When the Celtics‘ Jeff Green drove to the basket and converted a layup with just over six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, it appeared that Boston was prepared to coast to victory against the visiting Wizards. Green and the Celtics led 92-84, a lead they had maintained for almost the entire game.
But moments after Green electrified the crowd, the 18,169 fans packed into TD Garden watched in horror as the Wizards’ Trevor Ariza drilled a 3-pointer at the 2:24 mark to put Washington ahead by five points. In less than four minutes, Washington had turned an eight-point deficit into a comfortable lead, and the Wizards cruised the rest of the way to a 106-99 comeback win. The Wizards (12-13) outscored the Celtics 22-7 over the final six minutes, 13 seconds.
Ariza led the way with 27 points, including five 3-pointers, while speedy guard John Wall added 20 points.
Celtics guard Avery Bradley accounted for a team-high 26 points, and forwards Jared Sullinger (22 points, 11 rebounds) and Brandon Bass (11 points, 11 rebounds) each went for double-doubles. The loss drops Boston (12-16) into a tie for the Atlantic Division lead with Toronto.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Closing time: Despite leading almost the entire game, the Celtics were unable to close out Washington due in large part to poor shooting and sloppy handling of the basketball. At the 6:13 mark of the fourth quarter, Boston held a commanding 92-84 lead after a layup by Green. But the C’s promptly missed 10 of their 12 next shots and turned over the ball four times to spark a Wizards’ 22-7 run to end the game.
Bench blues: For the second straight game, all five Boston starters reached double-digits in points. But, unlike in the Celtics‘ recent 107-106 loss the Pistons, the bench did not support the starting cast. Only three C’s came off the bench to score, with Kris Humphries leading the way with eight points. The reserves combined to score 14 points, compared to the 32 in Boston’s last game.
Ariza arrives: With so much attention placed on limiting the production of Bradley Beal and Wall, Washington’s top two scorers, Boston seemingly forgot about the team’s third leading scorer, Ariza. The veteran scored a game-high 27 points and knocked down a vital 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter, one of five treys for the small forward. Ariza also snagged eight rebounds.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Hot start: For the fifth straight game, Boston charged out to a lead in the first quarter as Sullinger and point guard Jordan Crawford anchored the Celtics‘ 30-14 advantage. Sullinger tossed in 10 points and four rebounds, while Crawford played the role of facilitator and scorer, chipping in seven points and four assists. The C’s shot a scorching 60 percent from the field, while forcing the Wizards into 25 percent shooting from the field. In Boston’s last five first quarters, the team has outscored its opponents by a combined 49 points.
Unconscious Avery: The Celtics received a superb performance from Bradley. He led the team in scoring with 26 points and experienced a stretch that began in the third quarter and extended into the beginning of the fourth quarter when he could hardly miss. From the 4:01 mark of the third quarter to the 7:58 mark of the fourth quarter Bradley scored 18 points, and shot 9-for-10 from the field. Eight of his 10 baskets were mid-range jump shots.
Sully: The 6-foot-9 forward continued his impressive scoring stretch, as he amassed 22 points to go along with 11 rebounds. A late scoring burst by Bradley ended the possibility of Sullinger leading the team in scoring for the fourth straight game. He collected his 22 points in a variety of ways: banging with bigs such as Marcin Gortat and Nene right under the rim, luring the behemoths outside of the paint just to blow by them off the dribble, and displaying his mid-range game and even 3-point prowess.