BOSTON — Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman likes the way his team reacted down the stretch and is playing heading into the franchise’s first visit to the playoffs since 2008.
The Wizards, 118-102 winners over the Boston Celtics in Wednesday night’s regular season finale, take a four-game winning streak into Sunday night’s playoff opener at Chicago — and were 8-3 in their last 11 games to earn the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.
“I think we went 7-3 the last 10, four in a row, that’s the way you want to finish,” Wittman said after his team passed the Brooklyn Nets on the final night to set up the running with the Bulls.
Asked about Chicago, still more than competitive even without star guard Derrick Rose, Wittman said, “We’ve played this team the last two years extremely well. We are 2-1 against them this year. They came in and smacked us pretty good last game so that should be a good fresh wound on our guys the message that they sent us the last time we played them.”
“They’re a great defensive team,” said forward Trevor Ariza. “… They play hard all the time. If we can match their intensity and their energy in the game we’ll give ourselves a chance.”
The Wizards, just 29-53 last year, finished 44-38. They clinched the sixth spot with the win and the the fifth seed with the Nets’ loss in Cleveland.
Guard Bradley Beal led six Wizards in double figures with 27 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds.
Washington forward Trevor Booker scored all 20 of his points in the first half, guard John Wall had 15 points and nine assists, center Marcin Gortat added 15 points and 10 rebounds and forwards Ariza and Nene contributed 13 points and 12 points, respectively.
“I think we have a lot of confidence,” said Beal. “We’re happy with where we’re at and how we’re playing. It’s all about our defense. We’re playing tremendous defense right now and as long as we continue to do that we’re going to finish pretty well.”
The Celtics finished Brad Stevens’ first year as an NBA coach with 57 losses, the third-worst total in franchise history. Boston went 13-43 after a high-water mark of 12-14 and lost 11 of its last 13. The Celtics now await the draft with two first-round draft picks, one in the lottery.
“I feel like we got better on both sides of the floor,” said Boston guard Avery Bradley. “Even though it was a tough year you can always stay positive from this year.
“I think everybody in this locker room can say that they improved their game throughout the season.”
Rookie forward Kelly Olynyk led the short-handed Celtics with 24 points and seven rebounds. Forward Jeff Green scored 20 points Bradley finished with 18 points and forward Brandon Bass had 16 points and seven rebounds. Rookie point guard Phil Pressey had 10 assists and nine points.
With four players hurt, the Celtics dressed 10 players, but guard Rajon Rondo and forward Jared Sullinger could not play. That left Boston with eight, and its entire three-man bench and starting point guard Pressey were all undrafted players.
The Wizards came out on fire, going 17-for-22 from the field in the first 9:44 of the game and led by as many as 15 points in the first quarter. They finished the half shooting 61.7 percent from the floor and were up by 12 at the break.
Washington forward Al Harrington left the game and headed for the locker room in the second quarter. He received stitches above the left eye but returned in the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Washington G John Wall, who missed 60 games with injuries during his first three NBA seasons, including 33 last year, played in all 82 games this season. … Celtics F Jared Sullinger was among those who did not play, but he addressed the crowd pregame on Fan Appreciation Night, saying, “Hopefully, we’ll come back better next year.” … With Wednesday marking the one-year anniversary of the game the Celtics postponed because of the Boston Marathon bombings the previous day, Rondo was sporting sneakers that contained the initials of those killed in the attack, along with “41513,” the date. Survivors, first responders and medical personnel were honored at Wednesday’s game. … Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge called his team’s season “a tough, tough year and I saw a lot of positive things from individuals.” … F Brandon Bass won the ninth annual Red Auerbach Award that goes to the Celtic showing the most spirit on and off the court.
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