Jim Davis / Globe Staff
Washington came in struggling. Boston came in streaking. But the Wizards gave the Celtics their biggest scare in a while, taking them to the final minute before fading out 104-102 in front of 20,173 fans at Verizon Center.
Rajon Rondo scored 21 points and dished out 11 assists. Ray Allen scored 18 points, passing the 20,000-point plateau. Kendrick Perkins put in a double-double (17-points, 11 rebounds). And Kevin Garnett finished with 17. The Celtics shot 49 percent from the floor and extended their winning streak to nine games (six straight on the road), but it didn’t come easy.
The Celtics got into a shootout early on with the Wizards before building a 14-point halftime lead. A 20-6 run to start the third quarter turned that lead to dust and put the Wizards up 72-70 midway through the quarter. Ray Allen settled things down with a 3-pointer that was as fitting as it was timely, giving him 20,000 points and putting the Celtics up 73-72.
And in the fourth quarter, when it looked like the Celtics could keep Washington at bay and keep the game at least two shots out of the Wizards reach, the Wizards got clutch buckets from two of its big three Antwan Jamison (16 points, 8 rebounds) and Gilbert Arenas (25 points on 11-of-22 shooting), and surprisingly big buckets from backup forward Andray Blatche (17 points).
Doc Rivers had criticized his team for its rebounding, but the beat the Wizards 40-34 on the glass. The win was the Celtics fourth straight over the Wizards going back to last year when they swept the season series.
7:18, 88-86: The Wiz have cut it back down to 2. Andray Blatche hit a couple of big jumpers, including a 3 from the right side that that made it a one-shot game.
End of Quarter, 83-74 Celtics: Checking Tony Allen’s confidence meter, he was called for a carry bringing the ball up after gathering a rebound, and he held the ball against his forehead and took a deep breath out of frustration. He threw his hands up and tapped his chest, saying “My bad.” As for the Celtics as a whole, after letting a 14-point lead fall apart, they went on a 13-2 run fueled by Ray Allen’s timely shooting to end the quarter up 9.
3:36, 75-72, Celtics: Ray Allen’s 20,000th point fitting came on a 3-pointer. It also came with the Celtics in the heat of a unexpected battle with the Wizards. Washington came back from 14 down, taking the lead when Antwan Jamison plucked Tony Allen, gave it to Gilbert Arenas to start the fastbreak, then ran the floor to finish it and put the Wiz up 72-70. Ray Allen drilled a 3 from the top of the key that gave him 20,000 and put the Celtics up 73-72. He came back on the Cs next possession and hit a long two from the wing that put the Cs up 75-72.
6:21, 70-68 Celtics: What was a pretty comfy Celtics lead is now down to just a basket, and Brendan Haywood’s a big reason why the lead dwindled. He’s scored 9 points this quarter, including a 16-footer from the baseline that cut it to 2.
7:33, 70-64 Celtics: The Wizards came out and scored the first six points of the second half. They’ve sliced into what was a 14-point halftime lead by getting to the free throw line, where they’re 7 of 8 so far in the quarter.
Halftime, 64-50 Celtics: The Cs tried to stretch their lead out a little with Rajon Rondo going to work on Earl Boykins. First, he brushed him off a Rasheed Wallace screen and got to the lane for a runner and a foul (he hit the free throw). Then he essentially raced Boykins to the basket for two more. He got to the paint relatively easily again, pulling up for a 7-footer. He missed it, but Kendrick Perkins got the board and got fouled, drew a got and split the free throws.Rondo’s scored 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting with five rebounds, and he was only on the floor 13 minutes in the first half. The Wizards don’t really have an answer for him.
The only Celtics starter not in double-figures is Paul Pierce (7 points). Rondo, Ray Allen, and Kendrick Perkins each have 11 and Kevin Garnett (who’s looked explosive, finishing off a few plays with strong dunks) has 10.
3:48 53-42 Celtics: Quick riddle: How big does the lead have to get for a “Let’s Go Celtics” chant to break out in Verizon Center. 11. It started in a corner of the arena and got louder with Gilbert Arenas at the free-throw line. He missed both attempts.
4:33, 50-40 Celtics: Ray Allen just went to the stripe and sank two freebies. He’s got 11, and needs 3 more for 20,000.
6:54, 42-36 Celtics: Blatch came back out of the timeout and score the Wizards next two baskets, using a nice little pivot move to score the first one and giving Allen a little shove on the way back down.
8:15, 40-32 Celtics: Ray Allen went hard to the rack and banged one on Andray Blatche. It was one of those “Nothing on my mind but cramming this on you” kind of dunks. Rasheed Wallace couldn’t help but grin about it. Flip Saunders went ahead and called a timeout to settle things down.
10:33, 32-28 Celtics: Tony Allen’s got a couple of nice buckets. One on a putback at the end of the first quarter and the other sneaking behind the Wizards’ defense for an And-1 (he missed the free throw).
End of 1st, 28-27 Wizards: After starting the game 4-for-5, the Cs missed might of their next 14. Paul Pierce has been relatively quiet, taking just one shot from the floor (a 3 he made from the wing), and splitting two free throws.Pretty tight, though. Not a ton of defense. No surprise that Brendan Haywood is 3-for-3 with three rebounds. Kendrick Perkins called him one of the top five centers in the league.
1:06, 26-24 Wizards: Kevin Garnett made up for a botched give-and-go with Paul Pierce by running down Randy Foye and swatting his jumper into the cameramen along the baseline.
2:22, 26-22 Wizards: The Wiz went on a small 7-0 tear thanks to Antwan Jamison and Nick Young. Jamison drilled a 3, Nick Young hit a pretty pull-up. Jamison came down and took Kevin Garnett from the wing to the post for a deuce. Then Nick Young went hard to the rack on a fastbreak, drawing a foul on Ray Allen, and hitting two free throws. Allen put an end to the run, drilling an open 3 from the top of the key.
5:28, 17-17: Brendan Haywood stepped back on Kendrick Perkins and hit a nice little J, then came back, took a lob from Gilbert Arenas and finished with a strong dunk. He’s got 6 so far. Both offenses are still kind of blazing along, the Cs are shooting 58.3 percent to the Wiz’s 63.6 percent.
9:01, 13-10, Celtics: Lots of offense, the two teams combined to go eight for their first 9. The only basket in the pain was a Brendan Haywood lay-up. Paul Pierce made a 3 that put the Cs up 13-10.
Welcome to the Verizon Center
The Celtics are streaking. A win tonight would make the Wizards their ninth straight victim. It would also be the sixth straight road win for the Cs. Ray Allen’s also 14 points shy of 20,000. He would become the 33d NBA player and the 37th player altogether (ABA and NBA included) to reach the mark.
The Wizards have their own problems, starting with the 7-12 record that’s below the expectations inside and out of the organization. Having Gilbert Arenas back has its plusses and minuses. He’s giving the Wiz 20.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.5 assists, but even without the blog, he’s still being Gilbert.
More to come …