Boston Wins On Red's Night


It seemed like old times on the famed parquet floor Red Auerbach, Bill Russell and a dominant Boston Celtics team.

Showing the teamwork and unselfishness that distinguished great Celtic teams in the Auerbach-Russell era, Boston opened the season at 2-0 for the first time in nine years by beating the Washington Wizards 112-101 Wednesday night.

"We've got a new era," Auerbach said as he was honored at a halftime ceremony. "We've got Rick Pitino and the boys. They're young, they're aggressive. Let's get behind them."

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  • Auerbach, now the Celtics' vice chairman, is 82 years old and 33 years removed from his last year as coach when he led the Celtics to their ninth championship in 10 years. Russell was part of all those titles, but he's 65 and it's been 30 years since he coached Boston to its second title in three years.

    But after the ceremony in which Auerbach and Russell raised to the rafters a banner commemorating the start of Auerbach's 50th year with the franchise, the Celtics had their best spurt of the game.

    Leading 53-47, they opened the third quarter with a 28-9 run that made it 81-56 with five minutes left in the period. Antoine Walker had 10 points in that surge, and the Wizards came no closer than to within 11 points after that.

    "I'm tired of losing. I want to get in the playoffs," said Walker, who hasn't achieved that in his three full seasons with the Celtics. "I think we're on the way."

    Vitaly Potapenko scored 20 points, and Walker and Kenny Anderson had 19 each for the Celtics, who have won just one playoff series in eight years.

    Mitch Richmond led Washington with 20 points and passed Julius Erving for 40th place in NBA career scoring with 18,380. Erving had 18,364.

    "They outplayed us and they outhustled us," Washington coach Gar Heard said. "We had no energy. I felt at halftime that we could get back in the game, but the third killed us."

    That's when Boston had 10 of its 29 assists and forced six of Washington's 15 turnovers.

    "It's all about passing. Every great team passes the ball," Pitino said. "We're going to get better and better because of the unselfishness. It's contagious."

    The Celtics hit 51.5 percent of their field-goal attempts thanks to passes that gave them good shots.

    "If we're going to win ballgames, then we're going to have to play defense," Washington's Juwan Howard said. "We can score. We know that's not a problem. We need to understand that defense is the top priority."

    Eric Williams, who didn't play in Tuesday night's 103-90 victory at Toronto, scored six of the Celtics' last eight points of the third quarter as Boston took an 89-67 lead.

    Washington cut that to 104-93 when Chris Whitney, who scored 15 points, hit a free throw with 2:46 left.

    But Boston's passing, pressing defense and strong inside play that produced 50 points in the paint, were too much for the Wizards.

    "That's not the way I'm going to play," Heard said. "If guys keep giving up layups, they're not going to play for me."

    Notes

  • Adrian Griffin, who spent the last three years in the CBA, had his second strong game as a starting forward for Boston with nine points, eight rebounds, five assists, four steals and one turnover in a team-high 34 minutes.
  • Boston's Dana Barros missed his second straight game following the death of his grandmother.
  • The Celtics played their first two games at home last season, losing to Toronto 103-92 and beating Cleveland 77-73.
  • Howard, who led the Wizards with 21 points in Tuesday's opening 94-87 victory over Atlanta, managed just 12.
  • Boston is 37-17 in home openers.

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