BOSTON -- The way the pendulum swings decisively from one side to the other in the East semifinals between the Wizards and Boston Celtics continues as each game is decided by large margins. Game 5, won 123-101 by the home team at TD Garden, wasn't any different.
The Wizards kept Isaiah Thomas to fewer than 20 points for the third game in a row, but the result was different because the role players such as Avery Bradley (29 points), Jae Crowder (18) and Al Horford (19) made them pay.
"They had a lot of energy coming out in the first quarter," Markieff Morris said after his Wizards took a 4-0 lead only to submit to a 16-0 run by Boston. "They adjusted a little bit and by the time we picked up what they was doing they already had a 16-point lead.
"They were leaking out. They made an adjustment when the ball goes up. ... We're going to make that adjustment. We made it in the game and we stopped it but we were already down 16."
The Wizards smothered Thomas who was just 5-for-13 shooting but created better with nine assists. The shooters around him were open. And if they weren't spotting up around the three-point arc they were getting Boston out to a 15-0 edge in fast-break points.
"We took shots. We didn't do a great job of getting back," John Wall said. "Our guards and bigs didn't do a grat job of getting back and they were just running out for layups and threes."
The Wizards' transition defense was in shambles from the start. Otto Porter took Bradley as he pushed the ball up the floor and Wall didn't position himself to cut off Crowder's angle to the basket on the cut. Bradley made a simple pass for a layup and a 13-4 lead.
Thomas, who is 5-9, set a pindown screen on Marcin Gortat and Bradley Beal to clear the real estate for Horford to step into a three-pointer. These breakdowns came in the first quarter, so fatigue can't be blamed. It was lack of focus.
Every time Wall drove, his defender (Bradley) would hand him off to the bigs in the paint and then he'd sprint to the other end for the outlet. No one shifted to the top to cover Wall upon his dribble penetration to prevent it.
"They kind of surprised us," Wall said. "They made adjustments. It's something they must've seen ont he film and they killed us in the first quarter."
Morris didn't like how disengaged they were without allowing cutters off the ball to get unobstructed to the rim. When the ball is being trapped out of Thomas' hands, it's inevitable that seams will be created behind the defense. That's where the weak spot is going to be but second effort and recovery can close those off.
"We (weren't) physical enough. We were letting guys cut through the lane without touching them," Morris said. "We know they were going to do that. We were prepaared for that. We did a great job on I.T. but we let too many guys make plays and make shots."
Beal didn't make any of his four three-point attempts. The Celtics had nine more makes from long range with 16, giving them 27 more points than the Wizards in that category.
"They're doing a good job of changing up their defense a little bit," Beal said. "Try to put I.T. on me a little bit, kind of throw the rhythm of the game off. We take him into the post, we try to hit him and run him off screens as much as possible but they do a good job of knowing my ball screens. They're up, the weakside is pulled over. Isolations? The same thing, the weakside is pulled over. We got to move, get the ball moving. Myself included."
The series heads back to Verizon Center for Game 6 on Friday. If the Wizards can force Game 7, it'll be Monday here. The Wizards would have to win at a venue where they've been unsuccessful since 2014 to advance to the conference finals.
"They beat our ass," Morris said. "We just beat their ass two times in a row. It comes with the game."