As soon as the Game 5 began, Isaiah Thomas found himself at the free-throw line. Then it was Jae Crowder. They were the only attempts of the first quarter for the Boston Celtics, but the Wizards instantly lost their heads in what would turn into a 21-point loss at TD Garden.
That such a minor hiccup could distract them in such an important game in the East semifinals seems like a reach. But it did, and the Wizards' problems grew from there. The Celtics went on a 16-0 run to take a 3-2 series lead.
"It did bother us a couple times earlier in the game," coach Scott Brooks said Thursday, though he gave his players off from practice before Game 6 Friday at Verizon Center. "They never change the call."
In the end, the Wizards went to the foul line more (29-21), but the Celtics didn't need the freebies. They converted 53% of their shots. They outrebounded the much bigger team (48-45) and dominated in assists against a team witth John Wall (33-21).
"The focus, for whatever reason, we didn’t have that in the first quarter.. They jumped on us. A lot of transition points but we did not lose the series we lost the game," Brooks said. "I have a lot of confidence in our guys. We’ve played all year long in front of our fans. We’re 5-0 in the playoffs (at home). We’re focusing on playing much better."
The ability to defend is there. But mentally, that commitment can go on hiatus.
"When we miss shots early on, we didn’t get back on defense. We were basket hanging," Brooks said. "We put ourselves in bad position in transition. They were getting layups and threes. If you miss a shot, you miss a shot. You got to get back and not compound that miss with a defensive lapse by not getting back in transition.
"They really attacked us. They were really aggressive. They weren’t happy with the way they played Games 3 and 4 and they came out and hit us and hit us pretty hard and we weren’t ready for it."
MORE WIZARDS: How Celtics flipped the script on Wizards in Game 5