WASHINGTON It wasn't always pretty, but the Boston Celtics (6-9) were able to get the job done and escape with a 100-94 win over Washington on Sunday. The C's have won all three matchups with the Wizards this season, and have locked up winning the head-to-head series. Not that it'll matter with the Wizards (2-14) unlikely to even sniff the playoffs. As for the Celtics, they're a difficult team to get a read on right now. You have to like what you saw on Sunday, but it has to be put in perspective. Boston's next win over a team with a winning record will be its first this season. When you couple that with the fact that half their wins have come against Washington, and you have a Celtics team that still has a lot to prove.
Now with the game in the books, we'll reflect on the keys to victory for Boston against the Wizards, and how things actually played out.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Rebounding today, as is the case most games, will be a huge factor in the game's outcome. Boston has to hold its own on the defensive boards, which as we've come to find is easier said than done. It becomes a really big issue against the Wizards. Despite all their flaws - and they have plenty - offensive rebounding is the one thing they do pretty well. They come into today's game ranked 10th in offensive rebounds, while the C's are just 26th (out of 30 teams) in defensive rebounds. But the C's haven't been hurt too badly by second-chance points against Washington, which has outscored the Celtics, 26-20, in second-chance points this season.
WHAT WE SAW: The C's came up short, 37-35, on the boards. But from a rebounding standpoint, the day was very much a success. Along with being minus-two on the boards, Boston managed to keep it relatively close in terms of second-chance points (10-9 in favor of the Wizards).
MATCHUP TO WATCH - Paul Pierce vs. Chris Singleton. On paper, it seems like a given to give this to Pierce. But the way he has struggled all season - career lows across the board - combined with Singleton's steadily improving play, this battle has the potential to be a lot closer than most would anticipate.
WHAT WE SAW: The Truth stepped up in a big, bad - bad meaning good this time, folks - way for the Celtics. Pierce lit the Wizards up for a season-high 34 points. He also had 10 assists for his first double-double this season, not to mention grabbing eight rebounds. As for Singleton, he was one of the many non-factors on the floor for Washington. He finished with two points on 1-for-4 shooting from the field.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Ray Allen. He is the one Celtic who the Wizards have had the most trouble defending. In the two games this season, Allen is averaging a team-best 20 points per game which includes connecting on 8 of his 12 3-point shots. For Allen to be effective, that means freeing him up for shots - something the Celtics have not done a good job of lately. Allen averages 10.2 shots per game this season. He has failed to get double-digit shot attempts in the last four Celtics games, and five of the last six.
WHAT WE SAW: Allen was well on his way to snapping the single-digit shot attempt streak he's on. However, Wizards rookie Jan Vesely stepped on Allen's foot in the second quarter which led to Allen jamming his left ankle and being unable to return in the second half. Having only played 11 minutes, Allen had seven points while connecting on 3-of-5 shooting from the field.
STAT TO TRACK: It's a four-quarter game, obviously. But Boston's success - at least thus far this season - is usually known by halftime. The Celtics have only been tied or ahead three times this season at the half. Their record in those games? 3-0.
WHAT WE SAW: After ending the first quarter down by one point, Boston rallied in the second and closed out the quarter with a 7-0 run to lead, 49-40 at the half. So the C's string of halftime leads resulting in victory, remains intact.