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Celtics visit the Wizards and look to close out the series in Game 6

The Celtics return to the Verizon Center up 3-2 over the Wizards and with a chance to close out the series in 6 games.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics (3-2) at Wizards (2-3)
Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 6
Playoff Game #12, Road Game #6
Friday, May 12, 2017
8:00 PM ET
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, WFED 1500 AM
Verizon Center
Referees: Ken Mauer, Tony Brothers, John Goble

The Celtics return to the Verizon Center up 3-2 over the Wizards and with a chance to close out the series in 6 games. Close out games are always the the toughest to win and with the game in Washington, it seems that it may be even tougher. The Celtics have played 4 games at the Verizon Center this season and have lost all 4. What is worse, none of the 4 losses have even been close. They have lost by 25, 15, 28, and 19.

The Celtics finally seemed to put everything together in game 5 for a convincing win at the Garden. The big question is whether the Celtics can play with the same intensity in Washington and be the first team in the series to get a win on the opponent's court. Both teams were 30-11 at home in the regular season. The Celtics had a better road record at 23-18 while the Wizards were 19-22 on the road. In the playoffs so far, teams are 0-10 when facing elimination on their home court, including the Bulls who were eliminated by the Celtics on their home court.

Washington ranks 27th in the league in percentage of seats filled this season at home at 76.7 percent, according to ESPN. Unlike the TD Garden that is sold out every game and rarely has room for fans from opposing teams, the Verizon Center often has empty seats and even in Games 3 and 4, you could hear a Celtics contingent in the crowd cheering for the the visitors.

The Celtics seemed to put everything together in game 5. They played harder, defended in transition to stop the Wizards' fast breaks, and crashed the boards to limit second chance points. They also found their offense and moved the ball and limited turnovers. They also were able to deal with the Wizards double and triple teaming Isaiah by having Al Horford play point center and by everyone stepping up their game. They have to bring all of that, especially the effort and aggressiveness if they want to avoid having to play a Game 7.

Both teams have bumps and bruises but neither team has any players out with injuries. Avery Bradley is playing with a hip pointer on each side, but after starring in Game 5, it seems that they aren't bothering him too much. Marcus Smart seemed to be struggling in the two previous games in DC, but also was able to shake off the bumps and bruises to play well in Game 5. Isaiah Thomas has been able to play through the pain of oral surgery after taking an elbow to the mouth in Game 1.

John Wall has been seen favoring his wrist at times after falling on it earlier in the series. Markieff Morris may still be dealing with the ankle he sprained in game 1. Jason Smith and Ian Mahinmi have both dealt with calf soreness. Otto Porter seems to be fine after falling on his elbow earlier in the series.

After talk of changing the Celtics starters has preceded every game so far, there hasn't been indication of changing the starting lineup for Game 6. Gerald Green started 2 of the games and Amir Johnson started 3 of the games so far. After the starting lineup with Amir played so well in Game 5, I would expect that same lineup to start this game as well.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
Isaiah Thomas vs John Wall

Shooting Guard
Avery Bradley vs Bradley Beal

Small Forward
Jae Crowder vs Otto Porter

Power Forward
Amir Johnson vs Markieff Morris

Al Horford vs Marcin Gortat

Celtics Reserves

Jaylen Brown
Terry Rozier
Gerald Green
Kelly Olynyk
Demetrius Jackson
Jordan Mickey
James Young
Tyler Zeller
Marcus Smart
Gerald Green

Avery Bradley (hip pointers) probable

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Wizards Reserves
Bojan Bogdanovic
Brandon Jennings
Sheldon McClellan
Chris McCullough
Daniel Ochafu
Kelly Oubre Jr
Thomas Satoransky
Jason Smith
Trey Burke
Ian Mahinmi

None listed

Head Coach
Scott Brooks

Key Matchups
Isaiah Thomas vs John Wall
John Wall played very well in the two games in DC and the Celtics have to find a way to keep him off balance and not allow him to take over the game. He is averaging 28.8 points, 11.1 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.1 steals. In Game 5, the Celtics found a way to combat all the attention that the Wizards were paying to IT on defense. They allowed Isaiah to be a facilitator and to set screens and let Al Horford run the offense at times. If his teammates can hit their shots as they did in Game 5, IT should be able to find some open space to operate.

Avery Bradley vs Bradley Beal
Beal struggled somewhat in the first two games but when the series shifted to DC, he found his shot and came up big for the Wizards. He is averaging 23.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.7 steals. He once again struggled in Game 5 and Avery will need to play his usual smothering defense on Beal to limit him once again. He also has to be aggressive in looking for his own offense once again to make things easier on Isaiah.

Al Horford vs Marcin Gortat
Gortat has been steady for the Wizards in the 5 games so far. He is averaging 8.8 points and 11 rebounds per game. Like the other Wizards, he played better at home and so Al (or possibly Kelly or Amir or Tyler or Jonas) need to keep a body on Gortat, especially in the paint to keep him from getting to the rebounds and getting second chance baskets. Al also has to once again be aggressive in looking for his shot and in finding his teammates for easy shots.

Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics need to make defense a priority. Defense wins games. They especially need to contain the Wizards' talented back court. The Wizards increased their efforts on defense for Games 3 and 4, holding the Celtics to 35.1% shooting from the field and 31.3% from beyond the arc. In Game 5, the Celtics were the more aggressive team on defense and they once again must be the more aggressive team on defense in this game.

