News Celtics’ Stretch of Futility Gives Wizards Reason to Believe

When Amir Johnson sank a 3-pointer early in the third quarter, the Celtics were looking fairly good in their playoff game against the Washington Wizards on Sunday night. Boston was up by 5 and appeared to be on the way to stealing a road win to take a three-games-to-one lead in the N.B.A. playoff series.

Then it started to go wrong. The Wizards used an eye-opening 26-0 run to take a 74-53 lead and went on to win, 121-102, evening the series at two games each.

While the Wizards sank an awful lot of shots in that stretch, getting 8 points from Bradley Beal and 7 from John Wall, what happened on the Celtics’ possessions was just as important.

Boston’s six and a half minutes of futility:

4-0: Jae Crowder tried an open baseline 3-pointer that missed. Al Horford followed on the next possession with an airballed 17-foot jumper; because it did not hit the rim, the Celtics were hit with a shot clock violation.

7-0: Another shot clock violation.

9-0: A lunging, off-balance 7-footer by Thomas is missed.

11-0: A timeout by Boston fails to right the ship. Crowder misses a 25-foot 3-pointer short.

14-0: Thomas, continuing to be hounded by the Wizards defense near the top of the key, makes another soft pass. It is stolen by Otto Porter Jr., who breaks away for a dunk.

16-0: Avery Bradley misses a 27-foot 3-pointer. On the next possession, he turns it over when Wall tips the ball from behind. This also leads to an easy Wizards bucket.

19-0: Marcus Smart loses the handle on the ball under pressure from Markieff Morris.

22-0: Thomas commits an offensive foul.

24-0: Thomas tries to drive and falls down for another turnover caused by Morris.

26-0: The Celtics try another timeout, and this time it works. Horford finally scores to end the drought.

Thomas, the Celtics’ star, finished with 19 points and 6 turnovers. After the game, he pointed to what he saw as lax refereeing.

“They were very physical; they were very physical,” he said. “The refs were allowing them to hold and grab and do all those things. I think, especially in that third quarter, I might have hit the ground five or six straight times, and I’m not one that likes hitting the ground. So I think it’s got to be called differently.”

Free throws were fairly even for the game: The Wizards had 27 and the Celtics 24. But Thomas did not shoot one.

“I’m not saying that’s the reason we lost,” Thomas said. “They went on a 26-0 run, and we can’t have that on the road.”

The Celtics are the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but they have been struggling compared with the No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers. Boston lost its first two games at home to the eighth-seeded Chicago Bulls, before winning that series, 4-2, and is now locked at two apiece with the Wizards. In contrast, the Cavs swept the Indiana Pacers in four close games, then looked even better in sweeping the Toronto Raptors.

As for the Wizards, the 26-0 run and victory raise their hopes of an upset in the series.

“We’re capable of those type of runs every game,” Morris told The Associated Press after the game.

If he’s right, the Celtics are in trouble.