WASHINGTON -- So far, both Boston and Washington have found home cooking to their liking.
Four playoff games between these two, each won by the home team, just like the four regular-season games between them ended with the road team losing every time.
But this series has a different feel to it, one that doesn’t feel as though these two teams are on even ground despite the current state of the series being 2-2.
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Washington has been the better team for longer stretches in the four games.
It’s not even close.
And yet the Celtics have managed to squeak out both wins at home, courtesy of a couple of big-time performances by Isaiah Thomas.
Since then, Washington has made some adjustments.
So have the Celtics, but there’s a difference.
The ones made by Washington, like changing of their always-pressing defense on Isaiah Thomas, have worked.
Gerald Green starting, Amir Johnson starting. It didn’t matter.
Boston, for the most part, has had major problems right out the gate (Game 4 was the first in this series in which the Celtics led after the first quarter).
And so as much as the idea of returning home is appealing, that’s not going to win Game 5 for Boston on Wednesday.
They need a better, more sustained defensive disposition. Their shooters need to make shots, particularly the open/uncontested ones.
Isaiah Thomas had 19 points which included him shooting 5-for-7 on uncontested shots.
Boston’s next three top scorers, Avery Bradley, Al Horford and Jae Crowder, were a combined 5-for-17 on uncontested shots in Game 4.
As much as the Celtics try and tout themselves as a defense-first kind of team, they’re not.
They are a 3-point shooting club that wants to play great defense but, more often than not, falls short of doing that.
Their offense tends to fuel their defense. And right now, their offense is looking empty.
“As a team, we've got to find other ways to get going,” said Avery Bradley. “I feel like it's our job, as in me, Al (Horford), Jae Crowder, we have to do a better job at creating offense for our team. If it's us scoring or it's us making plays for each other, making plays for him (Thomas), putting him in good situations like he does for us. We have to do a better job as a team.”
But here’s the problem.
They’re facing a team that has presented them with problems that they simply haven’t figured out how to solve.
John Wall has been the best player in this series, and he is only getting better as we get deeper into this thing. Bradley Beal seems to have re-discovered his lethal shooting touch. Otto Porter Jr. has been a matchup problem. The struggles to rebound the ball, a season-long bummer for the Celtics, has once again reared its ugly head and it goes by the name of Marcin Gortat. Markieff Morris has been a problem as well, proving himself to be too mobile for Amir Johnson to defend effectively for an extended period of time, and too big for Crowder, who is four inches shorter.
But as badly as Washington has outplayed Boston up to this point, it’s still a series that’s tied up at two games apiece where the home team has done what they were supposed to do.
That’s why despite all that did not go Boston’s way in Washington, the Celtics remain confident and hopeful that the success of the home team in this series will continue.