WASHINGTON — So, when did the wheels come off for the Celtics on Wednesday night?
“Right about when the game started,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
Ah, right. Shortly after that, the Celtics trailed 19-4, and . . . it was downhill from there, as the Washington Wizards blew them out, 118-92, at the Verizon Center.
It was the Wizards’ largest margin of victory all season on a night when they clinched their first playoff berth since 2008.
“They just ran us out of the gym,” said Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 7 turnovers.
The Celtics (23-52) played their first game since being eliminated from the playoffs — and they played like they have seven games left before summer vacation starts.
“We laid an egg,” Stevens said. “It was pretty obvious. I don’t want to take anything away from them, because it’s a big night for them, clinching a playoff spot, and I thought they played great. But we didn’t provide any fight tonight.”
En route to their sixth straight loss, and their 18th loss in their last 22 games, the Celtics trailed by as many as 33 points.
“We just didn’t provide enough, and so we got what we deserved tonight,” Stevens said after his team lost its 11th straight road game.
The Wizards (39-36) shot 61 percent in the first half and 62.5 percent overall, their best shooting percentage in a game since 2001.
“All their shots were falling — a lot of non-contested shots,” said Jared Sullinger, who led the Celtics with a game-high 25 points off the bench.
Or, as Jerryd Bayless put it:
“They played well and we didn’t play well. A mix of that is bad.”
It was a bad game, no doubt, one the Celtics hope to put behind them quickly.
“It’s still a hard game to swallow,” Rondo said. “Like I said, they were in control the entire game. We made runs, but every time, they had an answer for us.”
But there was a wonderful moment of levity in the second half.
With 4:08 left in the third quarter, the Celtics, who were trailing, 74-57, went to huddle near the free throw stripe. Marcin Gortat joined the Celtics huddle, even though Gortat is not a member of the Celtics; he’s the Wizards center.
The Celtics did not appear to notice that an opposing player had intruded their huddle, as Rondo wrapped his arm around Gortat, who wrapped his arms around both Rondo and Sullinger.
The photo of that moment immediately went viral through social media, the only aspect of the game that Celtics fans may remember. It was that kind of night.
Celtics guard Avery Bradley sat out with a strained right Achilles’ tendon, and Bayless started in his place — not that it made any difference, with Bayless scoring 2 points on 1-for-6 shooting.
All five Wizards starters scored in double figures, led by 22 from, who else, Gortat.
Bradley Beal scored 19 and Trevor Ariza added 18. John Wall added 13 points and 10 assists, and Rondo was happy the young point guard advanced to his first postseason.
“I wish him well,” Rondo said. “It’ll be fun, exciting. Every game is on TV. Guys love to play on TV, I know I do. It’ll be fun. I’m sure he’s been waiting for this opportunity.”
Sullinger shot 8 for 15 from the floor and 8 for 10 from the line, but his teammates fired brick after brick.
Jeff Green shot 3 for 13, Chris Johnson 3 for 10, and Phil Pressey, Joel Anthony, and Chris Babb were a combined 1 for 7. The Celtics also shot 3 for 24 from 3-point range.
“We got in a huge hole early, kind of stuck with it a bit and got ourselves deeper,” said Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk, who scored 14 points.
Stevens started Kris Humphries but took him out nearly three minutes into the first quarter.
“I was searching for people that would score and get stops,” Stevens said. “It wasn’t on one person. For the most part, we tried a lot of different lineups . . . but that game, we were probably not going to be in very good shape after that start.”
The Celtics have been in most games, but they didn’t show any effort Wednesday.
“Yeah, this is a difficult challenge to play 82 games with great tenacity, but that’s what we’re paid to do,” Stevens said.
“And we didn’t. I don’t think it’s part of a trend. I just think, we didn’t have it. That’s not good.”
A final insult to injury: the Celtics had planned to fly out late after the game but were forced to stay the night because their plane had mechanical difficulties.
All in all, nothing went right for the Celtics, but, hey, their next game is against the abysmal, tanktastic Philadelphia 76ers on Friday at TD Garden.
“We have a winnable game Friday,” Bayless said.
So they hope.