Be Aggressive
- The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team from start to finish. Brad
Stevens said that the one thing he noticed about how the Wizards played in DC was how hard they played. They played harder and were more aggressive on both ends of the court. For the Celtics to win in DC, they need to be more aggressive in going to the hoop, in crashing the boards, in fighting for loose balls and in running the court. They also have to be more aggressive on defense. They have to be the team that wants it more. The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team and they have to be the team that plays harder from start to finish.

Rebound - In the first meeting between these two teams, a Celtics loss, the Celtics were out-rebounded 54-31 by the Wizards. In the 2nd meeting, a Celtics win, the Celtics out-rebounded the Wizards 45-44. In the third game, a loss, the Celtics were again out-rebounded 43-32. In their 4th meeting, a Celtics win, the Celtics out-rebounded the Wizards 54-39. It isn't a coincidence that the team that won each game had the rebounding edge. In Game 1, the Celtics and Wizards both finished with 38 rebounds. In game 2, the Wizards out-rebounded the Celtics 44-41. In Game 3 the Wizards out-rebounded the Celtics 50-38 and in Game 4 they out-rebounded the Celtics 45-31 and the Celtics lost both games. In the Game 5 win, the Celtics won the rebounding battle 48-45. It seems that more than anything, the rebounding numbers are indicative of effort and of who will win the game. Much of rebounding is effort and the Celtics have to put out the extra effort to crash the boards and win the rebounding battle.

Focus - The Celtics at times can shoot the lights out and other times can't hit the broad side of a barn. Much of that has to be their focus on taking good shots and taking their time with their shots and not rushing them. They can't let the Wizards goading them or the lack of calls take their focus off of playing the game the right way. They have to also realize that if the 3's aren't falling they must go to the basket or they will shoot themselves out of the game once again. The Celtics seem to play very well for most of the games and then lose their focus for a short period each game and give the Wizards a big run by missing shots and turning the ball over. They have to stay focused and not give the Wizards any chance to go on a run. They accomplished that in Boston and now they have to find a way to do it in Washington as well.

Keep Your Composure - The Celtics must keep their composure. The Wizards have been instigating and pushing and shoving and flopping and trying to get into the Celtics' heads. The Celtics have to stay focused on basketball and not let them take them out of their game. Brandon Jennings is an irritant and not a very good player and he got tossed and took Terry Rozier with him in Game 3. He will probably try to get someone tossed again in this game but the Celtics can't let them get into their heads. They have to stay composed and focused on playing team basketball.

Everyone Contribute - The Celtics are built to have everyone contribute. The Celtics have the stronger bench and so players like Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Jonas Jerebko must produce for the Celtics when they come into the game. They did a great job of outplaying their counterparts in Game 5. The starters also found ways to contribute and each one came up big to lead the Celtics to the Game 5 win. The Celtics must all play good defense as well as hit their shots and give the Celtics the advantage whether the starters or the reserves are in the game.

Value Each Possession - The Wizards 26-0 run began with two shot clock violations by the Celtics. They scored 19 of those 26 points on Celtics turnovers. For the game, the Wizards scored 34 points off of Celtics turnovers. The Celtics gave up 25 second chance points. In Game 5, the Celtics had just 11 turnovers and they beat the Wizards in fast break points 19-14. They have to avoid turning the ball over and crash the boards and concentrate on their shot selection and value each possession.


On the Road - The Celtics won't have the incredible Garden crowd behind them in this on to give them energy. They will have to play through a hostile atmosphere and overcome the inconveniences and the distractions of playing on the road. The Celtics have played fairly well on the road this season but so far they haven't been able to get a win in DC. They have to come out with their focus on playing team ball and playing harder than the Wizards, no matter what is going on around them.

Effort - In games 3 and 4, the Celtics effort just wasn't there. They allowed the Wizards to play harder and to be more aggressive and to be the tougher team. The Celtics have to come out in this game with more effort and play harder and be tougher than the Wizards, just as they did in Game 5. Every player has to come out with the mindset to play their hardest and to give their best effort. They each have to be aggressive and not allow the Wizards to out-play them.

Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. How the refs call the game has a big influence on how the teams play. Will they let them play or call every little bit of contact? Will they call it evenly or will they favor one team or the other. Will they be influenced by the home crowd? It all effects the outcome of the game and most importantly, the Celtics need to adjust to the way the officials call the game. Hopefully they call it fairly and allow the players on both teams to play.

Ken Mauer and Tony Brothers are two referees that can be cringeworthy at times. Mauer is very quick to call technicals and in one game, once ejected Doc Rivers less than 3 minutes into a game, and that was before the "Respect the Game" rules were instituted. In one Timberwolves game he might have set the record by calling 5 technicals in a 10 second span. The Celtics have to be on their best behavior with Mauer calling the game. He was one of the refs in the controversial Miami/Dallas Finals where the foul calls were totally lopsided, giving the Heat the title.

Tony Brothers and Ken Mauer have been good in some games and in others they have been terrible. They are like Forest Gump's box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get. Ken Mauer's home W/L record is 38-31. The Celtics are 8-2 with him this season while the Wizards are 5-5. Tony Brothers' is a homer ref with a home W/L record of 47-22. The Celtics are 7-3 with Brothers while the Wizards are 6-4. John Goble is also a homer ref with a W/L record of 49-28. The Celtics are 3-7 with Goble while the Wizards are 5-5.

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