Game 6 Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

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"And that's what Avery Bradley does".

Many were perplexed by Brad Stevens' decision to keep Amir Johnson in the starting lineup for Game 5, but Boston's starting group rewarded the head coach's decision by blowing the doors off the Wizards nearly right from the opening tip en route to a 123-101 victory that has the Celtics one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals.

A win on Friday (8 p.m., ESPN) would mark Boston's first return to the Eastern Conference Finals since 2012, and just four seasons after Celtics GM Danny Ainge traded away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, electing to rebuild instead.

In Game 5 between the Wizards and Celtics, there was one point where the game was tied, and one point where there was a lead change. So they nearly doubled that output - not to mention the Celtics held the Wizards to almost half their own Game 4 total.

John Wall had 21 for the Wizards, who haven't won a playoff game in Boston since 1982.

"Avery's the best on-the-ball defender in the National Basketball Association — hands down", Thomas said.

"Just give him credit", said Washington star John Wall of Bradley. With the Wizards making things tough for him, he decided to make this easier for his teammates and shifted to facilitator mode, both with his passing and setting screens.

Wednesday night it was home to one of the best nights of Avery Bradley's career.

Bradley said he was inspired by text messages he got from Thomas and Celtics' television play-by-play man Mike Gorman.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks said he warned Kelly Oubre to wear earplugs for Game 5 after he served a one-game suspension for charging over Boston's Kelly Olynyk.

"We just have to have that mindset to be prepared to be aggressive on the offensive end". He's 6-foot-2, but has enough length to bother shooters, the lateral quickness to keep opponents in front of him and the strength not to get bullied.

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Part of the reason is that Bradley is playing so inspired is that he is coming off a truncated 2016 postseason.

He's made the most of being healthy this time around.

Of course, the Celtics and Wizards play four games against each other every regular season in addition to the soon-to-be six playoff games this series, so both teams are well aware of each other's style of play. "If he could take it back, he would", Celtics coach Brad Stevens said before the game.

With baseball and especially with baseball here this year, I'd say, it's absolutely best to think only the short-term, to enjoy that night's game if you can. It just happened to be me tonight.

Bradley Beal wasn't able to continue his masterful play in Game 4. In Game 4, the Wizards finished with 25 points in transition.

Boston did a good job of sharing the ball, getting assists on 12 of 13 baskets in the opening 12 minutes. "You have to keep things simple.Defense is his specialty". Those critiques have faded into the oblivion of all rushed hot takes in recent weeks and Horford's Game 5 performance could have silenced them altogether.

Now as his teammate, Horford has an even greater appreciation for what he provides.

"We have to be better in our cuts, we have to play with a higher motor in our cuts, and we have to attack in some unique ways", Stevens added. "I watch a lot of film and I see what they're doing to me".

But the praise he's received this series won't cause Bradley to slink back into a reserved posture.

Bradley did not play in the last quarter of the game, but he made a remarkable last shot at exactly 5:55 left in the third quarter. Bradley was that guy.

"I mean, that was definitely expected". The problem was that every single player was miserable on the court.