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NBA Playoffs: Celtics pound Wizards in Game 5, take 3-2 series lead

NBA Playoffs: Celtics pound Wizards in Game 5, take 3-2 series lead

BOSTON -- Playing in the Garden has brought out the Boston Celtics' best basketball this postseason.

Wednesday night it was home to one of the best nights of Avery Bradley's career.

Bradley scored a playoff career-high 29 points, and the Celtics beat the Washington Wizards 123-101 to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

After being thoroughly picked apart in losses at Washington in Games 3 and 4, Boston shared the ball in Game 5, and again resembled the team that entered the game having won seven straight and 11 of 13 in the Garden against Washington.

Al Horford added 19 points, seven assists, and six rebounds. Isaiah Thomas scored 18 points and handed out nine assists.

"We're a team. And it's going to take a team effort to beat the Washington Wizards," Bradley said.

Game 6 is Friday night in Washington, where the Wizards easily won their two games. If the Celtics win, they would move on to host the Cleveland Cavaliers to open the Eastern Conference finals.

Game 7 would be in Boston on Monday.

Boston led by as many as 26 points, negating Washington's physicality by spreading the floor and knocking down 16 3-pointers.

John Wall had 21 for the Wizards, who haven't won a playoff game in Boston since 1982.

The Wizards scored the first four points of game, but that was followed by 16-0 run by the Celtics.

"The great start kind of got us going on both ends of the floor," Bradley said. "Tonight we saw if we're able to start the right way, the game's in our control."

It marked the fourth time in the series that one team has had a run of at least 16-0, including three times in the first quarter. Washington had a 16-0 spurt to start Game 1, a 22-0 run in Game 3 and 26-0 burst in Game 4.

During Boston's first-quarter spurt Wednesday, the Wizards missed eight straight shots before it was ended by Otto Porter's basket.

Boston did a good job of sharing the ball, getting assists on 12 of 13 baskets in the opening 12 minutes. Thomas had five assists, more than Washington's entire team (four) in the period.

The Celtics also outrebounded the Wizards 48-45, after being outrebounded by 26 boards through each of the previous two games (95-69).

"They were the more physical team today," Wall said. "Throughout this whole series, whoever's the most physical team has won every game."

The Wizards responded with more energy after halftime, but each of their mini-runs were quickly beaten back by Boston, which continued to share the ball and take advantage of their fast-break opportunities.

The Celtics' lead grew to 26 points in the fourth quarter.

Thomas said one thing that became apparent in watching film from the Celtics' losses in Games 3 and 4 was that he had to adjust his game with three or four defenders guarding him.

He said he's found maturity to step back and not force plays that he might not have had earlier in his career.

"Now I'm seeing the game differently," Thomas said. "But at the same time, that's not going to stop me from being aggressive and trying to make plays, not just for myself but for my teammates as well."

Tip-ins
Wizards: Fell to 2-9 all-time on the road in the playoffs vs. Celtics. ... Had 13 turnovers, leading to 23 Boston points. ... Shot just 24 percent from the 3-point line (7 of 29).

Celtics: Shot 53 percent (46 of 87) from the field for the game, their highest of the postseason. .. Wednesday marked only the third time Bradley has scored 20 or more points in a playoff game. The first two both came against Chicago in the first round. ... Shot 58 percent from the field (25 of 43) in the first half.

Trolling Oubre
Wizards coach Scott Brooks said he warned Kelly Oubre to wear earplugs for Game 5 after he served a one-game suspension for charging over Boston's Kelly Olynyk.

He was right.

Celtics fans chanted "We want Oubre! We want Oubre!" at times during the first quarter. Then, when Oubre started the second quarter for Wizards, it prompted fans in the Garden to chant again. Later they booed him loudly when he touched the ball.

Turnover woes
If the Wizards are going to have a chance to prolong the series, Brooks said they would have to start by limiting turnovers and Boston's 3-pointers.

"They made shots," Brooks said. "We helped them make shots by giving up a lot of transition points. ...They made 16 of 33 3s. I don't know that we contested any of them."

