WASHINGTON (AP)—Paul Pierce knew he was going to take the last shot.
Once again the Celtics’ forward delivered, hitting a fade-away 22-footer at the buzzer in overtime to give the Celtics a 116-115 win over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night.
“I just knew I wanted the ball to take the last shot regardless, whether they double-teamed or triple-teamed,” Pierce said. “I got a good look once I jumped up and rose above the crowd, and I knocked down the shot.”
Pierce finished with 31 points, including Boston’s last seven points in overtime, to secure the win. He’s now scored 30 points or more in 12 of his past 13 games, a stretch during which the Celtics have gone 7-6.
Boston still sits five games out of a playoff berth, in 10th place in the Eastern Conference behind Chicago and Milwaukee. Washington remains in sixth, a half-game behind Indiana and a half-game ahead of Philadelphia. The Wizards have lost three of four.
“We wanted to win this game in the worst way,” said Wizard coach Eddie Jordan. “Its a tough, tough loss but we have to deal with it and get ready for Miami tomorrow night.”
Gilbert Arenas led Washington with 39 points, including nine of the Wizards’ 11 overtime points in what amounted to a 1-on-1 showdown with Pierce.
Arenas pull-up with 14 seconds left in the extra period put the Wizards ahead 115-114 in response to Pierces 3-pointer from the right wing.
Pierce answered with a fade-away from the left baseline with an improbable, acrobatic game winner.
“I wanted him to stay more in the middle of the floor because we thought if he went to the sideline they would be able to double,” said Boston coach Doc Rivers. “And they actually did, and he still got the shot off. That was just a great player making a great shot.”
Added teammate Wally Szczerbiak: “I was right under the basket and it was money. Big shot. That was huge.”
Ryan Gomes scored 21 of his career-high 27 points in the first half, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer that gave the Celtics a 57-54 lead at the break. Szczerbiak added 23 for Boston.
“I just got some easy baskets in transition in the first half.” Gomes said.”
After that, they started collapsing on me and I was able to kick it out to Paul and Raef and Wally for shots.”
Jamison hit a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to give Washington a 95-82 lead before Boston rallied to tie it at 99 on a 17-4 run, capped by Orien Greenes 3-pointer from the right wing.
The Wizards and Celtics then traded points in the final minutes before Pierce and Arenas each had a chance to win it in regulation.
With eight seconds difference between the shot and game clocks after a Celtics timeout, Pierce dribbled at the top of the arc before firing wide of the rim, resulting in a shot clock violation.
Arenas dribbled down on the ensuing in missed a 15-foot runner at the buzzer. Neither team took good care of the basketball, with the Celtics committing 27 turnovers to the Wizards’ 19. Boston made up for that by outrebounding the Wizards 47-36 in a wild affair that saw 22 lead changes and 16 ties.
“We overcame 27 turnovers despite everything that was going on and we found a way,” Pierce said. “That’s the key about it. This team is showing a lot of heart with the injuries we’ve got.”
Both teams started the game a guard short. Boston will be without guard Delonte West for at least one more game with a strained right groin, while Washington will be without Jared Jeffries for about three more games with an injured left calf. … The Washington Wizards are now 0-3 in their 1972-73 retro jerseys. … Washington signed guard Billy Thomas to a second 10-day contract Monday, after which they must decide whether to keep him for the rest of the season. … Boston has won at least one game at Washington every season since 1997-98.