The Washington Wizards needed every second of Game 6 to even their conference semifinal series against the Boston Celtics at three games apiece. Just the all-important Game 7 (8pm ET Monday), stands in between these two worthy teams and their shot at the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
This is how we got here: Following back-to-back losses which found the Celtics on the break of elimination just as the postseason had begun, Boston came back to win four in a row in their first round series against the Chicago Bulls. The Celtics rode this momentum into Game 1 at the TD Bank Garden against the Washington Wizards. It was a high scoring affair that saw Washington lead after the first quarter, thanks to a 38 point outburst and 16-0 run to start the game. But it was the third quarter which separated the proverbial men from the boys as the Celtics pulled away out-scoring their opponents by 20 points and 12 to finish the game. Boston’s Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 33 points in a game that saw 11 players score in double figures including eight of the 10 starters. Washington was paced by Bradley Beal, who led his team with 27 points. John Wall, who added 20 points for the Wizards, led all players with 16 assists.
Overtime decided Game 2 as both Wall and Thomas were fantastic for their teams respectively. Wall shot 50 percent from the field, scored 40 points, and added 13 assists and Thomas had an incredible 53 points and shot 12-of-13 from the line. Nine starters scored in double figures in this contest but it was a 15-5 overtime scoring difference that led Boston to victory and a 2-0 lead in the series.
With their backs against the wall, Washington turned the tables on their opponents back home in DC. It wasn’t the 116-89 point final that had people talking however, but rather the eight technical fouls, three ejections, and overall bad blood which developed over the course of the game. Washington got off to an early lead again and this time they were able to hold it. Wall led all scorers with 24 in a game where Thomas and the Boston offense were largely ineffective. The team’s 89 points were their lowest output this entire postseason.
Game 4 saw the momentum remain in favor of the home team as Washington used a dominant third quarter to break a first half tie. The Wizards scored 42 points in the quarter including a 26-0 run which helped them secure the 19 point victory. Beal led all scorers with 29 and was one of four Washington starters to finish in double figure scoring. The Celtics meanwhile, had no scorer with over 20 points as they were led by Thomas’ 19.
Back in Boston, the Celtics played one of their most complete games of the season as on both offense and defense, they stymied the Wizards. Avery Bradley was the star for Boston, scoring a career playoff-high of 29 points in the win. It was Boston’s seventh consecutive win against the Wizards at home and 11th in the last 13 games. The Celtics hit 16 threes to get back on track from beyond the arc and used a 16-0 first quarter run to take the Wizards out of the game early. The final score saw Boston win by 22, the second highest margin of victory throughout the series.
Their playoff lives on the line, Washington played a tough, gritty Game 6 complete with Wall making the go-ahead three pointer with just 3.5 seconds left on the clock. The game was the most competitive and closest of the six, with there being several ties and lead changes almost throughout the fourth quarter. Beal led all players with 33 and he and Wall combined for 23 of the Wizards’ 26 points in the final quarter.
Keys to Game 7
- Watch out for runs – It’s often said that basketball is a game of runs and the victor is determined by how each team responds to them. So far this series, four of the six games have featured runs of 16-0 or greater. Three of these runs have been by Washington, but the team has only won in one of those games. Run management seems to be a strength of the Celtics which are better built to withstand and survive these scoring outbursts with a consistent offensive and defensive attack. If the Wizards go on a long run which they are apt to do, Boston has proven they can handle it. Game 7 should be no different.
- Back in Boston – If history is any indication, the Wizards have a reason to be worried. Game 7 is back in Boston where the Celtics have won their last four games. More importantly, it’s where the Celtics have won each of their regular season and postseason games against the Wizards this year. In this series, the home team has won every time and that’s something that you can count on holding to form. Especially given the Boston is a better shooting team at home than Washington is on the road. All signs point to a Celtic victory in this one.
- The Al Horford factor – The Celtics are led by John Wall and Avery Bradley but perhaps the unsung hero of this series is Al Horford. A nine year veteran, in his first year with Boston, Horford is averaging over 16 points in the postseason, which is the second highest mark in his career and highest since 2012-13. Those numbers get even better for the Wizards series as in just under 34 minutes of court time, Horford is averaging 17 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists. He has scored in double figures in his last 10 postseason games and is coming off his third best performance of the playoffs. Boston has relied on him and will continue to rely on him if they hope to win seven and advance to the conference finals.
Our Preview’s Washington Wizards @ Boston Celtics Game 7 Betting Picks & Predictions
- The top-seeded Celtics enter game seven as four or five point favorites with the top American sports betting firms. With the home court advantage, which means a lot in this series, expect Boston to emerge victorious and set up a date with the Cavaliers. The best combination of spread and odds for this pick is to bet on Boston -4.5pts @ -110 with MyBookie. It is -5pts with the others.
- This should be a high scoring affair. So for the total points in this Game 7, take the over 209.5pts @ -110 with 5Dimes, MyBookie or BetOnline.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.