BOSTON — In front of old friend Paul Pierce, the Boston Celtics showed their former captain they have grown up a bit this season.
Rajon Rondo (13 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists) posted his second triple-double of the season Sunday afternoon, helping Boston hold off a late charge from the Washington Wizards to escape with a 101-93 victory.
The Celtics dominated the first three quarters of the contest, thanks to Rondo’s play and strong scoring efforts from Jeff Green (team-high 25 points) and Marcus Thornton (season-high 21 points off the bench). Boston led by as many as 25 points in the second half, but Washington stormed back in the fourth quarter to close the deficit to one multiple times in the game’s closing minutes.
Pierce had a chance to complete the comeback and give the Wizards the lead with a 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining, but he missed his open look from the wing. The Celtics rebounded the miss and immediately countered with an Avery Bradley 3-pointer on a fast break. From there, the Celtics proceeded to stop what would have been an awful fourth quarter collapse by holding the Wizards scoreless over the remainder of the contest.
Pierce may have missed the big shot late, but he was the only member of the Wizards that played with any sense of urgency over the first three quarters of his homecoming. The former Celtic captain scored 16 points for Washington on 6-of-10 shooting, but overall Washington shot a putrid 32.8 percent over the game’s first 36 minutes.
That horrid shooting, combined with 17 turnovers, kept the Wizards trailing by 20-plus points for much of the second half, before the visitors stopped hitting the snooze button and fought back in the fourth quarter.
Veteran Wizards reserve Rasual Butler led the charge in the comeback, scoring all 22 of his points in the second half, including 14 in the fourth quarter. Boston’s defense fell prey to the Wizards’ drive-and-kick offense, as Washington shot 47.4 percent from 3-point range (9-of-19 in the second half).
In what was a nice change of pace though, the Celtics did not shy away from the late-game adversity. Instead, Rondo and co. responded to the challenge by staying aggressive and pushing the tempo in the closing minutes of a one possession game. After the Celtics’ offense has struggled with their execution late in games several times this season, it was refreshing to see Boston keep their foot on the gas down the stretch and reap the benefits from big baskets from Bradley and Green on the fast break.
With the win, the Celtics have put together a nice three-game winning streak, but the young team will face a stiff test yet again on Monday night, when they face the Wizards in a rematch at the Verizon Center in Washington DC.