Avery Bradley torches the Wizards, leads Celtics to brink of Eastern finals

Avery Bradley torches the Wizards, leads Celtics to brink of Eastern finals

May 10, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) drives to the basket against the Washington Wizards during the first quarter in game five of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Avery Bradley dunks against the Washington Wizards during the first quarter in Game 5 Wednesday at TD Garden. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Avery Bradley lit the fuse Wednesday and the Celtics exploded in the faces of Washington Wizards. 

In a relentless display of up-tempo, transition basketball and long-range sharp shooting, the Celtics ran the Wizards into oblivion Wednesday night, 123-101, in Game 5 at TD Garden to take a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Celtics can close out the Wizards and advance to the Eastern finals against LeBron James and the Cavaliers with a win Friday in Game 6 in Washington. 

With the likes of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Julian Edelman and LeGarrette Blount in attendance courtside, the Celtics were intent on returning the haymakers the Wizards delivered in Games 3 and 4. They didn’t disappoint, and it was Bradley doing most of the damage. Bradley had a new career playoff high by halftime and finished with 29 points, taking a lot of pressure off Isaiah Thomas, who came out with four minutes left and finished with 18 points and nine assists. Al Horford chipped in with 19 points and seven assists.  Marcus Smart was the biggest contributor off the bench with nine points, 11 rebounds and six assists. 

“I just thought we all came out with a better sense of purpose today than we probably did in those games (in Washington), but, you know, sometimes you feel a lot better when you make shots at the rate we did, and we’ll go back and look at the film and there are areas where we need to improve and get ready for Friday,” Brad Stevens said.

“We just wanted to impose our will. We were definitely the harder playing team tonight. We want that to (be the case) Friday night,” Isaiah Thomas said. “We limit 26-0, 22-0 runs, we’ll be OK.” 

“Avery was on fire,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “We didn’t have the focus we needed tonight. We’re trying to get to a Game 7. We have to play a lot better in Game 6.” 

It wasn’t just offense either. John Wall (21 points) and Bradley Beal (16) struggled badly from the field, combining to connect on just 14-of-36 shots. 

“We didn’t shoot the ball well tonight,” Brooks added. “Did they make us miss or did we miss a lot of shots? Our started were 4-for-17 from three. We had an off shooting night. Avery was on fire, Al was terrific. We had no answer for those guys. We did a good job on their best player but not enough on the other guys.”

The Celtics continued the home dominance between the two teams this season. Including four regular season games, the home team has now captured all nine meetings by an average of 15 points per game. The Wizards will have to hold serve Friday just to force a Game 7 next Monday in Boston. 

The last two games featured the sight of Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford on the bench, sitting in stunned silence, watching as the Celtics were blown out of the building. On this night, it was John Wall and Bradley Beal who spent most of the fourth quarter on the bench staring at the jumbotron, as the Celtics built their lead to 26. 

The Celtics were again blistering from beyond the arc, draining 15 of their first 29 long-distance field goals. They finished 16-of-33 from deep. 

In a dramatic flip of the script, the Celtics were the ones who went on a massive run that provided separation. And they did it in the first quarter, no less. After allowing the Wizards to score the first four points of the game, the Celtics responded with the next 16 to take a 16-4 lead. 

Bradley was monstrous in the first quarter, hitting 6-of-8 from the field and scoring 14 points in the opening period. Bradley was the key to the Celtics in transition in the first, as he scored 9 of his 14 points before the Wizards could get back, three of them coming on dunks. 

The Celtics outscored the Wizards, 13-0, in transition as the took a stranglehold of the game. The Celtics led 33-21 after 12 minutes and this time they didn’t allow a 12-point lead to immediately wither away like they did in Game 4. 

Jae Crowder’s three from the right wing put the Celtics up 18, 41-23, with 9:51 left in the second quarter. Crowder banked in a three with seven minutes left in the quarter to give the Celtics a 48-26 lead. 

(For a full box score, click here.)

As was the case with Kelly Olynyk in Game 4 in D.C., the crowd waited for Kelly Oubre to come into the game so they could chant his name. He made one of two free throws with 9:30 left in the first half as the Wizards struggled to get back into the game. Oubre was making a return to the series after being suspended for Game 4 after his charge at Olynyk that knocked the Celtics’ big to the ground. 

After an Al Horford put-back of a Thomas miss with 5:08 left in the first half, Horford flexed his muscles. That bucket gave the Celtics a 50-33 lead. Bradley followed with a left baseline three that put the Celtics up 20, 53-33, with four and a half minutes left in the first half. An Amir Johnson block led to another transition score, as Bradley hit a fallaway baseline jumper to stake the Celtics to a 55-33 lead. 

The Wizards drew briefly to within 15 before Bradley hit his fourth three-ball of the half, giving him 25 points at the break and leading the Celtics to a 67-51 lead. The 25 points was already a playoff career high. The 67 points was the most any team had scored in the playoffs to this point. 

The Wizards got as close as 13 on an Otto Porter basket with 6:35 left in the third. But Al Horford’s three with 1:35 left in the quarter pushed the lead back to 20, 92-72. With the Celtics up, 93-73, Jaylen Brown was called for a touch foul on Ian Mahinmi with 1.6 seconds left, allowing the big man to hit three free throws and help the Wizards close to within 17, 93-76, entering the fourth. 

Through three quarters, Isaiah Thomas, with just 10 points, had taken just seven field goal attempts and was the fourth-leading scorer among the starters, behind Bradley (29), Horford (19) and Crowder (18). 

If the Celtics can’t close it out on Friday night in Washington, they will return home for a Game 7 Monday night at 8 p.m. at TD Garden. If they win Friday, the Celtics will host the Eastern Conference finals opener Monday night, also at 8 p.m. at TD Garden. 

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Source: GreenStreet Blog

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