If the fifth game of a seven-game series is for making statements, then the Celtics wrote theirs in ten-foot tall letters using the Wizards’ blood.
Boston bludgeoned Washington tonight, running away with a decisive 123-101 victory that became a blowout within the first few minutes of the game. Isaiah Thomas only had 18 tonight, but he set the tone in the first quarter, dishing out five assists and driving straight into the teeth of the Washington defense. The Wizards did a better job of containing him (although he did get to the line almost immediately, proving that ranting about not getting calls works) and they were a lot quicker to throw double teams at him on the perimeter.
Because he is an unbelievable athlete, Thomas got the ball out quick and set up his army of shooters without an issue. Opponents fear Thomas’s balls-out finishing ability to the point that it’s not even a secret weapon anymore, yet he uses the same principles to make incisive passes from unorthodox angles at unexpected time to catch opponents off rhythm and find his guys. Tonight, the primary beneficiary was Avery Bradley, who scored a playoff career-high 29 points, almost all of which came on wide-open shots.
Thomas’s running mate Al Horford was perhaps the Celtics’ best player tonight. Boston is not a big team—their backup center is a three-point gunner who is as slow as rocks—and Horford is the lynchpin that lets them play their unique brand of hyperkinetic offense while still doing shit like blocking three shots. Horford didn’t miss a shot until there was 8:30 left in the third quarter, and he got the better of Marcin Gortat all night. The Wizards need Gortat to hold his own and he looked like butt tonight. A 3-for-7 shooting night isn’t thaaat bad, but several of those were wide-open looks. Horford used his three-point ability to coax Gortat out onto the perimeter, which both freed up the lane for the Celtics and created a weird switch for them to exploit. Thomas is at home as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, and a few times, he even screened for Horford in an effort to incite a bit of chaos on the perimeter. The Celtics also ran all over the Wizards, which resulted in bushels of points and mismatches when they couldn’t score immediately. A sampling:
Bradley Beal did a decent job of staying in front of Thomas when he was asked to, but he also missed all four of his three-pointers. Most every Wizard looked flat tonight, as even the typically effervescent John Wall failed to ever set the tempo of the game or incite a run. The only Wizard who truly showed up to play was Kelly Oubre, who was serenaded with “Fuck You Oubre!” chants.
The series will now travel back to Washington, land of playoff sadness, where the Wizards will hope that they can continue to hold home court. For as bad as they looked tonight, they easily won both games in D.C. and every game in this series (and these godawful playoffs) has been a blowout. The Celtics are driving this rig, and if the Wizards want to reclaim it, they’ll need John Wall to turn into a hero again and they’ll need Marcin Gortat to show up. Hopefully no Capitals stink rubbed off on them.