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Wizards delight in securing playoff spot

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Updated 12 months ago on
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WASHINGTON — The No. 1 overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft, point guard John Wall finished his first three seasons in Washington without reaching the postseason. The fourth attempt was the charm.

Center Marcin Gortat scored 22 points and Wall had 13 points and 10 assists as the Wizards clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2008 with a 118-92 victory over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.

After capping the 2007-08 season with a playoff appearance, the Wizards (39-36) went 117-277 during the next five seasons.

As the final seconds ticked off in a game that Washington dominated throughout, Wall sought out and hugged coach Randy Wittman on the sideline during before briefly dancing in celebration with his teammates at center court.

“I never got used to losing,” Wall said.

Wall, forward Trevor Booker and center Kevin Seraphin are the longest tenured players on the roster.

“To see us do it on the right page, with the young guys that have been here and developing, getting better … adding pieces, adding these veteran guys that are teaching us the ropes still … that helped us to reach a playoff spot,” Wall said.

Guard Bradley Beal had 19 points for the Wizards, who never trailed. Washington led by 15 points in the first quarter, 57-46 at halftime and as many as 33 in the second half.

The Wizards shot 62.5 percent from the field, their best performance since the 2001 season. Six players scored in double figures, including all five starters.

Sixth in the Eastern Conference, Washington pulled within 1 1/2 games of the Brooklyn Nets and remained two games ahead of the Charlotte Bobcats.

“We were in a desperate spot not too long ago,” Wittman said.

Starting with Washington as an assistant in 2009, Wittman replaced Flip Saunders during the 2011-12 season. He had never qualified for the playoffs as a head coach in seven seasons with three different teams.

“When I took over, I just tried telling our guys (and management), let’s do this the right way, let’s build this and teach and one day we’re going to get here,” Wittman said.

Forward Jared Sullinger scored 25 points and center Kelly Olynyk added 14 in the Celtics’ 11th straight road loss. Boston (23-52) has dropped six in a row and 11 of 12 overall.

Boston guard Rajon Rando scored 13 points in his return after sitting out Monday’s loss to the Chicago Bulls.

“It’s still a hard game to swallow,” Rondo said. “They were in control the entire game. We made runs, but every time they had answers for us.”

Forward Trevor Ariza had 18 points and Booker scored 10 for the Wizards. Forward Al Harrington added 12 off the bench. Harrington’s 3-pointer gave Washington its largest lead at 95-62 one minute into the fourth quarter.

Boston finished 3 of 24 from beyond the arc and shot 39.5 percent from the field overall. The Wizards made 10 of 19 3-point attempts.

Washington could have clinched the postseason earlier this week with a win at Charlotte on Monday or a New York Knicks loss. Instead, a stagnant offense led to the Wizards blowing a fourth-quarter lead before falling to the Bobcats 100-94. The Knicks won two road games.

“This is the most we’ve swung the ball from side to side for 48 minutes in a long time,” Wittman said of the playoff-clinching performance. “It gets you 29 assists. We’ve got to play that way.”

The Wizards handled their affairs against the Celtics, outscoring Boston 32-16 in the third quarter before the crowd of 17,770.

Gortat made 7 of 10 shots from the field for 16 points in the first half and finished 10 of 13 overall with eight rebounds. Beal made his first seven shots from the field.

“That was the first goal of the team to make the playoffs. Everybody is happy,” said Gortat, who joined Washington after a preseason trade with the Phoenix Suns.

Wall knows the Wizards simply cannot stay in celebratory mode for long.

“You celebrate tonight and get ready to go on the road and win another game,” Wall said. “That’s the main thing, try and finish the season as strong as possible for the playoffs and a great playoff seed spot.”

NOTES: Celtics F Jeff Green scored 39 points in Boston’s 113-111 victory at Washington on Jan. 22. In the rematch, he had 13 points, missed all six of his 3-point shots and finished 3 of 13 from the field. … Celtics G Avery Bradley (strained right Achilles) did not play. … The Wizards lead the season series 2-1. The series concludes April 16 in Boston. … Wizards PF Nene (sprained left MCL knee) has yet to return to practice, though he has worked out with team trainers for multiple days, coach Randy Wittman said. Out since Feb. 23, Nene has missed 19 straight games. … Wizards rookie F Otto Porter scored a career-high nine points. … The Celtics host the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. Washington visits the New York Knicks on Friday.

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