Celtics 87, Wizards 83

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WASHINGTON (AP)—Rookie J.R. Bremer’s 3-pointer put Michael Jordan one game away from an early third retirement.

Bremer, coming off the bench after 41 straight games as a starter, scored 20 points and hit the winning 3-pointer with 19.4 seconds to play Wednesday night as the Boston Celtics clinched a playoff berth with an 87-83 victory over the Washington Wizards.

“It was definitely the biggest shot of my NBA career,” said Bremer, who was 8-of-11 from the field. “In shootaround today, it felt good. And when I came and shot before the game, it felt good. So when I knocked down my first shot, I knew it was going to be a big night for me.”

The loss put the Wizards 2 1/2 games behind eighth-place Milwaukee, which beat the Los Angeles Clippers 112-92. One more Bucks win or one more Wizards loss will eliminate Washington.

Antoine Walker scored 24 for the Celtics, and Paul Pierce had 20, but it was Bremer who made the difference.

“We did everything we could to keep their big two out, and he stepped in and hurt us,” said Jordan, who led Washington with 21 points.

Boston coach Jim O’Brien said he started Tony Delk because Bremer had hit the rookie wall.

“I thought that he’d been playing without his usual concentration,” O’Brien said. “And we took him out of the starting lineup, and he responded in a very professional way—came out and gave us a big game.”

The Wizards lost on retro night, spoiling the celebration the 25th anniversary of the franchise’s lone NBA championship. The Wizards—er, Bullets—wore their old red-and-white striped jerseys with striped headbands and striped socks, with only the ultra-baggy shorts marring the picture of historical accuracy. An old Bullets logo was put down at center court, a disco strobe light was installed, and the ’70s group Peaches & Herb sang at halftime.

Washington second-year player Kwame Brown had a rare passionate and productive game as he sported a 1970s-era Afro that looked something like “Boom Boom” Washington from the TV show “Welcome Back Kotter.” Brown, who was four years from birth when the Bullets won the title, marked the anniversary with 17 points and nine rebounds.

Ten players from the championships team—including Wes Unseld, Bob Dandridge, Phil Chenier and Mitch Kupchak—and coach Dick Motta were honored at halftime. The 1978 title series victory over Seattle was remembered for Motta’s mantra: “The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”

Now, the fat lady is about to sing for Jordan’s team, and he wonders why the passion and emotion the young players showed Wednesday has only just started to surface.

“Sometimes you need to get hit in the head to realize that you’re in a fight,” Jordan said. “It’s unbelievable we had to come down to this moment where we’re really fighting and scratching to try to stay in the playoffs, when all season long we had great opportunities to win ballgames and take advantage of it.”

After Bremer’s final basket, the Wizards trailed 85-83 but couldn’t get the ball to Jordan or Jerry Stackhouse on their final possession. Tyronn Lue missed a 16-foot fadeaway, and neither Brown nor Christian Laettner could get the tip.

Walter McCarty got the rebound, and the Celtics made a pair of free throws in the final two seconds.

The Wizards missed 10 of their first 11 shots and trailed 15-2 after six minutes. The Celtics went dry to start the second half, missing their first 10 shots to give the Wizards their first lead.

An alley-oop from Lue to Jordan gave the Wizards their last lead at 83-82with 1:57 left. Neither team scored again until Bremer’s winning shot.

Notes

The Celtics set an NBA season record for 3-point attempts, putting up 25 more to get to 2,064. They passed the 1995-96 Dallas Mavericks, who attempted 2,039. The Celtics need to make 42 more of those long-range shots to break the record for 3-pointers made, 735, held by that same Mavericks team. … Walker, Pierce and Bremer scored 31 of Boston’s 33 second-half points. … Jordan’s low point: He missed a simple, wide-open one-handed dunk midway through the second quarter. … Stackhouse got a technical foul for taunting in the third quarter. … Jordan needs 17 points over his final four games to retain the all-time scoring average lead over Wilt Chamberlain. Jordan hasaveraged 30.2 to Chamberlain’s 30.1

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Boston
A. Walker A. Walker
8-21,  24 Pts
8 Rebs, 3 Assists
 Washington
J. Stackhouse J. Stackhouse
4-12,  16 Pts
4 Rebs, 7 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists