BOSTON — The Wizards go back home now, where they have been so effective this season. They are undefeated in five postseason home games. Only three teams won more home games during the regular season. Friday night’s Game 6 against the Boston Celtics could well turnout in their favor since neither team has won a road game against the other this season.
There is a zeppelin-sized however in the hope brought by that rationalization. Boston’s 123-101 blasting of the Wizards on Wednesday night in TD Garden gave it an undefeated home record the last three seasons against Washington. It also provided a 3-2 lead in the teams’ best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals series. Should there be a Game 7, it would be May 15 in this ghost-filled building that sits in Boston’s North End.
“We’re going to have to play better,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “We’re going to have to win one game on the road. We’ve said it all along: It doesn’t matter when you win. I would have preferred to win Game 1, didn’t happen. Two, didn’t happen. Five, it didn’t happen. So, we have one more crack at it. We’ve got to take care of our home floor first. Then we’ve got a chance to two of the greatest words in sports playoff history: Game 7. We’re trying like heck to get to Game 7. We have to play much better to do that [in] Game 6.”
The Celtics take distinct measures to remind onlookers of Boston’s current sports domination. For instance, twice on Wednesday, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was shown sitting courtside in his navy blue suit coat. The second time, he held up a green “Let’s go Celtics!” T-shirt. Rowdy applause followed.
He was the only person to eclipse the cheers for Celtics guard Avery Bradley, who put together a stunning first half. Everything about it ran against what a logical person would surmise to happen. He scored 25 points in two quarters, a postseason career-high for a game, and more than double the points he scored in two games in Washington (12). Only three times during the regular season did Bradley score more. Only once had he eclipsed 30 points in a game. That was when he scored 31 points in the third game of the regular season on Oct. 29.
This is May, when legacies are established no matter how confounding the result seems to be. Bradley was 10-for-13 from the field in the half. He made 4 of 5 3-pointers. He finished the half with 20 more points than his longtime friend and fellow former Tacoma, Washington, resident, Isaiah Thomas. Bradley even outscored the combined effort of John Wall and Bradley Beal, who finished the half with 24 total points. Wall finished the night with 21 points. Beal scored 16.
“I knew that I haven’t been playing to my ability on the offensive end the last two games,” Bradley said.
All first-half numbers for Washington were abysmal. It fell behind 13-4 after a 13-0 run from Boston. When the Celtics went up 33-21, they had outscored the Wizards 15-0 in fastbreak points. Before the game began, Boston coach Brad Stevens said the Celtics would have no shot if they turned the ball over and were outrebounded. The same was true in reverse for a half.
“Leak outs,” Beal said of Bradley’s hot start. “He got a lot of easy ones from the get-go. We weren’t getting back in transition. A lot of his were just open shots. Layups, back cuts. He had a pretty untouched game in the first half.”
Just when the Wizards began to creep toward a relevant stance in the game, Bradley hit his fourth 3-pointer of the half with 20 seconds to play in the second quarter. Washington had pulled within 15 points for the just the second time in the second quarter since Boston had pushed its lead to a first-half peak of 22 points. That gap reached 26 points before the evening ended.
In the midst of that mess, Kelly Oubre Jr. returned to the floor after being suspended for Game 4. There was almost too much joy in the building for sustained grumbling to be focused on Oubre, though a brief expletive-filled chant was launched in his direction. His activity helped him to 13 points. He was also re-engaged chest-to-chest with the Celtics. Oubre became quickly tied up with Thomas, an entanglement that sent Thomas to the floor and caused him to shake his head afterward.
Oubre’s return was just a sideshow to a half that Boston finished in front, 67-51. Washington had two quarters to regroup or head home one game from elimination. When Trey Burke entered the game for Wall with 6:42 to play, it was clear which was going to happen.
“They beat our ass,” Markieff Morris said.
The Wizards come back to Washington on the verge of being eliminated in six games during the Eastern Conference semifinals for the third time in four years. The hump for Wall and Beal is right in front of them. Wednesday’s shellacking made it grow. Coming into the postseason, when the home team wins Game 5 of a tied series, it wins the series 91.8 percent of the time. History, ever so crass an opponent in the District, is not on the Wizards’ side.
“John and I have been there before, [Marcin] Gortat’s been there, Otto [Porter], we’ve all been there before,” Beal said. “There’s no more bitter feeling than that — losing on your own home floor and getting knocked out.”
They will attempt to avoid it Friday. But, that only earns them a trip back to Boston, a place of nightmares and blowouts.
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