Celtics 86, Wizards 83

Celtics scuffle, but tough it out

Wizards put up a real good fight

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / March 8, 2010

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Sam Cassell had worn a tie before. Ray Allen, who could tie a rope around the world with his tie collection, was pretty certain of it.

But apparently, since Cassell took a job with the Wizards as an assistant coach, he has decided to go with the blazer, button-down look, saying he’d hold off on wearing a tie until he was a head coach.

With 27 seconds left in last night’s game at TD Garden and the Celtics in a bar fight with the Wizards, trying to keep the momentum they had built over the past three games, Ray Allen noticed Cassell barking at him from the sideline.

“You’re getting the ball!’’ Cassell yelled. “You’re getting the ball! I know you’re getting the ball.’’

Allen had just drilled a 3-pointer off a Kendrick Perkins kickout to give the Celtics an 82-81 lead - putting them ahead, albeit briefly, for the first time since the first quarter - and as clairvoyant as Cassell was, there was nothing he could do about it.

Mike Miller was guarding Allen, the only consistent source of offense all night for the Celtics, and he had the task of chasing Allen around on the Celtics’ most important possession.

Allen faked as if he were coming to Rajon Rondo for the ball, then cut to the baseline with Miller riding him the whole way. Allen was more than aware that Perkins and Kevin Garnett were set up like light posts for the screen. Miller was not.

“They got him,’’ Allen said. “They got him. And I was sitting there wide open.’’

Allen wasn’t particularly worried about how the two giants had cleaned Miller’s clock. “I was up in the air and I realized he wasn’t anywhere around,’’ Allen said.

He pulled up for his sixth 3-point attempt of the night and splashed it, giving the Celtics an 86-83 win. Cassell, typically a well of words, was all out.

“He probably was kicking himself,’’ Allen said, grinning. “I told him he needs to wear a tie.’’

On a night when Allen scored 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting (4 of 6 from three), it was the biggest shot of the game. The Celtics were playing for momentum, something that had gone missing for two months. The blowout to Cleveland and the loss to New Jersey were small things in coach Doc Rivers’s mind. What bothered him more was the way momentum only seemed to have a three-game shelf life.

Last night’s win gave the Celtics four straight, their longest streak since an 11-game run that ended in December.

They had to fight for it, doing most of their scratching and clawing when they outscored the Wizards, 20-4, over the final 6:10. But after seeing his team give up so many games in the fourth quarter, Rivers finally got to see the Celtics take one back.

“You know, it was good to win a game like this as far as I was concerned,’’ Rivers said. “We’ve lost so many of these where we’ve played poorly and lost. It’s a good win for us.’’

The win was equal parts Celtic rally and Wizard self-destruction. Washington was up, 79-66, having stomped out a small fire in the form of a 12-6 Boston burst at the end of the third quarter, sparked by Rondo, who scored 13 of his 15 points after the break.

But Andray Blatche, who along with Al Thornton was practically unsolvable most of the night, started to come apart after a small tussle with Garnett early in the fourth. From that point on, the Celtics seemed to get to every loose ball, including the one that Rondo hit the parquet for, tipping it Garnett’s way to set up the winning possession.

“It was a bar fight,’’ said Garnett, who had his worst shooting night since his second year in the league, going 0 for 7 from the floor, his most attempts without a make since Jan. 27, 1996, when he went 0 for 5. “Chairs was throwin’, bottles were breaking. You had to get your back to something and just swing. That’s what that was.’’

Meanwhile, the Wizards made just two field goals over the final six minutes, crumbling as the Celtics applied pressure.

“We choked,’’ said Wizards coach Flip Saunders. “Six minutes to go we’re up 13. We got young guys, they don’t know what it’s like to be in a situation.

“You have a veteran team that knows how to close out games, against a young team that hasn’t been there and instead of just letting a sleeping dog lie we juiced up their energies. We had plays coming off timeouts and we had guys going to the wrong side of the floor; we were so discombobulated.’’

The Celtics can strike fear in an opponent at the most important moments, a quality Paul Pierce hadn’t seen in a while.

“A lot of these games, this year, we’ve let go,’’ said Pierce, who scored 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting. “Tonight, we saw something that I like to see at this point in the season. Especially coming down the stretch. We saw the Celtics that I’m used to seeing.’’

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