WASHINGTON -- The Celtics aren't inclined to believe that what happened in their first-round series with Chicago will naturally transfer to their current battle with the Washington Wizards.
But as we’ve learned, experience is often the best teacher for how to deal with what's on the horizon.
That's why the Celtics understand all too well how important it is for them to close out the Wizards tonight.
It won’t be easy, especially when you consider the next win by a road team will be the first in this series.
“It’s a very important game. We want to finish it tonight,” said Isaiah Thomas.
Like most of the goals these two teams have set for themselves, that will be a lot easier said than done.
In the two games here, the Celtics have lost by an average of 23 points. That doesn’t exactly inspire tremendous confidence, right?
Still, win or lose, the C's have proven themselves to be a team whose confidence may get rocky at times but never fades out.
And coming off their most complete game in the series, a 123-101 Game 5 victory, it’s clear Boston feels tonight will be different . . . even though they're in a building where they've had no success so far this year.
The way they see it, their blowout losses in Games 3 and 4 were fueled by long Washington runs -- 22-0 in Game 3, 26-0 in Game 4 -- that proved to be the difference in the games.
“If we eliminate those runs and cut down on our turnovers, that puts us in a better position to win those games,” Thomas said. “And we got to start off well. If we start off well tonight and we hit first, we’ll be all right.”
Said Avery Bradley: “It’s not a better feeling than closing out a series on someone else’s court. It’s a great opportunity for us tonight. I know that if we come out and play the same way we played last game, we’ll have a chance to be smiling, laughing just like we were after the Chicago series.”
MEDICAL UPDATE: None
- Avery Bradley: He’s coming off a playoff career-high 29 points in Boston’s Game 5 win. He shot 12-for-19 from the field, which more than doubled the five made baskets (on 17 shot attempts) he had in Games 3 and 4.
- Al Horford: The man has been on fire shooting the ball in this series, connecting on at least 50 percent of his shots in every game. In the five games thus far, Horford is averaging 16.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.6 blocked shots while shooting 69.4 percent from the field and 58.8 percent on 3’s.
- John Wall: Without question, he's the motor that makes the Wizards run effectively. He leads Washington with 26.4 points per game to go with 10.6 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.4 steals.
- Bojan Bogdanovic: He is a vital part of the Wizards’ bench because of his shooting. But in this series, it’s been night or day for him. In Washington’s two wins, he has averaged 16.0 points on 11-for-19 (57.9 percent) shooting, along with 6.5 rebounds. But in the three losses, he has connected on just 4-for-14 (28.6 percent) while averaging 5.3 points
- Brandon Jennings: There has been a consistent drop-off whenever Jennings comes in to replace John Wall. He's struggled with his shot (he’s shooting just 21.4 percent this series) and the Wizards have a plus/minus of -27 when he’s in the game.
- Jae Crowder: Since he broke out for 24 points on 8-for-14 shooting in Game 1, Crowder hasn’t been shooting the ball nearly as well since then. While you love what he’s doing on the boards (he’s sharing the team-lead of 6.8 with Al Horford), he has to do a better job at making shots. In the last four games, Crowder has shot just 37.2 percent from the field.
THE CELTICS WILL WIN IF . . .
- They make 3s: They have been a team that has lived and died by the long ball all season, so why should they change now? In the three wins over Washington, the Celtics have averaged 16 made 3’s per game. The two losses have seen that number drop to 12 per game
- They find a second scorer: Thomas’ impact on the game is a given. He’s going to draw attention and, along with that, score a good amount of points. But the next big-time scorer for Boston has to emerge. In Game 5 it was Avery Bradley. While they don’t necessarily need a player to score 29, someone – Bradley, Crowder, Horford – has to play at a level above what we saw in the regular season.
- Horford continues his playmaking: A tremendous amount of the Wizards’ focus has been on Thomas. But it's been Horford’s wheelin’ and dealin’ as Boston’s primary playmaker that has been a problem for Washington. He’s balancing his inside-outside game offensively had a high rate, and his defense has been strong as well. If that continues, this series will be over in a matter of hours.
THE WIZARDS WILL WIN IF . . .
- They start fast: They went on a 22-0 run in Game 3 and a 26-0 run (though that came at the start of the third quarter) in Game 4 to put the Celtics in catch-up mode. The Wizards will obviously be looking for another quick start to things, with much of that scoring coming in transition off of turnovers.
- They get scoring from their bench: This has been a weakness of the Wizards most of the season, so if the reserves can get it going as a group -- which they are capable of doing -- they can be the X-factor that swings this series in their direction tonight. Keep an eye on Kelly Oubre Jr. and Bojan Bogdanovic, who have played well at home in this series off the bench.
- They rebound: No statistic is more telling about how this game will play out than rebounding. When the Wizards win the battle on the boards, they win, period. In their two victories over Boston in this series, the rebounding margin was plus-13. But in their three losses, the Celtics wound up grabbing the same number of rebounds (127) as the Washington.