in attacking a porous Wizards defense.
"I try and make a concentrated effort every night in getting to the rim," said Pierce who made 12 of his 13 free throw attempts. "That's part of my game, I slash to the basket, finish it, try and get some easy ones. That's why I am able to shoot a high percentage."
Pierce wasn't the only Celtics player in attack mode, which is evident by them outscoring the Wizards 25-12 in fast break points.
Even with the Celtics doing a better job of attacking the woeful Wizards, and contributions coming from so many players, by no means was this an easy win for the Celtics.
"Every time we pulled away, they stayed just close enough," Rivers said. "And so, it was a win."