WASHINGTON—The Boston Celtics won their ninth straight game and their 10th in 11 road games. They had a player score his 20,000th point, another his 19,000th and held their opponents without a rebound for an entire quarter.
Even with all those superlatives, the Celtics didn't secure their 104-102 win over the Washington Wizards until the final moments Thursday night.
It took Rajon Rondo's driving dunk with a minute remaining to break a tie and help Boston (18-4) break a tie with Orlando -- which lost at Utah later Thursday -- for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
"We believe we can win games in any situation, and that's a good sign," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
Rondo had a season-high 21 points and 11 assists, and Ray Allen had 18 and became the 32nd NBA player to score 20,000 points. Kevin Garnett had 17 points, and Kendrick Perkins added 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Primarily a passer, Rondo changed his game for one night.
"Tonight it was me being aggressive. I still wanted to pass first, but tonight I had to take the shot," Rondo said.
"Clearly their game plan was they weren't going to guard him," Rivers said. "They were going to give him shots, and he took them."
Gilbert Arenas led Washington with 25 points, but missed a pair of free throws with 26.7 seconds to play. Arenas missed five of his six free throws.
After Paul Pierce hit one of two free throws to make it 101-98, Arenas hit a layup with 17 seconds to make it 101-100. Allen hit two free throws with 14.6 left for a 103-100 lead. Arenas and Randy Foye missed 3-point attempts in the final seconds.
Rondo not only was a shooter, he had to try and contain Arenas.
"He's playing one of the premier point guards in the league in Gilbert, so you know he's going to be geeked and jacked up for that," Garnett said.
The Wizards, who have lost three straight, hit their first four shots of the game, and made 10 of their first 15 to take a 26-19 lead with 3:43 to play in the first quarter. Washington missed its last seven shots of the quarter as the Celtics started a 21-6 run to take a 40-32 lead with 8:17 to play in second quarter.
Boston extended the lead to 14 at 64-50 at halftime, shooting 62.9 percent, and holding the Wizards without an individual rebound in the second quarter. According to STATS Inc., that hasn't happened in the seven years it has kept records.
Arenas was embarrassed about his poor free-throw shooting. Entering this season, he was a career 81 percent foul shooter. Now, he's shooting nearly 10 percentage points lower than that, and jokingly said his team might soon be called the "Hack-A-Wizards."
Arenas said that his teammates weren't lacking motivation against an outstanding team.
"We get up for games like this. It's the other games we have to start getting up for," Arenas said. "Right now, we're a bottom-feeder team."
Allen became the 32nd NBA player to score 20,000 points in his career, hitting a a 3-pointer with 4:44 remaining in the third quarter. Allen came into the game needing 14 points for 20,000, and it was on his mind.
"All day today, it was like, 'Don't get hit by a car. Get out here, don't get hurt, take care of your body,'" Allen said.
NOTES: Washington played wearing patches on their jerseys honoring late owner Abe Pollin and two logos were placed on the court. ... Pierce scored 12 points, giving him 19,002 in his career. ... Washington coach Flip Saunders says there's no timetable for the return of injured G Mike James, who began practicing this week. James has missed more than a month with a broken finger. ... Boston has won four straight games between the teams. Last season, the Celtics swept all three meetings.