for this game

Wizards deny Celtics best start in franchise history

Jan 13, 2008 - 6:00 AM By Tim Hipps PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- After blowing out the Washington Wizards on Opening Night, the Boston Celtics went on to win 29 of their next 33 games. With a win on Saturday, the Wizards hope the same holds true for them.

DeShawn Stevenson scored nine of his 19 points in the fourth quarter as the Wizards held the Celtics to just 13 points in the final period en route to a 85-78 victory.

The Wizards responded after their 103-83 loss to the Celtics on November 2 with a gritty performance on Saturday, typical of the defensive renaissance the team has enjoyed this season.

Washington entered this game allowing 97.5 points per game in 2007-08, a vast improvement from the 104.9 it surrendered last season.

The game's physicality, defensive intensity and chess-like strategy was a rare January treat for the NBA, which rarely exhibits such play before March when teams are jockeying for playoff positioning.

"It was a hard game to explain and describe other than it was very, very physical," said Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, whose team won despite shooting 37 percent (28-of-76) from the field, including just 2-of-18 from 3-point range. "We forced (21) turnovers. We only had 13 assists, but we outrebounded them (57-36). We forced them to shoot 41 percent. Those are the numbers.

"What you don't see is what we dug down deep for - a lot of mental and physical toughness. It got to be a man's game. There was no time for soft hearts or people who just couldn't stand it. It was tough at every level: mentally, physically, emotionally."

Both teams struggled shooting from the field all contest long, but Stevenson followed Antonio Daniels' 3-pointer with 1:51 remaining with three free throws at the 1:14 mark.

He drew a foul on Pierce while attempting a 3-pointer to leave the Wizards with a 79-74 lead.

"One or two plays can change the momentum of the game, and Antonio Daniels made a big 3-pointer there when we were up two," Pierce said. "That shifted the momentum and they knocked down their free throws."

"It was a gut-check game because it wasn't pretty by either team," said Daniels, who finished with nine points and five assists. "These are the games that you have to pull out and win."

The six points came in the midst of a 8-0 run that turned a three-point deficit into a five-point lead after Brendan Haywood nailed the second of two free throws with 34 seconds left in the game.

After Pierce narrowed the deficit to 81-78 with 15 seconds left, Stevenson closed out the game by hitting two free throws and throwing down an uncontested dunk with 3.2 seconds remaining.

"DeShawn was great; Caron (Butler) was great," Jordan said. "Those two guys are our tough guys and our lockdown defensive guys, especially DeShawn. They led the charge for us and everyone followed it.

"Antawn (Jamison) was fighting in there, getting rebounds. It was just a physical game. I don't think we have ever played a game like that and won it."

The Wizards converted the Celtics' 21 turnovers into 28 points.

"We turned the ball over and then got tentative and weren't as aggressive," Pierce said. "Down the stretch, they got to the free-throw line and made the necessary plays to go up, and that's the ballgame."

Butler finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Jamison added 10 and 16 as the Wizards completed a back-to-back sweep of Atlanta and Boston.

Kevin Garnett led Boston with 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting with six rebounds and two blocks.

"We probably could've executed a little better," Garnett said. "I thought, at times, we rushed a lot of shots and didn't have that click that we usually have. They made shots. We didn't really get any calls down the stretch but we're on the road, so we didn't even really expect that.

"But a couple of calls could've went here or there, but my hat's off to them (the Wizards), they played really well. The offensive boards they killed us on, so we've got to make that adjustment on Monday."

Pierce, Kendrick Perkins and James Posey also had two blocks apiece for Boston, and Haywood and Andray Blatche both blocked two shots for Washington during the physical contest in which nearly every shot was contested.

Pierce, who committed six turnovers, added 15 points, six assists and four rebounds for the Celtics, whose 10-game road winning streak ended. The streak was tied for the second longest in franchise history.

"We've just got to clean up a few games and learn from our mistakes," Pierce said. "We understand we're not going to win every game, but we definitely know we can play better basketball than we did tonight. The key about winning and the key about losing is learning from your mistakes and building on them.

"We knew what our problem was and why we lost tonight. We get a chance to play Washington again on Monday and, hopefully, we don't make the same mistakes."

Garnett did not see any benefit in losing.

"Anytime you lose, man, it's not a good feeling," he said. "I've yet to find any pluses in losses or any kind of sympathy in losses. I'm sure we'll watch tape and try to adjust and come back Monday."

The teams will complete their home-and-home at TD Banknorth Garden on Monday.

"It is going to be crazy on Monday, and we know that they are going to bring a lot of energy," Jamison said. "We have to do a great job of matching their energy and playing good defensively like tonight."

"They're going to be super amped up," Stevenson said. "Everybody needs to get their rest because we've got to come with it. If we win in Boston, that's going to be even more special."

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