WASHINGTON - After a long and comfortable ride, the Celtics hit a big bump in the road.
Boston's road winning streak was snapped at 10 with an 85-78 loss to the Wizards at the
"We've just got to learn from our mistakes," Celtics forward Paul Pierce said. "We're not going to win every game. We definitely know we can play better basketball than we did [last night]. The key about winning, the key about losing is learning from mistakes and building on them."
When asked if a bad pattern was beginning to appear with the Celtics, Kevin Garnett firmly said no.
"Not at all," said the forward. "It's not a pattern."
Boston had a season low in points after shooting 41.3 percent (26 of 63) and making 17 of 23 free throws. The Celtics' star trio of Garnett (19), Pierce (15), and Ray Allen (8, 3-of-13 shooting) combined for 42 points on 15-of-40 shooting and took only 11 free throws.
The Wizards shot 36.8 percent (28 of 76) and missed 16 of 18 3-point attempts. Even so, Washington won the game by outrebounding Boston, 49-30, including 20 offensive boards for 26 second-chance points, causing 19 turnovers, and scoring 30 points in the paint. The 20 offensive rebounds are a season high for a Celtics opponent. Washington's Antawn Jamison had 16 rebounds (nine offensive) while teammate Caron Butler had 10.
"They beat us on the boards tonight, especially offensively," Allen said. "We were turning the ball over and giving them extra possessions. We didn't give ourselves a great chance to win."
Washington coach Eddie Jordan cited his team's rugged play as having a big in fluence in the victory.
"It was a hard game to explain and describe other than it was very, very physical," he said. "[The Celtics] are a very good team. They are an extremely good offensive team. All that being said, we forced  turnovers. We only had 13 assists, but we outrebounded them."
Celtics starting point guard Rajon Rondo missed the game with a bruised back suffered Friday night at New Jersey. Tony Allen started in Rondo's place and had 8 points, 6 rebounds, 0 assists, and 5 fouls in 24 minutes. Backup point guard Eddie House added 11 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds.
"It's tough watching," Rondo said. "You want to help your teammates."
Pierce said: "[Rondo's] a guy that gets us off to good starts. But that's no excuse."
The Wizards were also without star guard Gilbert Arenas, who has been out since having left knee surgery Nov. 21. Washington, however, has a 16-11 record without Arenas.
"They've been playing very good basketball of late," Garnett said. "They've probably been playing a little bit better without Arenas."
The Wizards held a 41-40 halftime lead despite shooting just 33.3 percent from the field and missing 7 of 8 3-point attempts.
The Celtics outscored Washington, 25-19, in the third quarter to take a 65-60 lead. A James Posey alley-oop dunk gave Boston its biggest lead of the fourth quarter, 67-60, with 11:31 remaining. But Washington took the lead back, 75-74, after an Antonio Daniels 3-pointer with 1:51 remaining. The Wizards outscored the Celtics, 10-4, the rest of the game and DeShawn Stevenson's dunk with 3.2 seconds remaining sealed the outcome. Boston was outscored, 25-13, in the fourth, missed 11 of 15 field goal attempts, and had six turnovers.
"To play focused against the best team in the league says a lot about the character of our team," said Jamison. "A lot of teams believe we wouldn't have a chance from the get-go. But we play well with our backs against the wall. We hit buckets when they counted."
Pierce cited the Washington defense as a determining factor.
"They took us out of our plays," he said. "They trapped the ball. We just weren't aggressive like we usually are down the stretch. And that's the story of the game."
The Celtics don't have to wait long to try to get revenge as they host the Wizards (19-16) at TD Banknorth Garden tomorrow night. Several Celtics made sure to mention that the Wizards were coming up next in the schedule. Boston is 4-0 in games following losses.
"We have them again on Monday," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I like it when you play a back-to-back. It's like a mini-playoff series. It should be a fun game."