“We choked,” Flip Saunders told the Boston Globe. “We got young guys, they don’t know what it’s like to be in a situation. We start talking to Garnett, start talking trash and everything else. Got Garnett and those guys juiced up and we just pissed down our leg the last six minutes.
“You have a veteran team that knows how to close out games, against a young team that hasn’t been there and instead of just letting a sleeping dog lie we juiced up their energies. We had plays coming off timeouts and we had guys going to the wrong side of the floor, we were so discombobulated.”
Did the Wizards choke? Sure, but they also got choked out. That piss on their legs wasn’t just their own, it was the Celtics’ urine too, after the C’s finally decided to bring their undecided attention against a young team, leaking all over Washington for the final six minutes.
A jumper by Paul Pierce with 5:56 left inconspicuously started the rally, but Ray Allen gave the momentum some steam with a hard slam dunk on the fast break a few possessions later. Until that point, I thought the Celtics had no chance. But Ray took a Rajon Rondo bounce pass in stride and, when he normally would have laid the ball in, instead went to the hoop with authority, taking out 43 minutes of frustration on the unsuspecting rim. I still wasn’t sure Boston would come back, but my buddy Brandon said it best at the time of Ray’s dunk:
“He needed to get those guys fired up somehow. He never dunks like that. Never.”
Never say never, Brandon, but it’s a fair point. You could see Ray coil his body, preparing for the strong dunk. He didn’t just dunk it, he flushed it through with some pop behind it.
Whether it was Ray’s dunk, or simply a matter of the C’s backs being up against the ropes and their faces staring a second loss to a miserable team right in the eyes, the Celtics responded. They brought an air of energy, responding just in the nick of time to a long and bouncy Washington team that had given Boston fits all night long.
Andray Blatche and Al Thornton were monsters throughout the game, but the pair that dominated most of the night fell silent over the last six minutes, scoring not a single point once Boston finally exerted its superiority. Saunders called out Blatche, specifically, saying he made some bad decisions and had no chance once a little trash talk awakened the sleeping Kevin Garnett. Garnett, who shot a career-worst 0-7 from the field, waited a long time to make his impact felt, but helped key the Wizards’ unraveling with tough play and well-timed abrasive comments.
A few days ago, Paul Pierce said the C’s had to get back to their roots, as a chippy team with a point to prove. Yesterday, they allowed Washington to be the aggressors for almost the entire game. When it really came down to it, though, and a should-have-been easy win looked like it was going to slip through the cracks, Boston stood toe to toe with Washington until the Wizards backed down.
Reggie Miller would agree that it was a choke-job by the Wizards.
But a change in the C’s attitude certainly had a lot to do with it.