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NBA playoffs: Celtics and Wizards take control

Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics drives past John Wall of the Washington Wizards. (Image: Keith Allison CC BY-SA 2.0)
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27th April, 2017
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NBA playoff action continued last night with a pair of crucial Eastern Conference Game fives. Both Boston and Washington were looking to seize control – while Atlanta and Chicago tried to cause an upset.

Let’s dig into the action.

Chicago Bulls 97 Boston Celtics 108
The Celtics wrestled back control of the series with an 11-point win at The Garden. Boston has now won three straight and looks favourite to progress having escaped from a nasty 2-0 hole.

It was looking bleak for the men in green after loosing the first two games at home while also dealing with the devastating tragedy of Isaiah Thomas losing his sister. However, the Celtics have come roaring back and now have a semblance of control.

Thomas and Avery Bradley lead Boston – each scoring 24 points – and Al Horford put in his best performance of the series in adding 21 points and 9 assists.

Boston’s diminutive point guard overcame a woeful shooting night from beyond the arc – going one of ten from deep – by getting to free throw line for numerous and one opportunities. Thomas is truly a joy to watch when he is attacking as he was last night and the Bulls simply had no answer for his crafty energetic style.

It is a huge testament to Isaiah’s strength of character that he has been able to deliver while dealing with such a huge personal tragedy.

Thomas was well supported by Bradley and Horford down the stretch as Boston pulled away and erased a two point deficit entering the fourth to win comfortably.

For Chicago Dwyane Wade rolled back the clock to flirt with a triple double – 26 points 11 rebounds 8 assists – to keep the Bulls in the game until deep into the final quarter. However, Jimmy Butler – 14 points – was subdued down the stretch and Chicago need their star to regain his mojo if they are to take this series to a game 7.

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The exceptional performances Chicago got from role players such as Bobby Portis, Robin Lopez and Nikola Mirotic – which allowed them to win games one and 2 – haven’t been there over the last three games. In addition the Bulls have certainly missed Rajon Rondo since he went down with an injury and I don’t think anyone thought we’d be saying that when the season began.

The series switches back to Chicago on Friday night where Boston will be looking to close out the series and advance to face either the Wizards or Hawks.

Isaiah Thomas layup John Wall

Atlanta Hawks 97 Washington Wizards 103
Powered by their high-class backcourt the Washington Wizards survived a late rally from the Hawks to prevail in a tight contest in D.C.

Atlanta – lead by Denis Schroeder (29 points 11 assists) and Paul Millsap (21 points 11 rebounds) – twice pulled to within two late in the game but didn’t have enough to get the win.

Both Bradley Beal and John Wall were clutch down the stretch. Beal lead the Wizards with 27 points and made a crucial mid-range jump shot in the fourth to keep Washington in front.

John Wall was also excellent (20 points and 14 assists) including making the final basket of the game – putting the Wizards up by four and effectively icing the contest.

Wall andamp; Beal are fast becoming one of the postseason’s most potent backcourts. However, they had great support from both Otto Porter Jr and Bojan Bogdanovic.

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Porter has quietly put together a much improved season and delivered his best performance of the playoffs with 17 points.

Bogdanovic has added some much needed scoring power to Washington’s bench since he was acquired in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets.

The Croatian poured in 14 points off the bench – going five of seven from the field – to provide a much needed boost to the Wizard’s offence.

For Atlanta the stellar performances from both Schroeder and Millsap weren’t quite enough. Dwight Howard was particularly anonymous – scoring only five points and taking only three shots.

The Hawks need to find a way to get him more engaged and involved with the offence as when he is playing aggressively Howard provides a match up problem for Washington.

The pattern of the series has been both teams defending their home court and Atlanta will hope to continue that trend on Friday night. Meanwhile, Washington will be looking to steal game six and avoid a nervous game seven back in Washington.