WASHINGTON (AP) — Isaiah Thomas’ Boston Celtics and John Wall’s Washington Wizards have built something of a rivalry this season, going back and forth, trading wins on the court and barbs off it, from the “Funeral Game” in January to the lost tooth and ejection of their current playoff series.
One thing every matchup had in common so far as Washington prepares to host Boston in Game 6 on Friday night? The home team wins.
9 for 9.
So the Celtics, leading their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal 3-2, might be feeling pretty good about where things stand at the moment. Because even if they can’t close things out Friday, they’ll get to host Game 7 on Monday, an advantage they earned by finishing with the No. 1 seed.
Hey, Bradley Beal, why does the host come out on top every time?
“I wish I knew,” was the shooting guard’s reply.
A similar question was put to Wizards coach Scott Brooks on Thursday, when his team opted to skip a full practice and instead have a light shootaround.
“That’s been analyzed and studied since the game was invented. (With) the home court, you always have a comfort level,” Brooks said. “It just happens. I don’t really know the real reason. I’ve been thinking about it for many, many years.”
Even though his team is averaging about 30 more points in Boston than in Washington during this series, Celtics coach Brad Stevens insisted that the venue isn’t the most important factor in a game’s outcome.
“It’s more about how you play,” he said.
Brooks, though, said that playing at home is different.
“Even as a player, I always felt better. Just comfortable. Your crowd’s great. They’re backing you up. You’ve played in front of the crowd. You’ve played into the baskets 41 times during the regular season, so the rims, the court, everything’s familiar,” he said. “That being said, we’ve still got to play well. We’ve got to play with great effort. We’ve got to be locked in, focused.”
Brooks acknowledged that was not the case in Boston’s 123-101 victory in Game 5 on Wednesday, especially at the defensive end.
In the first quarter, the Celtics led the Wizards 15-0 in transition points, a surprising statistic given just how good Wall is at orchestrating that part of the game.
“If you miss a shot, you miss a shot,” Brooks said. “You’ve got to get back and not compound that miss with a defensive lapse.”
Still, he chose to accentuate the positive.
“We did not lose the series,” Brooks noted. “We lost the game.”
Celtics at Wizards, Celtics lead series 3-2. Game 6, 8 p.m., ESPN.
NEED TO KNOW: This series has been filled with one big run after another. Four of the five games featured a stretch of 16-0 or greater, including a 26-point burst by Washington in Game 4, and a 16-point stretch for the Celtics in Game 5. Joked Brooks on Thursday: “I’ll take a 25-point run. That’d be nice.”
KEEP AN EYE ON: Beal, Otto Porter Jr. The Wizards 3-point shooting has been a problem in the playoffs, with the team down at 32 percent through 11 playoff games after hitting 37 percent during the regular season. Beal (from 40 percent in the regular season to 28 in the playoffs) and Porter (from 43 to 31), in particular, have been off, and they’re supposed to be Washington’s most productive from beyond the arc. “When you’re as good as Brad,” Brooks said, “there’s going to be extra attention on you. You’ve got to give the defense some credit.”
INJURY UPDATE: Celtics G Avery Bradley, who’s been dealing with hip issues during the series, sure seemed OK while scoring 29 points in Game 5 , including 25 in the first half on 10-of-13 shooting. “All indications are that he felt good after yesterday’s game,” Stevens said.
PRESSURE IS ON: The Wizards, of course. Not only are they facing elimination, but even if they win Game 6, they know that they are 0-5 in Boston, the site of Game 7 if there is one, since the start of this season.
AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower in Boston contributed to this report.
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