WASHINGTON — A night after what their coach called a ‘‘flat game,’’ Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics held the Washington Wizards to 1-for-14 shooting at the start, then were barely better at the end.
Strong defensive stands early — Washington’s only scoring in the first 8 minutes came on Garnett’s goaltending call — and late, plus Paul Pierce’s 27 points, including a key 3 down the stretch, helped the Celtics beat the Wizards 89-86 on Saturday for their first victory.
Boston is 1-2. Washington dropped to 0-2 after its home opener in front of a sellout crowd of 20,308 that occasionally included folks chanting ‘‘Let’s go, Celtics!’’ Washington is still without two starters: point guard John Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, and center Nene.
Bradley Beal, the No. 3 overall pick this year, missed all five of his shots and scored two points for the Wizards, while backup Jordan Crawford led the hosts with 21 points. Another reserve, Kevin Seraphin, played after being sidelined by a right calf injury for their season opener and made his first seven shots, finishing with 19 points. But Seraphin also threw the ball away with Washington down one point and 28 seconds left.
Cartier Martin scored five consecutive points during a 16-4 run that put Washington ahead 86-84 on Seraphin’s turnaround 12-footer with a little under 3 minutes remaining. With thousands in the stands asking for ‘‘De-fense! De-fense!’’ Pierce made a 3-pointer to give Boston back the lead with 2½ minutes left.
Neither team managed to score until Jason Terry’s two free throws with 1.2 seconds left padded Boston’s lead.
Garnett scored 15, and Rajon Rondo added 12 points and 12 assists.
Wall has a knee injury and is expected to miss another month or so, while Nene is out with a foot problem and no one is quite sure when he’ll be back. Both are really missed on offense, which was apparent not only with the way Washington opened the game, but also by checking the assists column on the stat sheet: The starting five combined for a grand total of one assist in the first half.
Yes, the Wizards got points less than 1½ minutes in, but that was because Garnett was called for goaltending on a short shot by Emeka Okafor. Otherwise, Washington missed 13 of its first 14 field-goal attempts. That run of futility included shanked 3-pointers and midrange jumpers, layups and putbacks. Even a dunk.
A 19-foot jumper by Rondo put Boston ahead 17-2 with a little less than 4½ minutes left in the first quarter. By then, three Celtics — Garnett, Pierce and rookie Jared Sullinger — each had at least twice as many points as the entire Wizards roster.
Only then did Washington wake up, with Trevor Booker completing a three-point play with a finger roll while being fouled by Sullinger with 3:53 to go in the quarter.
The Celtics led by as many as 16 points in the first quarter at 24-8, and the period ended with the visitors ahead 26-12. Washington gathered itself and got as close as five in the second before trailing 49-42 at halftime.
Before the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said his team’s 99-88 loss at home to Milwaukee on Friday ‘‘wasn’t pretty.’’
‘‘You just never know why you have flat games,’’ he said. ‘‘And that clearly was a flat game. I don’t think anybody came to the game and said, ‘You know what? I’m not going to play hard.’ This team doesn’t have that problem.’’
NOTES: Sullinger, the Ohio State forward taken in the first round of the draft, made his first NBA start, replacing Brandon Bass in Boston’s lineup. Sullinger ended up with four points and four fouls. ... The teams play each other again Wednesday at Boston. ... Okafor addressed the crowd before the game, first wishing a speedy recovery to anyone affected by Superstorm Sandy, then promising fans that the Wizards will ‘‘work very hard to make sure this is a fun, exciting season.’’ It was a measured, mature speech — and came a season after the now-gone Andray Blatche opened a pregame speech to the home crowd at Washington’s opener by saying, ‘‘This is your captain.’’ ... Celtics F Jeff Green returned to the arena where he played college games for Georgetown. Green, who missed all of last season after surgery for a heart issue, scored 11 points. ‘‘He’s been up and down,’’ Rivers said. ‘‘You know it’s in him, and I believe we’ll get it out of him. He looks good. He’s healthy.’’
Howard Fendrich is on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich