BOSTON — The Boston Celtics handily defeated the Washington Wizards 123-101 in Game 5 of the teams’ NBA Eastern Conference semifinals series.
And although the C’s had an offensive explosion Wednesday night at TD Garden, it wasn’t solely because of point guard Isaiah Thomas.
Instead, it was Avery Bradley who paced Boston with 29 points — a playoff career high — to go along with six rebounds and six assists.
Though the Celtics offense is run through Thomas, it develops a smoother rhythm when other players get into a groove, which Bradley was able to do Wednesday night. The veteran guard understands Thomas can’t be left with the burden of being Boston’s sole source of offense.
“It can’t just be Isaiah Thomas every night,” Bradley said after the game. “If we’re able to understand that and he’s able to believe in us, the sky’s the limit.”
The pressure on Thomas was manifested in Games 3 and 4 in Washington. The star guard was limited to 13 and 19 points, respectively, in Boston’s two blowout defeats. Easing this pressure was a point of emphasis for the Celtics heading into Game 5, which Celtics head coach Brad Stevens attested to after the game.
“We talked about it,” Stevens said. “Everybody saw it. Everybody paid attention to it, obviously, with all the attention he was getting in Washington from them. And I just thought we all came out with a better sense of purpose today than we probably did in those games. But, sometimes you feel a lot better when you make the shots at the rate we did.”
The Celtics have to be pleased with Bradley’s Game 5 performance, especially. After respectable performances in the first two contests at TD Garden, Bradley was abysmal in the following games on the road, combining for just 12 points in Games 3 and 4. But in a critical Game 5, Bradley delivered when his team needed him most.
“My mindset was just to come out and be aggressive,” he said. “I wanted to make those guys work on both ends of the floor. I knew that I haven’t been playing to my ability on the offensive end the last two games and for this team, I wanted to bring my all. I wanted to take the open shots that were there and make plays for guys.”
And it wasn’t just Bradley who contributed for the Celtics in a big way Wednesday night. Al Horford posted 19 points, seven assists and six rebounds, while Jae Crowder added 18 points and eight rebounds. So while Thomas usually is the one stuffing the stat sheet, it’s clear Boston has other players capable of picking up the slack when IT isn’t scoring at a rapid pace.
“We have a lot of guys that can really score for us, but we have to be really confident and prepared when your opportunity comes,” Bradley said. “Tonight it happened to be me, next game it could be Marcus Smart. So you just have to be prepared.”
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images