TD Garden will host its first NBA Game 7 since 2012 on Monday night as the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards battle for a spot in the Eastern Conference finals.
Here are four things the Celtics will need to do to end the Wizards’ season and book a date with the Cleveland Cavaliers:
This is an easy one. The home team has prevailed in every game in this series, with Boston winning Games 1, 2 and 5 at TD Garden by an average of 18 points per game. The Celtics also have history on their side, boasting the best Game 7 winning percentage (.724) in NBA history, though they’ve lost three of their last four Game 7s after winning 20 of their first 25.
Speaking of history, the Wizards have not advanced to the conference finals since 1979, the second-longest drought in the league behind the Los Angeles Clippers’. Washington hasn’t won in Boston since the final game of the 2013-14 regular season, dropping each of its last eight contests on the Garden parquet.
Keep Bradley and Horford rolling
Expect the Wizards to keep their defense focused on Isaiah Thomas, whom they’ve held to 77 total points in the four games since his 53-point explosion in Game 2. For that reason, the Celtics will need elder statesmen Avery Bradley and Al Horford to be at their best. Bradley was a beast in Games 5 and 6, scoring 56 points on 62.9 percent shooting (53.8 percent from 3-point range), and Horford has been arguably Boston’s most consistent player in this series.
Slow down John Wall
If Wall is the best player on the court, the Wizards have a pretty strong chance of winning. He played like that in the second half of Game 6, pouring in 23 points on 8-for-16 shooting after going a miserable 1-for-9 from the floor in the first half. If it wasn’t for his game-winning 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds remaining, this series would be over already.
For the Celtics, the key to limiting the lightning-fast four-time All-Star will be slowing him down in transition, forcing him to make jump shots rather than drive the lane for easy layups. They’ll be facing an extra-motivated Wall, too, as the point guard was none too pleased about the Celtics’ pregame funeral attire on Friday.
Be the better bench
Both second units were total non-factors scoring-wise in Game 6, with Washington’s bench managing 13 points and Boston’s scoring just five on 2-for-15 shooting. On paper, the Celtics’ bench is far superior to the Wizards’, and it’s been much more productive at home than on the road in this series. A big night from someone like Terry Rozier or Kelly Olynyk (22 points combined in Game 2) could be the difference in Game 7.
It also will be interesting to see how Celtics coach Brad Stevens uses Jaylen Brown on Monday night. The rookie played as many as 26 minutes and as few as six in Games 1 through 6.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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