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Who Wins The NBA Postseason's First Game 7: Celtics or Wizards?
Look for the Celtics to finally oust the Wizards
By Dan Favale
Boston Celtics (-5) vs. Washington Wizards (+5)
Through the first five games of this Boston Celtics-Washington Wizards series, the competition level wasn't exactly booming.
Sure, the best-of-seven set itself was close. Game 2 even went into overtime. But the average margin of victory was 18 points. And as for that overtime contest, the Celtics ended up pulling away in the extra frame, outscoring the Wizards 15-5.
Game 6 was significant in that it was actually competitive—not superficially, but authentically. It was also ugly.
Washington's bench totaled just 13 points. Jason Smith was the only second-stringer to drop an assist. Bradley Beal and John Wall needed to score or assist on all of the Wizards' baskets in the fourth quarter. Boston's second unit was even worse. Its four reserves combined for just five points on 2-of-15 shooting. Kelly Olynyk was the only one to actually convert a shot.
Another ugly game would favor the Wizards. They are used to top-heavy affairs. Their bench has been bad all season, so they know not to count on Kelly Oubre Jr. for offense, or on Bojan Bogdanovic for defense. Hell, they've spent the entirety of the playoffs having to plan around Beal's vanishing acts, Otto Porter's seeming ability to hit a three and Markieff Morris' on-again, off-again relationship with making shots.
The Celtics aren't used to playing like this. And though they can win without a perfect performance from the bench, they most certainly need more offense from Jae Crowder. He tallied eight assists in Game 6, but he couldn't drill a wide-open three to save his life.
When the Celtics' supporting cast as a whole isn't draining shots, Isaiah Thomas has to work that much harder for his points. We saw it on Friday. He went 8-of-24 from the floor and is now shooting under 39 percent since dropping 53 points in Boston's Game 2 victory. Double-teams and triple-teams have been disruptive to his flow to begin with; remove the possibility of his kick-outs off drives or pick-and-rolls turning into points, and you're all of a sudden in a hole. He is impossible to hide on defense, and there's only so much damage he can do on offense when those around him not named Al Horford or Avery Bradley fail to pitch in. If not for his 10-point fourth-quarter detonation in the Celtics' Game 6 loss, we'd probably even be talking about him in a more negative light.
And yet, this doesn't change anything. Our pick for this series was the Celtics in seven games, and we will stick with it.
Yes, you can argue the Wizards have been the better team for most of this series. But very rarely does the Celtics' depth disappear the way it did on Friday. Crowder, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier won't combine to go 1-of-9 from downtown every night. Thomas will have a better shooting performance at some point. The Celtics, as a unit, won't shoot under 32 percent on 35 three-point attempts forever.
And that's the other part of all this: The Wizards themselves couldn't buy a bucket from beyond the arc. They ended up being a minus-18 points from long range, and they don't necessary have the firepower to offset that deficit.
Consider this: The Wizards have made 34 fewer three-pointers for this series—a minus 102 points overall. They have reached the rim with more ease than the Celtics—they attempted 15 more shots in the restricted area and paint alone for Game 6—but this isn't a trend you can keep up in today's NBA while expecting to win.
Hence all the previous blowouts, and why, truthfully, you shouldn't be surprised if Washington is in for another one.
The Pick: Boston Celtics (-5)
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