BOSTON – Both Boston and Washington know the winner of Game 5 by no means will automatically advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
But there is no getting around the fact that both teams view this game, certainly more than any other, as the game to get if you’re going to win this series.
Boston comes in feeling good about its chances of getting back on track now that the series has shifted back to Boston where they won Games 1 and 2.
Meanwhile, Washington is hoping to build off a pair of strong wins in Games 3 and 4 in Washington, hoping the momentum they believe they have now will carry over in what will be an extremely intense, competitive game.
“They’re going to play hard,” said Boston’s Kelly Olynyk. “They’re trying to get a win so they can go home and close it out. We’re trying to get a win so we can go there and close it out.”
The Celtics know all about the potential consequences, good and bad, that come about with tonight’s Game 5 battle.
But as he has preached all season, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens isn’t looking any further ahead than what transpires after tonight’s jump ball.
“You have to win four games to move on, you gotta lose four games to be done,” Stevens said. “There’s a lot of play that goes into that. You just focus on the possession at hand, you stay in the moment the best that you can. As I told our guys (Monday), you got the best two out of three to go to the Eastern conference finals. Our focus has to be on the first possession (tonight).”
Here are a few nuggets to chomp on leading up to tonight’s Game 5 matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards.
MEDICAL UPDATE: Boston: Avery Bradley (hip) is probable; Washington: None
Wizards defense: They are coming off an impressive 121-102 victory in Game 4, a game in which their defense gave the Celtics major fits by forcing 36 turnovers which has led to 51 points in the last two games.
John Wall: If this series had an MVP after four games, Wall is your guy. He’s averaging a double-double of 28.8 points and 11.1 assists per game which speaks to his ability to not just score but also set up his teammates for baskets as well.
Terry Rozier: Yes, I know. He got a good chunk of his 16 points off the bench in garbage time during Game 4 when the outcome was all but decided. I get it. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that when he’s on the floor, good things have usually happened for Boston in this series. In the four games, Rozier has a plus/minus of +44 which not surprisingly, is tops among all Celtics.
Avery Bradley: He has done more than enough to establish himself as one of the better two-way players in the NBA, but he’s still looking to get on track offensively. In Game 4, Bradley had five points on 2-for-9 shooting.
Jae Crowder: You have to love what he’s been doing on the boards and defensively, but it is his shot-making that has really failed him the last couple of games. After scoring a career playoff-high 24 points in Boston’s Game 1 win, Crowder has totaled just 34 points in the Celtics’ last three games and has shot just 35.7 percent from the field.
Road team woes: Four games into this series and the home team has won each game by at least double figures. It is a trend that the Celtics hope to continue tonight as they try and go up three games to two in the best-of-seven series.
BOSTON WINS IF …
- Good Start: Boston has fallen behind by double digits in the first quarter of every game but Game 4 in this series, so a better effort and crisper execution at the start of the game would go far in their quest to take a 3-2 series lead.
- Rebound battles: Boston isn’t expected to dominate the glass, but keeping it close is well within their range of ability. In Boston’s Game 1 and 2 wins, they were tied 38-all in Game 1 and minus-3 (44-41) in Game 2. The Game 3 and 4 losses saw the Celtics outrebounded by 12 and 14, respectively.
- Help for Thomas: Boston had a pair of 20-plus point scorers in Game 1 besides Isaiah Thomas. They’ll need similar offensive balance to take home Game 5. Because as good as Thomas is, he needs his teammates to make shots to loosen up a Wizards defense that’s totally locked onto him.
WASHINGTON WINS IF …
- Wall-to-Wall Coverage: John Wall has been an absolute beast in this series, putting this Wizards team on his back time and time again. He has been the catalyst for their play for the most part in this series and will certainly lead the charge tonight if they are to build off the momentum they gained from Game 3 and 4 wins in Washington.
- Backup Power: Washington’s second unit has won the battle of the backup units in the last two games. Their play isn’t just about scoring, it’s about making an impact. And when you look at this series and Washington’s two wins at home, Bojan Bogdanovic (16.5 points per game in Games 3 and 4) along with a solid defensive presence by Ian Mahinmi have been important players in Washington winning the last two games with relative ease.
- Otto Porter Jr.: The unsung hero of this playoff series for Washington, Porter Jr. has been a major contributor in so many ways. In the last two games, he averaged 18.5 points, eight rebounds and 3.5 steals while shooting 15-for-22 (68.1 percent) from the field.