Wizards top Celtics 118-92 to clinch playoff berth
By JOSEPH WHITE
WASHINGTON (AP) John Wall was waving his towel as time expired. He joined his teammates at center court and did a little dance in the middle of a celebratory huddle. He gave Bradley Beal a bear hug from behind and also hugged and thanked coach Randy Wittman.
Wall will soon be making his playoff debut, and the Washington Wizards will be there for the first time since 2008, having clinched an Eastern Conference berth Wednesday night with a 118-92 win over the Boston Celtics.
"It's everything I've been waiting for," said Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, "as being a point guard, and trying to learn how to lead in this league, and become a better player. But also I think the fans deserve it. I mean, the tough times they've been through, booing us and us feeling bad when we're not playing good or playing the right way."
Wall had 13 points and 10 assists in one of the Wizards' easiest wins in recent history. It was their biggest margin of victory this season, and their 62.5 shooting percentage was their best in a game since 2001.
The Wizards' playoff position had been relatively secure for several weeks in the weakened East, but the formality of seeing the magic number reach zero was a milestone worth noting for a franchise whose win totals since their last postseason appearance have been 19, 26, 23, 20 and 29 - never finishing better than 24 games below .500. Washington sits in sixth place in the conference.
"We're still learning the process of what it takes to be a really good team," said Wittman, who will be in the playoffs for the first time as a head coach. "But I couldn't be more happy for those guys."
Marcin Gortat scored 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting, and Beal went 7 for 8 to finish with 19 points. All five Wizards starters scored in double figures, rendering superfluous the customary off-the-bench burst from Wittman's "AARP group" of Al Harrington, Andre Miller and Drew Gooden.
Jared Sullinger had 25 points, and Rajon Rondo had 13 to lead the Celtics, who have lost six in a row and 11 of 12 - and also 11 straight on the road. They never led the Wizards, trailed 19-4 after barely more than five minutes and allowed Washington to shoot 61 percent in the first half. They shot 4 for 18 with six turnovers in the third quarter and 3 for 24 from 3-point range for the game.
"We laid an egg. It's pretty obvious," Boston coach Brad Stevens said. "We didn't provide any fight tonight."
The Wizards' last playoff appearance ended a streak of four in a row with coach Eddie Jordan and franchise point guard Gilbert Arenas. More was expected, but Arenas brought guns into the locker room and became a felon, precipitating a stunning decline for himself and the franchise. Team president Ernie Grunfeld got rid of Jordan and went through two more coaches before settling on Wittman, whose career record is 141 games below .500.
Grunfeld misfired on draft picks and other signings, but the Wizards' miserable records allowed him to land two cornerstones: Wall and 2012 No. 3 overall pick Beal. Gortat, Nene, Trevor Ariza and the AARP trio have added the right veteran mix this season to keep the team hovering around .500.
All of it happened not a moment too soon: Both Grunfeld and Wittman are in the last year of their contracts and were operating under a playoffs-or-else mandate from owner Ted Leonsis.
"We were in a desperate spot not too long ago," said Wittman, who was promoted to head coach after Flip Saunders was fired in January 2012. "When I took over, I just tried to keep not only telling our guys, but Ted and Ernie, `Let's do this the right way and let's build this and teach, and one day we're going to get here.'"
NOTES: Celtics G Avery Bradley missed the game with a strained right Achilles. He was hurt in the first half of Monday's loss to the Chicago Bulls. ... ... It was the largest margin of defeat for the Celtics this season.
Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP
Updated April 2, 2014
Rodney Harrison, NBC Sports, joined MFB to discuss last night's game against the Chiefs, the Patriots' issues on both offense and defense, and how he feels Brandon Browner will impact the defense as he returns from suspension.
Greg, Steve and Chris zero in on the O-line specifically and look at what it will take to right the ship. Is the running game a solution or more blocking from TE's, LaFell etc. ?
