Paul Pierce poured in 27 points and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with under three minutes left as the Celtics overcame blowing a 16-point lead to the Wizards to record their first win of the season, 89-86, Saturday night at the Verizon Center in Washington. Rajon Rondo added 12 points and 12 assists, Kevin Garnett chipped in 15 points and Jeff Green had 11 points off the bench for the Celtics who improve to 1-2.
Garnett forced a key turnover on Kevin Seraphin with 28.2 seconds left as Washington blew a chance to take the lead. Martell Webster missed a desperate shot from the corner with 1.5 seconds remaining as the Celtics escaped with the win. Kevin Garnett missed a jumper with 4.5 seconds left that gave the Wizards the last shot of the game. Jason Terry hit a pair of free throws with 1.3 seconds left to seal the victory.
After a lethargic effort on Friday night in the home opener, Doc Rivers changed the starting lineup on Saturday night and it paid off immediately. Rivers replaced Brandon Bass with Jared Sullinger in the lineup and the Celtics raced out to leads of 17-2 and 26-10 and built a 26-12 advantage after one quarter.
The Wizards, who are without the injured John Wall, got back into the game with their second unit, as Washington went on a 17-8 run to open the second quarter. Led by Kevin Seraphin and Jordan Crawford, Washington's bench outscored the Celtics, 21-6, to climb back in the game. The Celtics watched as their 16-point lead was cut down to seven at the half, as they took a 49-42 lead to the locker room.
The Celtics went back to their starting lineup to open the third, building their lead back up to 13, 67-54. But then Garnett went out with 5:44 left in the third. The Wizards, led by Seraphin, went on a 11-2 run to close the gap. The Celtics took a 71-67 lead into the fourth quarter.
With the lead down the three, 73-70, with 11 minutes left, the Celtics went on a 7-0 run to open up a 10-point lead. But the Wizards would not go away, as they went on a 9-2 spurt, capped off by a Cartier Martin steal of a sloppy cross-court pass from Rondo and a layup with 4:52 left. Rondo's redirect of a rebound with his right hand fell in the basket with four minutes left, pushing the lead back up to five but Jannero Pargo's three with 3:31 left tied the game, 84-84. Seraphin drained a jumper with 2:51 left to give Washington its first lead.
Pierce answered with a 3-pointer from the right wing with 2:35 left to put Boston back up for good, 87-86. The Celtics won despite being outrebounded, 46-35, and having their bench outscored by the Washington reserves, 62-29.
Rondo finished with 12 assists, extending his streak of double-digit assists to 27 games, matching John Stockton for the third longest in NBA history. The Celtics are off until Wednesday, when they finish the home-and-home series with Wizards at the Garden. For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics and the Green Street blog.
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