In securing the inbound pass on a broken set intended for Bradley Beal and calmly knocking down Washington’s fifth three of the game over Avery Bradley, John Wall has given us a playoff series for the ages. Now the Wizards must beat the Celtics Monday in TD Garden — something the team hasn’t done since the regular-season finale in 2014 — to survive the second round and give Washington its first conference finals appearance in decades.
The Celtics appeared confident, many arriving at the game in all black, apparently in anticipation of mourning a premature end to the Wizards’ season. But Boston’s bench — superior to Washington for much of this series — let the team down. Celtics reserves shot 2-for-15 and were outscored 13-5, a key stat in a game decided by a single point. Boston got 27 apiece from Bradley and Isaiah Thomas and 20 from Al Horford, but only 17 from the rest of the roster.
To win in Boston, the Wizards must rely on the individual brilliance of Wall and Beal while continuing to dominate the boards to feed them extra possessions. Washington is averaging 44.7 rebounds in the series compared to 38.8 for Boston. Another key facet to the Wizards’ grimier style is the defense of Markieff Morris. Washington is 20 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Morris on court compared to off in nearly identical minutes. No other Wizard has come close to making that kind of defensive impact. Beal struggled from three in Game 6 (1-for-8) but has been phenomenal inside the arc, where he shot 14-for-18.
For the Celtics, it will come down to making shots and using superiority from three-point range to offset the Wizards’ rebound advantage. Boston’s 40.3 percent from three is second only to the Cavaliers in the second round, while Washington’s 31.4 percent is worse than every team except the Raptors. Boston could also use a better start from Thomas, who didn’t hit his second field goal in Game 6 until three minutes before halftime. And the Celtics likely can’t survive another no-show from the bench.
Game 7 Prediction:
Despite Wall’s last-minute heroics, the Wizards didn’t show much of a killer instinct in Game 6. Washington missed seven of 13 free throw attempts and allowed Boston to close on a 12-1 run after leading 40-30 in the first half. The Wizards had a chance to steal one on the road in Game 2, but Wall cost his team with missed shots and turnovers. Home court advantage will be the decisive factor in Game 7 as the Celtics move on to face the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
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