Celtics tug curtain toward Wizards

Playoff shot nearly lost as Boston wins, 87-83

April 10, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Washington Wizards last night played tribute to the shining moment in their past, their lone championship in franchise history.

Among the members of the 1977-78 Washington Bullets in attendance at MCI Center was Dick Motta, the coach who popularized the phrase, "The opera ain't over "til the fat lady sings."

The Wizards might now be hearing the strains of the fat lady singing them out of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The Boston Celtics held off a Wizards charge in the second half to win, 87-83, negating a clutch performance from Washington's Kwame Brown, who had 17 points and nine rebounds off the bench.

After Brown missed a short turnaround jumper in the lane with one second left on the shot clock, J.R. Bremer hit a three- pointer from the left wing with 19.4 seconds to play to give Boston an 85-83 lead.

Tyronn Lue missed a short jumper in the lane with about five seconds left, and Brown couldn't bat the tip-in into the basket. Walter McCarty was fouled on the rebound and hit one of two free throws with 1.1 seconds left.

Lue grabbed the rebound on the second free throw and immediately called timeout, but the Wizards didn't have any. Washington was assessed a technical, Paul Pierce hit the ensuing free throw, and the Celtics, who kept possession of the ball, ran out the clock.

With the loss, Wizards (36-42) dropped another game behind the Milwaukee Bucks (39-40) in the race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Bucks later beat the Los Angeles Clippers, 112-92.

Michael Jordan had 21 points to pace Washington, while Antoine Walker scored 24 for Boston. Pierce and Bremer had 20 each for the Celtics (42-36), who clinched a playoff spot with the win. In all, Pierce, Walker and Bremer had all but two of the Celtics' 33 second-half points.

The Wizards held the Celtics without a basket for the first eight minutes of the third quarter. That's when Brown led the 20-9 charge that lifted Washington from an eight-point halftime deficit to a 66-63 lead with 3:30 to go in the quarter.

But from there, Washington would score only once the rest of the period. That's when the Celtics found their offense. Walker hit a three-pointer at the 3:06 mark to tie the score and trigger a 10-2 run to close the quarter.

The Wizards pulled out all the promotional stops to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the franchise's only championship, won in the 1977-78 season.

They pulled out the star- spangled replica jerseys from that season and brought back 10 members from that squad. They included forwards Bobby Dandridge and Mitch Kupchak, now the general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as Washington's current general manager, Wes Unseld.

And for a good chunk of the first quarter, the Wizards played defense like they were 50-year-old men, failing to catch the Celtics in rotation. Boston jumped out to a 15-2 lead in the first 5:30, with Walker pouring in seven points during that run. His three-pointer in that stretch broke the NBA season record for most shots attempted by a team from beyond the arc.

Walker later hit a baseline drive and sank a free throw, and Bremer sank an off-balance leaner to give the Celtics a 28-22 lead after one quarter.

In the second, the Wizards twice got within three points, only to have the Celtics pull away. Bremer scored nine points in the quarter, including a three- pointer with a minute left that gave Boston a 54-46 lead at half time.

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