BOSTON -- On a night when almost everything went right for the Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart tested fate.
Twice in the fourth quarter he rose up from behind the three-point line with ample space between him and the nearest defender. Both times, Smart, a career 29.1% three-point shooter, found the bottom of the net. It was that kind of night for the Celtics.
Coming off a pair of demoralizing losses at the Washington Wizards, the Celtics were in need of some energy to begin Game 5 on Wednesday night. The Wizards scored the first four points of the game, but the Celtics scored the next 16 and never looked back. They now stand one win away from a date with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
After turning the ball over 18 times in a Game 4 loss, the Celtics had just 11 miscues and kept the Wizards from making the kind of run that doomed them early in the series.
“We really worked on, if we’re wearing white, make sure to get it to the guy in white. If we’re wearing green, try to make sure to get it to the guy in green,” Brad Stevens cracked before the game. “I can never keep up with what we’re going to wear game-to-game.”
Clothing jokes aside, the Celtics entered Game 5 looking to sharpen their cuts and better space the floor.
“We have to be better in our cuts, we have to play with a higher motor in our cuts, and we have to attack in some unique ways,” Stevens added. “Stuff they’re doing, they did a good job with that stuff. And their length and athleticism was a real factor in the last two games. We’ve got to do a better job of using the whole court to at least manage that.”
In addition to the turnovers that have kept the Celtics from getting into an offensive rhythm and prevented them from setting up defensively in the halfcourt, the ability to score when Isaiah Thomas isn’t dominating has been a major question mark. Thomas had as many made field goals as fouls (1) in the first half, but it didn’t matter.
Avery Bradley set a new postseason career-high with 25 points in the first half (he finished with 29), while Jae Crowder and Al Horford combined for another 25 on 15 shots. The Celtics led 67-51 heading into the third quarter and the Wizards never got closer than 13 points in a game that was never in doubt.
Bradley, who has come up big on multiple occasions for the Celtics over the last month, also helped keep John Wall and Bradley Beal in check. The duo combined to score 37 points, but needed 36 shots to do so.
“Avery's the best on-ball defender in the NBA, hands down,” Thomas said. "But a guy like John Wall you're not just going to stop. You've just got to try to contain him and make it tough on him. All the really good players in this league, it's hard to stop because they get so many opportunities each and every night. But he does a hell of a job on him. I mean, he makes it tough, nothing's easy. And that's what Avery Bradley does each and every night.”
You can typically determine how the Celtics will fare based on three very basic stats -- threes, rebounds and turnovers. Boston bested Washington in all three. Stevens also unveiled a few new offensive wrinkles with Thomas and Al Horford running the pick-and-roll with Horford as the ball-handler.
“I’m versatile,” Thomas said when asked about setting screens. “I do it all.”
There is one thing Thomas and the Celtics haven’t done this season -- win in Washington. In four games in D.C. they’ve lost by an average of 21.5 points. Thomas has averaged 20 points and eight assists on 38.9% shooting in those games.
“We just gotta stay in the moment,” Thomas said of Friday’s Game 6. “We know what’s at stake. We know it’s going to be a hostile environment.”