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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."

Sixers rookies Landry Shamet, Shake Milton receive good (!) injury news

Sixers rookies Landry Shamet, Shake Milton receive good (!) injury news

Finally, some good health news, Sixers fans.

While Zhaire Smith continues an unfortunate trend of Sixers’ rookies suffering injuries, two other 2018 draft picks are progressing.

First-round pick Landry Shamet (sprained right ankle) and second-round pick Shake Milton (stress fracture in his back) are both asymptomatic, the team said Monday.

Shamet has been cleared for “light basketball activities” while Milton can “resume limited basketball activities.”

Shamet, a guard out of Wichita State, got banged up in the first half of the Sixers’ first summer league game against the Celtics. Shamet logged just 12 minutes before suffering the ankle sprain. He hit 2 of 5 from three for six points during the stint.

Milton never got the opportunity to play in summer league having suffered his injury during the pre-draft process. The 6-foot-6 guard/forward out of SMU is on a two-way contract with the Sixers, meaning he’ll spend the majority of his season with the Delaware Blue Coats and can spend no more 45 days with the big club.

Smith, the 16th overall pick acquired in a draft-night trade with the Suns, suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot and underwent successful surgery last week. There’s been no timetable for his return.

Both Shamet and Milton offer something the Sixers covet: shooting. Shamet shot 44 percent on 5.1 threes a game in 71 games. Milton was also proficient, shooting 43 percent on 5.1 attempts from distance in 87 games.

The Sixers’ rotation should be a tough one to crack this season, but being healthy for camp would be a fine start for Shamet and Milton.

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Despite Jamal Crawford's praise, Sixers should be wary of signing veteran free agent

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Despite Jamal Crawford's praise, Sixers should be wary of signing veteran free agent

Despite coming up empty in their goal of star hunting this summer, the Sixers are still currently one of the more desirable franchises in the NBA.

They reached the second round of the playoffs last season behind two up-and-coming stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Plus, the organization has a respected head coach in Brett Brown, state-of-the-art training complex, an intense fan base and much more to offer.

At least that’s how free-agent scorer Jamal Crawford views things.

“I like their city. I like how into it they are about basketball. I like their knowledge of basketball, how passionate they are,” Crawford said of Philadelphia last week to Brandon Robinson on Scoop B Radio. “I’ve always loved coach Brett Brown. I’ve been on record. I’ve been a fan of his for years. He just needed talent, and now he has that. He added Ben Simmons, I love his game. I love Jo-Jo. They’re both among my favorite players in the league to watch. Markelle (Fultz) is like a little brother to me. Obviously, he went to the University of Washington, and we talk every other day. JJ Redick is like a brother to me. We’ve been through wars together, so there’s so many things to love about Philadelphia for sure.”

That’s high praise from a three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner. High enough to the point that he would want to suit up for the Sixers?

“I think for me, especially being out there as a free agent, something could work out,” Crawford said. “I would be honored to play there, but things obviously have to take its course and I kind of got to sit back, but who wouldn’t want to play there?”

Well, that cleared things up. 

Now the Sixers, in a new position with players openly offering their services to them, have to be clear too: Crawford isn’t the answer.

No, not “The Answer” although Crawford does have some legendary crossover moves of his own. The 18-year veteran simply isn’t the right fit for this Sixers squad.

For all of Crawford’s accomplishments over nearly two decades in the NBA, the 38-year-old has been on a steady decline. His scoring has dropped in each of the past five years until he posted 10.3 points a night last season with Minnesota, his lowest mark since he averaged 10.7 a night way back in 2002-03.

While Crawford attributed his struggles with the Timberwolves to limited minutes, that doesn’t have anything to do with his efficiency or lack thereof. Crawford shot 41.5 percent from the field and 33.1 percent from three-point range in 2017-18. Those numbers aren’t outliers either as he has career averages of 41.0 percent field goal shooting and 34.9 percent three-point shooting.

And it’s not just the scoring itself. It’s also how Crawford scores the ball. Even though he received only 20.7 minutes per game with the T-Wolves, Crawford was 13th in the entire league in isolation frequency with 19.8 percent of his possessions coming in a one-on-one setting. For comparison, Simmons was the highest Sixer in isolation frequency at 9.0 percent (87th in the NBA).

It’s understandable the Sixers might be still be looking to replace the veteran scoring off the bench lost by the departures of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, but Crawford’s game doesn’t exactly scream the pace-and-space mantra preached by the club.

That just shows how Crawford isn’t an ideal fit offensively. We won’t even get into the defensive end of the court (*cough* Crawford had a defensive rating of 112.9 last season, which means opponents averaged that many points per 100 possessions he was on the floor, good enough for 490th out of 523 total players *cough*).

Crawford does still have a place in the league. He’s a volume scorer that can potentially get hot on any given night and pour in 30 points. He’s also great in the locker room, a reason he took home Teammate of the Year award in '17-18.

But with the above signs of decline as well as T.J. McConnell and a rejuvenated Markelle Fultz penciled in as the Sixers’ reserve backcourt, there might not be the opportunity in Philadelphia that Crawford is seeking out.

Part of the Sixers now being desired is having the power in their hands. This might be a perfect time to use that to their advantage and ignore Crawford’s interest.

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