NBA admits mistake that leaves Sixers scratching their heads

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NBA admits mistake that leaves Sixers scratching their heads

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers were right.

The Sixers argued they should have set up at halfcourt, not fullcourt, for a decisive final possession of double overtime in Friday’s game against the Thunder. After a closer look following their triple-overtime loss, the NBA ruled the Sixers were proved correct. 

“After review, it was determined that the 76ers called timeout with 00:01.2 remaining on the game clock, which was prior to Saric's (PHI) dribble. Therefore, they should have been given the opportunity to advance the ball into their own frontcourt for the inbound,” the NBA Officiating’s Last Two Minute Report noted.

The confusion occurred at the end of the second overtime. Dario Saric got a defensive rebound and the Sixers called a timeout before he dribbled the ball. Because of this, the Sixers should have been allowed to set up a final play in the halfcourt, which is exactly what they had practiced and called.

But the referees made a last-second change as the Sixers were setting up. The Sixers were told they had to inbound from fullcourt, which would have been the case if Saric had dribbled before the timeout. The Last Two Minute Report indicated he, in fact, did not. 

“Respect that they are that transparent, but complete disappointment that it can happen,” Brett Brown said Sunday. “You really scratch your head. It’s significant.”

Every play, every basket can make a difference for a team fighting to make the playoffs. The Sixers were confident they could have won the game with the halfcourt play. Instead, they dropped back down to .500 and currently 10 in the Eastern Conference.

“Those things you need to avoid to give yourself every chance to win,” Brown said. “We can point to many other things that were self-inflicted wounds that we’ve got to do better. But when it’s that exposed and that prominent of an environment with 1.2 seconds left, it’s disappointing. But like I say, they’re transparent. I respect the fact they admitted it and we move on.”

Joel Embiid out Monday against Bulls; 2 other Sixers sidelined

Joel Embiid out Monday against Bulls; 2 other Sixers sidelined

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid does not play both games of a back-to-back, but whether he plays in either of the Sixers' next two matchups will have to be determined.

Embiid is not traveling with the Sixers to Chicago for Monday’s game against the suddenly-streaking Bulls, who have won five straight. The big man usually plays at home in these scenarios, and considering he played 49 minutes in Friday’s triple-overtime loss, the decision was expected.

Embiid’s availability for Tuesday at home against the Kings, though, has not been finalized at this point. This is not surprising either being two days ahead of the game. Embiid, who has been dealing with back tightness, did not participate in practice Sunday. The Sixers will evaluate, monitor, and go through treatment with Embiid before making their call.

“Unsure at this stage,” Brett Brown said Sunday. “I do know he’s categorically out tomorrow and we’re going to learn more about him being available when we come back [for] Sacramento, I’d expect in the next 24 hours.”

The Sixers do know they will be without another two players for some time.

Trevor Booker will miss at least the next two games after suffering spraining his left ankle Friday. The newly acquired reserve will be reevaluated in approximately five-to-seven days.

Even though Booker was traded to the Sixers less than two weeks ago, he already made an impact on the second unit. Brown has seen enough over the last four games to know what the team will be missing.

“His toughness,” Brown said. “He’s got a motor. He plays with such a spirit. He’s a man. He’s a pro. He’s been in the league for a while. He gets it. It’s everything that you miss. It’s really everything this team needs.”

Furkan Korkmaz likely will be sidelined even longer. The rookie suffered a Lisfranc injury on his left foot while playing for the Delaware 87ers on Dec. 15 and is out indefinitely. The Sixers recalled Korkmaz from the G League and he is going through evaluation and testing. There is no timetable set for Korkmaz at this point.  

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons described the injury as, “Lisfranc (midfoot) injuries result if bones in the midfoot are broken or ligaments that support the midfoot are torn. The severity of the injury can vary from simple to complex, involving many joints and bones in the midfoot.”

Korkmaz has been going back and forth between the Sixers and their G League affiliate in Delaware to get playing opportunities as part of his development in his first NBA season.