They wore all-black attire in Friday’s attempted closeout of the Wizards at Verizon Center. The Boston Celtics, however, were turned away a bit red-faced as the ploy backfired and John Wall had the last laugh as his three-pointer with 3.5 seconds left won it 92-91.
The home team has won every game in this East semifinal that returns to TD Garden for a Game 7 on Monday to determine who meets the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Boston erased a 10-point first-half deficit, led by 87-82 in the final two minutes after a quick explosion by Isaiah Thomas and the Wizards tied it after a pair of stops on a three-pointer from Bradley Beal and free throws from Wall with 41.2 seconds left.
The Wizards are 6-0 at home in the postseason.
Wall (26 points, eight assists) was listless for most of three quarters, Marcin Gortat (four points, 13 rebounds) was in early foul trouble and Otto Porter (36 minutes) went scoreless. as he missed all five of his attempts.
Like the Wizards in Games 1 and 2 when they had victory in hand in Boston, the Celtics wilted down the stretch.
This could’ve been the third Game 6 semifinal elimination in four years for Wall, Gortat, Porter and Beal (33 points, five assists).
But after Avery Bradley (27 points) made the go-ahead jumper, Beal responded with a drive by Kelly Olynyk to tie the score at 89 and set the stage for the finish.
Wall began shooting 1-for-9 but caught fire with three consecutive field goals, including a three-pointer, to tie the score at 50 in the third quarter. He scored 13 of his points in the third. Beal scored 13 in the fourth.
Then it was Beal who came alive to repeatedly beat the Celtics’ slower defenders off the dribble to get to the rim in the fourth.
Bradley, Thomas (27 points, seven assists) and Al Horford (20 points, six rebounds) weren’t enough for Boston to get over the hump.
A pair of foul shots from Jae Crowder (10 points, seven rebounds, eight assists) tied the score at 82 in the final four minutes. Horford’s difficult bank shot with 7.7 seconds left put the Celtics ahead 91-89.
The dislike between the teams made this a game the Wizards believed going in they couldn’t lose no matter the circumstances.
“It factors into it a little bit. I think it gets the fans more involved than anything,” Beal said before tipoff. “You get a little bit more edge, you can yell at them a little bit more, kind of disrupt them. I don’t know what it is. We don’t like each other. We both want to win. It’s competitive. It’s fun to me. I enjoy it. This is how hoops should be.”
It’ll last one more game.
--The Wizards went without a field goal in the last 4:10 of the second quarter. Wall didn’t have a point or an assist in the eight minutes he played. The Wizards went from a 40-30 led to trailing 42-41 at halftime.
--Defense is what got the Wizards back on top after trailing throughout the third quarter. They had multiple blocks to begin the fourth and consecutive baskets from Beal put them ahead 70-69 with 9:45 left. It was defense that got them the stops late, turning over Thomas who had a game-high five giveaways.
--Gortat picked up two fouls and had to leave the game. When he re-entered at 7:32 of the second, it took him just five seconds to pick up his third foul on a closeout of Thomas. He screened for Wall in the lane with 5:51 left in the third quarter and picked up his fourth foul. Coach Scott Brooks, however, stayed with Gortat in the lineup. His screen-setting and four offensive rebounds got the Wizards the looks they needed to close.
--Neither team shot the ball well from three-point range, but that didn’t make either bashful. Through three quarters, the Wizards were 5-for-24 and Celtics shot 11-for-35. Beal has been less than 30% for the playoffs and shot 1-for-8. He didn’t make any of his threes in Game 5.
--One of Ian Mahinmi’s strengths is supposed to be his ability to defend but he remained indecisive in closing out Horford at the three-point line and paid for it. Also he came up to trap Thomas to help Wall on the pick-and-roll, got too high and allowed the 5-9 point guard to split it. Mahinmi then picked up his fourth foul to stop the layup.
--Thomas picked up his fourth foul trying to defend Bojan Bogdanovic (four points) in the paint. Thomas stayed in the game, and though he’s usually a defensive liability he was even more of one as he was more concerned (and rightly so) with being on the floor in crunch time. The Wizards’ strategy to contain him worked again as he shot just 8-for-24 from the field.
--Both benches were limited as the Wizards got just 13 from theirs led by Ian Mahinmi (six points). Boston only got five points, with Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier going scoreless and combining to shoot 0-for-8.