Celtics find perfect remedy
Beating Wizards the best medicine
Their memories weren’t short enough to forget what happened just 24 hours earlier.
The Bulls had dominated them. Not only did they run the Celtics’ plays — calling the same plays with the same names — they ran them with more intensity and more precision.
Watching tape of it was like watching a horror flick. Tom Thibodeau looked like a mad scientist. Derrick Rose looked like his Frankenstein.
The 97-81 loss stuck with the Celtics, and last night, even though they were facing the Wizards, they were still thinking to some extent about Chicago.
“You want to keep it fresh in your mind,’’ said Kevin Garnett. “It’s motivating. We played like trash. They played great. You want that to motivate you.’’
A bounce-back game against the Wizards was like doctor-prescribed medicine for any team dealing with bruised egos.
Every team in the league, save for Utah, has beaten Washington this season. The Wizards are like the league’s therapist couch, a place where teams could come in and sort through all their issues.
For the Celtics, their 104-88 win last night gave them some clarity, and helped them focus on their big game tomorrow in Miami.
After playing a supporting role in Rose’s trailer of highlights, Rajon Rondo was instantly more aggressive, knocking down 7 of 12 shots, scoring 20 points to go with 14 assists, and fueling an offense that shot 50.7 percent.
He had to play 42 minutes because Delonte West was ejected after drawing two quick technicals for arguing with referee Josh Tiven.
The performance had less to do with Rose, said coach Doc Rivers, than the overall takeaway from a 16-point blowout in a game against a team the Celtics may see in the postseason .
“It was a response to what the Bulls’ and Celtics’ final score was,’’ Rivers said. “I don’t think it had a lot to do with Rose. We lost the game [Thursday night] and when you lose, you want to go back and you want to win that game.’’
All five Celtics starters reached double figures in scoring, including Nenad Krstic, who started in place of Jermaine O’Neal and scored 17 points on 6 of 9 shooting.
Paul Pierce (22 points, 12 rebounds) and Garnett (15 points, 11 rebounds) made large contributions, too.
“We’re trying to push and get this second seed,’’ Pierce said. “It was a good win, even though we played extended minutes on a back-to-back, we’ve kind of struggled in back-to-back situations throughout the year. So it’s good to finally come out, even against a young team struggling to get back on track.’’
Pierce struggled from the floor (5 of 14 shooting), but attacked the basket and cashed in at the free throw line (12 of 13). The Celtics took 35 free throws. They scored 48 points in the paint after giving up 44 to the Bulls the night before.
“I thought we recognized that a little bit better tonight and then took advantage of it instead of staying on the perimeter,’’ Rivers said. “We made a big, hard emphasis on attacking the basket.’’
Even though the Wizards never led, they never went away. When Garnett grooved an 11-foot fadeaway that put the Celtics up, 20-8, midway through the first quarter, it looked as if the Celtics would use the Wizards for punching bags.
But as late as 7:10 in the fourth quarter, the Wizards closed it to a two-shot game when Jordan Crawford (19 points) streaked for a fast-break layup.
Still, the Wizards have been masters of self-sabotage all season. Their 21 turnovers played a large part last night, but the signature moment came when JaVale McGee, who tried to dunk three balls at once in the All-Star dunk contest, came up empty trying to dunk one in the fourth quarter. The ball bounced hard off the rim as he tried to cram it with extra authority.
The Celtics closed out the game by outscoring the Wizards, 21-13, in the fourth quarter.
“Those guys came back,’’ said Wizards coach Flip Saunders. “Then, they tried to do too much. We turned it over four of the next five times and missed a dunk and, all of a sudden, it went from a 4-point game to a 10- 12-point game and we were fighting the rest of the way.’’
After doing away with Boston Thursday, Chicago clinched the top spot in the East with a win over Cleveland last night. Now the Celtics go to Miami to play the Heat with the second seed at stake.
“We’ve got another really great team coming up,’’ Garnett said. “We’ll be tested again.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.