On the far side of the lane, Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder lined up for a free throw. He looked across, motioned to point guard Marcus Smart to switch spots, then placed himself on the right of Washington Wizards power forward Nene.
The change was logical. Crowder, a beefy forward, made himself one half of a sandwich to bang into the enormous Nene. Celtics forward Amir Johnson was on Nene’s left arm.
Then, the long dreadlocks of Crowder and Nene began to bob. John Wall was moving toward the free throw line for three shots. Nene and Crowder continued to talk. After Wall missed the first free throw, Crowder was warned to stop. He did not. A technical foul followed.
That, in itself, is not outlandish. That Crowder received a technical foul with his team in front by three points with 22.8 seconds to play, upped the error to what-was-he-thinking level. What Crowder said afterward made an already strange final 30 seconds shift to a bizarre state.
Following the Celtics’ 119-117 win at the Verizon Center, Crowder explained he was not irritated with Nene, who had smacked him, inadvertently, a few plays earlier in the face. Rather, he was yelling back at Wizards coach Randy Wittman.
“Wittman was saying some stuff that I didn’t like,” Crowder said. “I feel like he was getting away with a lot of curse words, inappropriate words to me and I retaliated, and I got hit with a tech.”
Crowder said he did not have any prior ill exchanges with Wittman. The Celtics and Wizards have played twice this season prior to Saturday’s odd ending. Crowder left befuddled.
“No, I don’t know where it’s coming from,” Crowder said. “It’s new to me. So, I understand we play them next week. I honestly don’t know where it’s coming from.”
What had Wittman said to him?
“Oh, he was saying something about me being soft and bleep, bleep, bleep hitting me on the John Wall foul,” Crowder said. “Boxing out Nene and he hit me with a little backhand. But, some stuff about that.”
Wittman spoke in his press conference prior to Crowder speaking in the Celtics’ lockerroom. The Wizards did not make Wittman available after the fact. The next time he speaks with the media will be Monday afternoon prior to the Wizards playing the Portland Trail Blazers.
The postgame comments wrapped a ferocious final minute. Crowder’s technical foul was part of multiple mistakes by the Celtics that allowed Washington to tie the game with free throws at 117-117 with 13.9 seconds to play. Out of a timeout, the Wizards expected Boston to run a high screen-and-roll or isolation play. Instead, it set up a lob to Crowder, who pinned lithe Kelly Oubre Jr. on his back, and finished a layup for the lead.
With 3.9 seconds to play, Wall took the inbounds pass, sprinted up the floor and missed an open left-handed layup at the buzzer. Wall said he should have dunked the ball, but his legs were so tired, he was unable to at that point. Wall played a season-high 44 minutes a night after playing 31 minutes in Indiana.
The loss snapped the Wizards’ four-game winning streak.
Bradley Beal (leg), Otto Porter (hip), Drew Gooden (calf), Kris Humphries (knee) and Alan Anderson (ankle) all were not available to Washington on Saturday night.
• Todd Dybas can be reached at email@example.com.
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