The boys discuss what is going on with the Pats offense and why Brady has looked a little off so far. Is it O-line or WR issues? They specifically discuss Amendola, Thompkins and Dobson - who's the odd man out?
Jackie Mac joins the guys to discuss her thoughts on a possible mid-season tournament in the NBA, LeBron's return to Cleveland, trade rumors with the Celtics and Red Sox, and Darrelle Revis' contract situation.
Jackie MacMullan of ESPN Boston to talk about the Lebron James Saga, the possibility of Rajon Rondo being traded, and the future of Marcus Smart.
Former coach of Celtics 1st-round pick Marcus Smart, Travis Ford joins MFB to talk about what Celtics fans should expect from the strong point guard. Among other things, Coach Ford says Smart will be a hard worker, and will improve his shooting ability.
Joe Castiglione does his annual wrap-up of the season by reading the poem by Bart Giamatti.
Mut and Rob discuss the "kids" and the variety of young bodies the Red Sox called upon this season. Specifically, they look at Bogaerts and Bradley, Jr. and where things went wrong. They give their opinions on which one will right the ship next season.
Description: Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett looks back at the 2014 Red Sox prospect season by answering listener questions about a number of Red Sox prospects as well as broader issues and themes in the farm system.
DJ Bean, WEEI.com, joined the guys to talk about the Bruins signing two young stars to 1-year contracts.
Rob Bradford is joined by WEEI.com Bruins beat writer DJ Bean, as well as Boston sports fan/blogger Turtleboy to talk all things Bruins free agency. With the B's recent moves, the conversation turns to where the Bruins might next turn and what kind of dent losing Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton might make.
DJ discusses Shawn Thornton's new deal, and the on going negotiations with Jerome Iginla
The top stories of the day as recounted by Kirk Minihane.
The guys opened the show discussing the Pats brutal Monday night loss.
John Dennis left the show mid segment.
Christian's nephew twisted his ankle and missed Sunday's game because he (supposedly) slipped while rushing down the stairs to stop his puppy from peeing on the floor. Lou addresses the Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty from last night's game, in which a Chiefs player was flagged for dropping to his knees during a TD celebration. And Christian is dubious of some photos of LaRon Landry.
A familiar sentiment has arisen regarding the Patriots offense. Tom Brady is locking in on 2 guys (Edelman and Gronk) and no one else seems to be getting a look. A 37 year old, future Hall of Fame QB, has little to no weapons in 2014.
Lou, Christian and Tim break down last night's embarrassing loss on national television. They wonder just how much progress has been made towards building a championship team.
We discuss the Rajon Rondo injury and conspiracy theories, and whether or not his tale about falling in the shower holds any water. Get it? Shower... water? Nevermind.
We bring you the stuff you might have missed that we didn't have a chance to touch on today.
We tackle four topics all inspired by Derek Jeter's long goodbye.
Co-founder and chairman of the Boston Beer Company, Jim Koch, talks about his Sam Adams beer and the history of his brewery.
Danny picard is filling in for Mikey and talks with CSNNE's Mike Giardi about Clay Buchholz heading up the Red Sox pitching rotation, and how the Patriots have looked through training camp so far.
Mut and Villani are talking about whether the Red Sox will give Jon Lester the type of contract he is looking for, or whether they might be shopping him with rumors of the Red Sox scouting Cole Hamels.
Ben and Russ break down some rumors surrounding Real Madrid and Manchester United. Also on the docket is the MLS and your New England Revolution.
Dino, Gerry and Kirk talk about Gerry's passionate defense of Tom Brady, going to lunch and clock issues in the third edition of Breaking Balls.
Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett looks back at the 2014 Red Sox prospect season by answering listener questions about a number of Red Sox prospects as well as broader issues and themes in the farm system.
Dino, Gerry and Kirk talk about Gerry's passionate defense of Tom Brady, going to lunch and clock issues in the third edition of Breaking Balls.More from this show
The top stories of the day as recounted by Kirk Minihane.More from this show