BOSTON - A matchup against the lowly Washington Wizards was supposed to be a tune-up as the Celtics prepare for the postseason.
It was supposed bring them one step closer to securing the third seed in the East.
After all, entering last night's action only two teams, New Jersey (11) and Minnesota (15), had fewer wins than the struggling Wizards (25-54).
But somebody forgot to tell Washington that it was supposed to be Boston's punching bag. In fact, it was the Wizards who were the bullies. The Wizards thoroughly embarrassed the Celtics Friday night at the Garden, beating Boston, 106-96. The game was not as close as the score indicates. The Celtics trailed by as much as 28 and were booed for much of the game by the sellout crowd of 18,624 for their lethargic effort.
Atlanta (50-29), which beat Toronto Friday night, 107-101, now holds a one game lead over Boston (49-30) with three games to go in the race for the third seed in the East.
The Celtics hold the tie breaker, but they say it doesn't matter to them whether they finish with the third seed or the fourth.
The highlight of the night for Boston came before the opening tip when star guard Rajon Rondo was presented with the Red Auerbach award which has been given annually to a current Celtic player who "best exemplifies the spirit and meaning of what it is to be a Celtic" since 2006.
It was all downhill for the Celtics after that. After Pierce cut Washington's lead to 20-17 with 2:40 remaining in the first quarter, the Wizards held the Celtics scoreless over the next seven minutes and 35 seconds.
The Celtics turned the ball over, took bad shots, missed wide open layups and were completely outplayed over that stretch. Washington took advantage by going on an 18-0 run that Mike Miller capped off with a layup which gave the Wizards a 38-17 cushion.
The Celtics never recovered.
Tony Allen snapped an 0-for-9 Boston shooting slump with a layup, but the Wizards would extend their run to 27-2 by the time it was all over. It gave them their biggest lead of the game, 47-19, with 4:33 remaining in the first half.
A Garnett l9-foot jumper with 4:18 left sparked a 7-0 Celtics run, but Boston still trailed 47-26.
The Celtics began the second half with a 6-2 surge to give the fans something to cheer about. It closed the gap to 54-37. Washington would keep Boston at arms-length the rest of the way, but the Celtics did make things interesting by slashing Washington's lead to 83-71 with 4:35 remaining. But the Wizards were not to be denied.
Andray Blatche (31 points, 11 rebounds) dominated his matchup against Kevin Garnett (8 points on 3-of-12 shooting). Shaun Livingston (25 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists), Nick Young (19 points) and JaVale McGee (14 points, 11 rebounds) also played well for Washington.
Rondo led Boston with 17 points, 12 assists and 6 rebounds, and Perkins added 10 points and 7 rebounds. A late offensive explosion by Nate Robinson gave him 13 points for the game.