The Boston Celtics missed out on an excellent opportunity to take a stronghold on second place in the Eastern Conference, but they’re not out of the race for that spot yet.
The Celtics try to bounce back from their latest loss and stay in the hunt for the East’s second seed Monday night when they visit the Washington Wizards.
Boston (55-25) entered Sunday’s game in Miami in a tie with the Heat for second place in the conference, and home-court advantage for a possible conference semifinals rematch.
The Celtics jumped out to an early 11-2 lead and hit eight of their first nine shots, but quickly cooled off and wound up losing 100-77, their sixth defeat in 11 games.
“Frustration is high on our team right now,” coach Doc Rivers said
Although the Celtics fell one game back of the Heat, they merely need to finish tied with Miami to earn the second seed by virtue of a 3-1 edge in the season series. If they Celtics win in Washington and beat New York at home in Wednesday’s season finale, they’d claim the No. 2 seed if the Heat lose either of their final two games - at Atlanta on Monday and at Toronto on Wednesday.
“We’d like to play them, I can tell you that,” Rivers said of a playoff rematch with the Heat. “And we may have to if we want to go somewhere.”
This will be the Celtics’ second game against the Wizards in four days. They defeated Washington 104-88 at home Friday.
Rondo played much better that night, finishing with 20 points and 14 assists, while Pierce (22 points and 12 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (15 and 11) also had double-doubles.
Rondo is averaging 15.0 points, 12.0 assists and shooting 58.1 percent in three games against Washington this season. The Celtics are 2-1 in those contests, but lost their lone trip to the Verizon Center 85-83 on Jan. 22.
Washington (22-58) defeated Atlanta 115-83 on Saturday, handing the visiting Hawks their fourth straight loss.
The Wizards have won five of eight, largely by taking advantage of slumping opponents. Since March 28, Washington has defeated Utah, Cleveland, Charlotte, Detroit and Atlanta. Those teams are a combined 10-24 in that same span.
“Those guys have helped bring our energy level up,” coach Flip Saunders said.
Veteran Andray Blatche(notes) led the way against the Hawks with 23 points while shooting 9 of 15. Blatche is averaging 25.5 points - 8.7 better than his season average - in six games this month. That includes a 20-point, 10-rebound performance against the Celtics on Friday.