Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce return for Celtics in victory
BOSTON (AP) - Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce returned from injuries and the Boston Celtics dominated the Washington Wizards - thanks to Brandon Bass, the soft-spoken forward who rarely gets a play called for him.
But when he's open, his teammates are confident he can score.
"He seems to always be in the right spots, available," Pierce said after Bass scored 20 points to lead the Celtics to a 107-96 win Sunday night. "That's going to be huge for us if he continues to play well going into the playoffs, and the great thing about it is he's doing it all off of the hustle plays."
In the eight games Garnett missed with an inflamed left ankle, Bass averaged 12.3 points, raising his season average to 8.3. On Sunday, he shot 9 of 12 and added six rebounds.
"He's just efficient," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "Overall, I think he's playing terrific. I think he's in a wonderful place right now."
Garnett had 12 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes. Pierce finished with 15 points in 30 minutes after missing Friday night's 97-91 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers with a sore left ankle.
"Things flow a lot smoother when Kevin and Paul are out there because everything's being run through them and everybody else is just getting what they get from them," Bass said. "So it's a lot better when they're out (on the court). It doesn't matter if I get a play called. The ball will find me and, hopefully, I just make the shot."
Bass missed his season high by just two points and led the Celtics with eight points in the third quarter, when they hit 75 percent of their shots, outscored Washington 31-19 and stretched a 56-52 halftime lead to 87-71.
They're still missing Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger, both sidelined for the season, but led by at least 10 points the rest of the way to get just their fourth win in 12 games.
John Wall led Washington with 16 points but never got to the foul line as Boston outscored Washington 17-8 on free throws. A.J. Price had 15 points and Trevor Ariza added 14.
"We play a team like this and when you're not playing great defensively you have got to be able to make shots," Wall said, "and we had a tough night."
The Wizards hit just 44.5 percent of their shots. But in the second half they connected on only 41.5 percent, while the Celtics made 64.5 percent.
"It doesn't matter what lineup (we use) or who's on the floor as long as we're playing the right way," Garnett said. "That's all my concern is, just making sure that we're sharing the ball, playing as a team, giving up for each other, playing defensively."
The win ended a four-game stretch against weak teams in which the Celtics lost to Minnesota, beat Detroit, lost to Cleveland and beat Washington. With five games left and the Celtics trying to move up from seventh place in the Eastern Conference, the schedule gets tougher with a home game Wednesday night against the Brooklyn Nets before a road game Friday against the Miami Heat.
Washington fell to 7-31 on the road but is 23-20 overall since Wall returned from a shoulder injury.
"Against a team like this that's playing for something, who has a seed in the playoffs, they're going to keep competing," Wall said. "And they got everybody back tonight and they were clicking right away."
A dunk by Nene with 10:24 left in the third quarter had cut the Celtics' lead to 58-57, but they went on a 29-14 surge the rest of the period.
The Celtics began the spurt with a 14-1 run, starting with a layup by Avery Bradley. Pierce hit another layup and Bradley followed with a 16-footer. Martell Webster sank a free throw for the Wizards after Garnett was called for a technical foul with 7:57 left in the quarter. But Emeka Okafor then missed two free throws for Washington.
Boston scored the next eight points on a 14-foot jumper by Bass, two free throws by Shavlik Randolph, an 18-footer by Jason Terry and a dunk by Bass.
Ariza then scored Washington's first field goal in nearly six minutes when Randolph was called for goaltending with 4:39 left in the period, cutting Boston's lead to 72-60.
"We had that stretch in the third quarter where we struggled offensively and they were clicking offensively," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said, "and that was the difference."
Notes: Washington forward Trevor Booker left the game with a bruised tailbone with 5:42 left in the first half and didn't return. ... Chris Wilcox had 13 points for Boston, one below his season high. ... The Celtics swept the three-game season series. ... Jordan Crawford had six points in 16 minutes in his first game against the Wizards since being traded on Feb. 21. He had been upset with his diminished playing time in Washington.
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