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Know Your Bets: Can The Boston Celtics Close Out Washington Wizards in Game 6?
The Celtics look to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals
By Liam Davis
It's gut check time for the Washington Wizards.
After falling by 22 points to the Boston Celtics in Game 5, the Wizards have to win Friday night or their season is over. And though they enter the contest as favorites, the decision isn't that simple.
Or is it?
Both teams have thus far held serve on their home court, winning games by an average of 18 points. The Wizards specifically have been one of the NBA's best home teams since Christmas. In the two games they've won against the Celtics during this series, their margin of victory is a whopping 23 points.
That puts part of the burden of proof onto the Celtics. They have yet to show that they can hang with the Wizards on their home floor. Both Games 3 and 4 got away from them rather quickly, and they were never able to recover.
At the same time, the Wizards are on the ropes, too. It's not just that they're facing elimination. It's also that they've been unable to generate consistent performances from their most important players.
John Wall's Game 5 egg aside, he has basically been spectacular. But the Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris have all been hot and cold, while Marcin Gortat has been, in a word, nonessential.
This is a problem—a big one. The Wizards don't have the surrounding depth to try something different if their main guys aren't firing on all cylinders.
Kelly Oubre has held his own defensively, but his offense is still developing. Bojan Bogdanovic has this offensive contributions down pat, but every time he's subbed in for Morris beside the four other starters, Washington's defense turns to mush. Brandon Jennings isn't fit to run point for long periods of time anymore, and Ian Mahinmi has been, at a best, a minor difference-maker during his limited run on the court.
Concerning still, the Celtics didn't start playing their best basketball until Game 5. That was their first quality wire-to-wire effort for this matchup. That they entered the game with the series tied was nothing short of a small miracle in the first place.
While we could bet on them regressing to the mean, there's a scarier notion: This could be their new normal.
Marcus Smart was never going to turn the ball over like crazy forever. Terry Rozier is playing above his head, but he's been doing that all postseason. Al Horford has been this good all year. Ditto for Avery Bradley. Jae Crowder's offense comes and goes, but he'll scrap defensively no matter what. The same can be said for Jaylen Brown.
And as for Isaiah Thomas, he's impacting the Celtics for the better even when he's not scoring. The mere threat of him finishing at the rim or in the lane forces the Wizards to collapse. That allows him to fling kick-outs to open shooters, who are either draining threes or sending an extra pass to someone else who's in a better position to drain said threes.
Perhaps the Celtics don't close out the series in Game 6. But their Game 5 uptick should spill over into Friday's pivotal tilt—which is enough incentive for us to take the five points they're getting.
The Pick: Boston Celtics (+5)
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