Six ways the Boston Celtics can win Game 6 to closeout the series

May 4, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) drives to the basket as Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13) in the second quarter in game three of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
May 4, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) drives to the basket as Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13) in the second quarter in game three of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Celtics and Isaiah Thomas will look to close out their Second Round series tonight in Game 6 on the road in Washington.

Isaiah Thomas and the Boston Celtics play at the Verizon Center for the fifth time this season and the third time in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Through the first four matches, the Wizards have outscored Boston 119.5-98, an average of 21.5 points per game.

Washington, believe it or not, is one of the toughest places to win in the NBA, and not just for the Celtics. Here are the Wizards’ records in home games vs away games:

Regular Season

Away: 19-22

Home: 30-11


Away: 1-5

Home: 5-0

Washington’s +11 home record was the second largest win differential in the NBA this season (Pacers +16). Meanwhile, the Wizards’ 4.5-win differential in the postseason is already the largest by 2.5 games.

So how can the Celtics steal a game in D.C. and end the series before heading back to The Garden? Here are six ways that Boston can win game six:

1. Limit Turnovers

Boston has actually won the turnover battle in every game this series, other than game three, when the Celtics fumbled 16 times compared to Washington’s 9. However, the Wizards are a much more dangerous full-court team than Boston.

If the Celtics can limit their turnover total to single digits, then Boston has a real chance of suppressing the Wizards from going on another one of their gargantuan scoring runs. Obviously, maintaining possession of the ball also improves spacing, ball movement, and scoring chances, which never hurts, but the main priority here is preventing Washington from creating points off turnovers.

2. Prevent Transition Baskets & Secure Half-Court Defense

This is directly correlated with the first point. When the Wizards are able to utilize their far-superior speed and athleticism in transition, they became nearly unbeatable.

John Wall is a heat-seeking missile that will either find his way to the basket or create an easy bucket for a teammate with almost absolute certainty.

Washington achieved their 26-0, 17-0, 16-0 scoring runs in large part because of the Celtics’ carelessness with the ball and laziness in transition defense. This point should be simple, really: GET. BACK. ON. DEFENSE.

Whether Boston loses possession from a turnover or just a missed shot, the Celtics need to hustle to their defensive end, get their backs to the basket, and work on containing Wall, Beal, and Porter. This will limit Washington’s opportunities to quicken the game.

3. Perimeter Defense

Like most teams in today’s NBA, the Wizards rely heavily on their smalls and wings to produce points. Avery Bradley has done a tremendous job defending John Wall, and Al Horford has been dynamite defensively in the paint, but Isaiah Thomas has been a problem. Even Crowder has seemed lazy on defense.

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The main problem has been finding a spot to hide Thomas on the defensive end. In games one and two, sticking Thomas on the small forward seemed to do the trick, but Otto Porter has looked like a young Kevin Durant in this series.

If Bradley can force the ball out of John Wall’s hands without that resulting in a Beal/Porter/Morris/Bogdanovic three-pointer, then Washington could actually struggle offensively.

4. Secondary Scorers

After Isaiah Thomas dropped a cool 53 points in game two, Washington has done a rather impressive job containing and bothering the 5’9″ all-star. In games three and four, the Celtics struggled to find a consistent flow on offense.

In game five, however, players like Avery Bradley and Al Horford did a great job creating their own shots and creating space for other players to slash through the lane. Obviously, that worked.

Boston needs to have their shooters, like Crowder Jerebko, hit their open looks, but most importantly, the Celtics need to have Bradley, Smart, and Horford create opportunities on offense. The Wizards will try to take Isaiah out of the game (as much as they possibly can), and this is how Boston can counteract that.

5. Al Horford

The Verizon Center will be an extremely hostile environment tonight. Games three and four were tough for the Celtics, but after the way the Boston crowd treated Kelly Oubre Jr. in game five, the Celtics should be prepared for the worst.

Horford often has the clearest head on the squad, and he is the voice of reason. In fact, Horford apparently prevented a fight from breaking out in the Celtics locker room during halftime of game five, as Avery Bradley explained in his post-game press conference on Wednesday night.

The biggest free agent signing in Boston Celtics history (Yes, Al Horford) is going to have a lot of responsibility tonight, in terms of keeping players like Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Jonas Jerebko, Isaiah Thomas, and most prominently, Kelly Olynyk from letting their emotions get the best of them.

6. An All-Time Isaiah Thomas Moment

The Celtics had their backs against the wall in game two. The game was all but lost. Then, Isaiah put up 27 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, putting Boston on his back on the way to victory.

53 points is utterly absurd. Don’t expect him to do that again. However, Isaiah’s nickname is “The King in The Fourth” for a reason.

If this game is relatively close as the minutes start to wane down in the fourth quarter, expect to see The Mini Monster point at his wrist in triumph a lot.

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Boston will head to the Eastern Conference Finals with a win. A loss would send the series to a Game 7. Either way, the Celtics will play again on Monday night at TD Garden.