BOSTON – It was a pretty typical night for Isaiah Thomas.
Wherever he went, two and sometimes three Washington defenders were within arm’s reach.
And this is where Thomas’ growth as a player shined brightly.
Rather than force the action, something he admits he would have done in his younger days, he trusted the process.
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Keep moving the ball, trust your teammates and they will deliver.
Those three pillars of success, more than anything, allowed Boston to assert control in the first quarter and never look back in handing the Wizards a 123-101 thumping in Game 5.
With the win, Boston has a 3-2 series lead and can close out the series with a Game 6 victory in Washington on Friday.
There were so many heroes in Game 5 for the Celtics.
Avery Bradley dropped a playoff career-high 29 points, which was also the most points he’s ever scored at the TD Garden.
Al Horford had another game for the record book, tallying 19 points, six rebounds and seven assists, becoming only the third Celtics player since 1984 (Paul Pierce and Larry Bird were the others) to put up those numbers in a playoff game.
But as important as their individual performances were, it was their collective effort that was impressive and in what was the biggest game of the season for Boston, an absolute requirement for them to emerge with the win.
Meanwhile, Thomas found himself more in the role of playmaker rather than point-producers.
“That’s how I got to play,” Thomas said. “As a basketball player you got to read what the defense is giving you and they’re really having two or three guys on me at all times. What I’m trying to do is give the other guys space; space for others and also be a good screen-setter.”
Did he say good screen-setter?
The top scorer in the Eastern Conference this season, dropping 28.9 points per game, is talking screen-setting?
Not scoring, but screen setting?
“I’m versatile,” he said when asked about the screen-setting. “I do it all!”
And that’s what has made the Celtics such a successful team, one that finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference and with it, home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
So far, that home court advantage has been just that with the winner in each of the first five games being the home team.
Following the win, Celtics coach Brad Stevens spent a lot of time talking about purpose, something his team showed plenty of in Game 5 to get the win.
“I just thought we all came out with a better sense of purpose today than we probably did in those games,” Stevens said. “But, you know, sometimes you feel a lot better when you make shots at the rate we did.”
Boston shot a blistering 52.9 percent (46-for-87) from the field and 48.5 percent (16-for-33) from 3-point range.
“They made shots tonight,” said Wizards coach Scott Brooks. “They played well. They played a good basketball game; they beat us. We gotta regroup, come back and play much better Friday night.”
As well as the Celtics played, they know they too must improve upon their Game 5 performance knowing Game 6, their first shot at closing out this series, will easily be the toughest game of this series to win.
“We have to stay in the moment,” Thomas said. “We know what is at stake. We know it’s going to be a hostile environment. We know it’s going to be tough to get a win out there but if we lock in like we did tonight, limit our turnovers, limit their transitions, that gives us the best chance of winning that game.”
Said Bradley: “Everyone was prepared and that is what it’s all about. We’re a team and it’s going to take a team effort to be able to beat the Washington Wizards.”