Ryan Knaus

Basketball Daily Dose

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Wizards Force Game 7 in Boston

Saturday, May 13, 2017


The Celtics showed up to Game 6 on Friday wearing all black for a 'funeral' game in D.C., a mocking nod to the Wizards' decision to wear black before a regular season game vs. Boston in January. At the time, Isaiah Thomas said, "That’s cute that they’re wearing all black. It’s definitely not a Game 7. It’s not the playoffs." It wasn't Game 7 tonight, either, but it was an elimination playoff game and the Celts' sarcastic sartorial choice backfired, as they failed to close out the Wizards in D.C.

 

"Don't come to my city, wearing all black talking about it's a funeral," John Wall said in a post-game interview. It was Wall's clutch pull-up 3-pointer that gave Washington the lead with 3.5 seconds left on Friday, and they survived a last-second heave from Isaiah Thomas to force a Game 7 in Boston on Monday.

 

Playoff teams had lost 10 straight elimination games at home this season, a surprising trend which the Wizards bucked tonight. Bradley Beal came to play with a game-high 33 points on 15-of-26 shooting, despite an atypical 1-of-8 line from downtown. His lone 3-pointer cut the Wizards' deficit to two points with just over a minute left in regulation. Beal has made a mere 6-of-31 triples in his past five games vs. Boston, a far cry from his 39.9 percent career average, but he compensated tonight with 11 made field goals in the paint. The Wizards as a team claimed a 48-26 advantage for points in the paint, which overcame their deficiencies from the perimeter.

 

John Wall was the late-game hero, as mentioned earlier, but he shot 1-of-9 from the field in the first half and didn't generate many fastbreak points -- the Wizards as a team scored just eight points in transition tonight. He finished 9-of-25 from the field and 6-of-8 from the line, and has yet to shoot better than 50 percent vs. Boston. In Games 3-6 of the Eastern Semifinals, Wall is a combined 31-of-86 from the field (36.0 percent).

 

Otto Porter didn't score in 36 minutes of action, going 0-of-5 from the field without any free throws, which makes the Wizards’ white-knuckle victory even more impressive. Porter has been more involved offensively vs. Boston than he was vs. Atlanta in the first round, when he took just 6.5 shots per game. He came in making an impressive 55.9 percent of his FG attempts in this series (despite going just 22.2 percent from deep). He's always a plus-defender, which helps to explain his neutral plus/minus rating in 36 minutes of action tonight.

 

Marcin Gortat was mired in foul trouble throughout the first half but still carved out four points, a game-high 13 rebounds (four offensive), two assists, one steal and one block in 25 minutes. Gortat is ideally suited to exploit one of Boston's greatest weaknesses -- rebounding. They have a 46.1% rebound rate in the postseason, which is dead last in the postseason, whereas the Wizards rank 7th at 50.4%. His game-high tally helped Washington win the battle 46-37 tonight.

 

As for the Wizards’ bench…Bojan Bogdanovic played through illness to post four points and four rebounds in 17 minutes, the highest playing time of any Wizards reserve. Ian Mahinmi logged 15 minutes, during which he went 3-of-3 from the field for six points, three rebounds and two blocks. Jason Smith scored two points in seven minutes, while both Kelly Oubre and Brandon Jennings went scoreless in Game 6. Oubre, to his credit, delivered a savvy foul-to-give on Kelly Olynyk (of course) to burn a few seconds at the end of the game, leaving Isaiah Thomas just 1.4 seconds to get off a shot (an errant fadeaway 3-pointer).

 

On the Celtics' side of things, Avery Bradley once again looked terrific, showing no signs of his recent hip pointers while racking up 27 points on 10-of-18 FGs and 4-of-4 FTs, with three 3-pointers. Boston closed the second quarter on a 12-1 run to take a one-point lead into halftime, and they were one timely bucket or stop away from clinching the series. That's despite shooting just 35.0 percent from the field with a 5-of-19 mark from downtown, while being solidly out-rebounded. Bradley added three 3-pointers, one assist and four of Boston's five steals, looking like a different player than he did earlier in this series. That's encouraging for the Celtics as they look ahead to Game 7.

 

Isaiah Thomas was once again the focus of Washington's defense, scoring 27 points on 8-of-24 FGs and 6-of-6 FTs with five 3-pointers, seven assists, three rebounds and five turnovers. The Celtics were bad from downtown tonight at a combined 11-of-35 (31.4 percent), but the Wizards one-upped them with an atrocious 5-of-24 line behind the arc (20.8 percent). The degree to which Washington struggled was a surprise, even if the disparity between these teams was predictable. The Wizards have scored 23.3 percent of their points on 3-pointers during the playoffs (15th out of 16 teams), whereas the Celtics have scored 37.4 percent of their points from downtown (2nd). A lot of that pertains to the volume of attempts, and tonight was no exception -- the Celtics were 11-of-35 tonight, while the Wizards were 5-of-24.

 

Al Horford had another strong all-around performance with 20 points, six rebounds, three assists, two 3-pointers and one block in 37 minutes. He made 8-of-12 shots, including a would-be-winner off glass late in the fourth quarter. Jae Crowder added 10 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in a subtly excellent performance, but the entire Celtics bench combined for five points on 2-of-15 shooting.

 

If the Celtics win Game 7 at home, as has been the trend in this series, the Eastern Conference Finals will open in Boston on Wednesday. For what it's worth, NBC Pro Basketball Talk writer Dan Feldman dug up the following: "This is the 25th series ever and first since 2008 where the home team won the first six games ... Home teams are 20-4 (83%) in Game 7 when the home team has won the first six games of a series." If the Wizards overcome those odds to prevail, they'll head to Cleveland on Wednesday for Game 1.

 

Here is the schedule (subject to change):

 

Game 1 - Wed., May 17

Game 2 - Fri., May 19

Game 3 - Sun., May 21

Game 4 - Tue., May 23

Game 5 (if necessary) - Thurs., May 25

Game 6 (if necessary) - Sat., May 27

Game 7 (if necessary) - Mon., May 29

 

Sadly, there are no NBA games on Saturday. The playoffs return with Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday, when the Spurs square off vs. the Warriors in a matinee at 3:30 ET. They'll play Game 2 on Tuesday evening, which means that regardless of the outcome of the Celtics/Wizards series, the Western teams will have played two games before the Cavaliers (and their opponent) return to action. Cleveland will have had nine full days to rest before tip-off on Wednesday.



Despite residing in Portland, Maine, Ryan Knaus remains a heartbroken Sonics fan who longs for the days of Shawn Kemp and Xavier McDaniel. He has written for Rotoworld.com since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter.
Email :Ryan Knaus



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