BOSTON – Playing in the Garden has brought out the Boston Celtics’ best basketball this postseason.
Wednesday night it was home to one of the best nights of Avery Bradley’s career.
Bradley scored a playoff career-high 29 points, and the Celtics beat the Washington Wizards 123-101 to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
After being thoroughly picked apart in losses at Washington in Games 3 and 4, Boston shared the ball in Game 5, and again resembled the team that entered the game having won seven straight and 11 of 13 in the Garden against Washington.
Al Horford added 19 points, seven assists, and six rebounds. Isaiah Thomas scored 18 points and handed out nine assists.
“We’re a team. And it’s going to take a team effort to beat the Washington Wizards,” Bradley said.
Game 6 is Friday night in Washington, where the Wizards easily won their two games. If the Celtics win, they would move on to host the Cleveland Cavaliers to open the Eastern Conference finals.
Game 7 would be in Boston on Monday.
Boston led by as many as 26 points, negating Washington’s physicality by spreading the floor and knocking down 16 3-pointers.
John Wall had 21 for the Wizards, who haven’t won a playoff game in Boston since 1982.
The Wizards scored the first four points of game, but that was followed by 16-0 run by the Celtics.
“The great start kind of got us going on both ends of the floor,” Bradley said. “Tonight we saw if we’re able to start the right way, the game’s in our control.”
It marked the fourth time in the series that one team has had a run of at least 16-0, including three times in the first quarter. Washington had a 16-0 spurt to start Game 1, a 22-0 run in Game 3 and 26-0 burst in Game 4.
During Boston’s first-quarter spurt Wednesday, the Wizards missed eight straight shots before it was ended by Otto Porter’s basket.
Boston did a good job of sharing the ball, getting assists on 12 of 13 baskets in the opening 12 minutes. Thomas had five assists, more than Washington’s entire team (four) in the period.
The Celtics also outrebounded the Wizards 48-45, after being outrebounded by 26 boards through each of the previous two games (95-69).
“They were the more physical team today,” Wall said. “Throughout this whole series, whoever’s the most physical team has won every game.”
The Wizards responded with more energy after halftime, but each of their mini-runs were quickly beaten back by Boston, which continued to share the ball and take advantage of their fast-break opportunities.
The Celtics’ lead grew to 26 points in the fourth quarter.
Thomas said one thing that became apparent in watching film from the Celtics’ losses in Games 3 and 4 was that he had to adjust his game with three or four defenders guarding him.
He said he’s found the maturity to step back and not force plays that he might not have had earlier in his career.
“Now I’m seeing the game differently,” Thomas said. “But at the same time, that’s not going to stop me from being aggressive and trying to make plays, not just for myself but for my teammates as well.”