Friday 18 August 2017 / 08:39 PM

FAST-STARTING CELTICS ONE GAME AWAY FROM CAVS SHOWDOWN

Boston take advantage of an first-quarter lead and cruise to a comfortable 22-point home win, leaving them one victory away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Game

For the road team, Game 5 with the series tied at 2-2 provides an opportunity to steal the advantage attempt a close out on their home floor. If that’s not enough, the budding rivalry between these two young teams should have lit a fire. The Celtics came ready to play, the Wizards did not. That was clear right off the bat, as Boston quickly shot out to an early lead, got the TD Garden crowd rocking and never looked back.

This was the quintessential Celtics performance. Disruptive, hounding defence from their deep stock of confident perimeter defenders and a versatile inside presence. Amir Johnson and Al Horford set the tone with some dominant early paint defence and helped ignite the early transition offence that sparked the Celtics 16-0 first quarter run.

The Wizards were dreadful with their transition D and struggled to match Boston’s energy. Defence is the best form of offence, as they say, and the C’s were able to springboard their work without the ball into points. Forcing the Wizards to repetitively bring the ball up against a set defence was instrumental in completely nullifying their attack.

It’s hard not to be critical of the Wizards. Questions surrounding their bench still haven’t been answered and they struggled mightily in Game 5. Brandon Jennings (-14), Bojan Dogdanovic and Ian Mahinmi (-13) were complete non-factors and have struggled to provide any kind of consistent spark all postseason. As the Celtics are a deep team with reliable players contributing from the bench, the Wizards must bring more energy earlier in the game. Falling behind and hoping their bench can make up the deficit is the quickest way to elimination.

Key Contributors

Avery Bradley had the best half of basketball in his life, posting 25 points (career-high), the first Celtic to do so since Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. He finished with an excellent 29 points and was significant in shutting down Washington’s explosive guards.

Jae Crowder and rookie Jaylen Brown were just as important in their two-way showcase, asking questions on both ends of the floor, finishing +19 and +17 respectively. Marcus Smart had a classic Marcus Smart game, finishing with 13 points (2-5 3pt), 6 assists and a game-high 11 rebounds. The Celtics perimeter crew heavily outplayed their opposites and the Wizards’ big men offered nothing as a counter.

Looking Forward

  • Washington can’t let Boston win on the glass. Obviously, the deficit in Game 5 can be chalked up to the field goal percentage, but Washington haven’t done nearly enough to leverage such an obvious advantage; Boston were one of the worst rebounding teams in the league all season, and the Wiz have a sizeable front court with Porter, Morris and Gortat. They have to make the Celtics pay for going small so often, otherwise they’ll get run off the court, as they did tonight.
  • Bradley and Crowder have always been the barometer for Boston’s performance. Their production is indicative of defensive breakdowns elsewhere. Once the C’s puncture the D they swing the ball and find the open shooters. Washington can’t overcorrect worrying about contributions from these guys, rather focus on doing a better job restricting the initial penetration and keeping the ball in front of them.
  • The Wizards need to make more of an attempt to target Isaiah Thomas. Boston have successfully hidden him on shooters and considering the strength of their perimeter stoppers, it’s an easy source of offence and really the only targetable weakness.

  • Otto Porter espeically needs to play better. His lack of involvement, especially in games the Wiz have lost this playoffs, highlights the flaws in his game. Not only does the Wizards’ season depend on his contribution, with free agency around the corner, he’s costing himself some serious coin.
  • Al Horford flashed his all-round ability (19-6-7), acting as the lead ball-handler in different sets that really troubled the Wizards’ defence. Gortat is way out of his depth covering the ball-handler and opened up plenty of open shots, especially for Bradley. Look for Stevens to go back to this in Game 6.

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About the author

Brayden Issa

Brayden is a Sydney-based sports management student and sports fanatic, specialising in rugby league, basketball, football and cricket. He is concerned with everything related to professional sports performance and management.

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