The Boston Celtics are advancing to their first Eastern Conference Finals since 2012. The TD Garden was still rocking minutes after the conclusion of the Celtics’ 115-105 victory over the Washington Wizards. The playoff atmosphere was evident as both teams battled hard and fought to the very end. Game 7 was certainly an exciting one, seeing many big-time performances from stars and high quality production off the bench (on one side).
It was the Celtics who got out on top early. They opened the game on a 10-2 run and things did not seem good for Washington. The two teams exchanged baskets for much of the first quarter and by the time the first horn sounded the Celtics were up 27-23.
In the second quarter, the script was flipped as the Wizards came away with most of the scoring where John Wall scored 8 of his 18 points. Isaiah Thomas led the way for Boston entering halftime with 12 points and 6 assists while Bradley Beal led Washington with 14 points leading the Wizards to a 55-53 advantage at the half.
The second half was a much different story for the Wizards, as John Wall only came away with 5 second half points. These 5 points all came in the first couple minutes of the third quarter with Wall’s final basket coming at the 7:03 mark of the third quarter. He would fail to tally another point for the remainder of the game.
Beal continued to shine in the third quarter, pouring in 12 of Washington’s 24 points. The Wizards continued to feed the hot hand as Wall seemed to start to run out of gas. They led for majority of the third quarter as the teams continued to exchange baskets. Beal hit a big three to put the Wizards up 3 points with 2 minutes left in the third quarter. That was quickly countered by a 9-0 Boston run when Isaiah Thomas banged back to back threes from the top of the key followed by a Marcus Smart corner three. The crowd erupted when the shot fell through, as the C’s had quickly turned a 3-point deficit into a 6 point lead heading into the final quarter of play.
In the fourth quarter, the Celtics opened up with a 9-2 run in an attempt to put Washington to bed. The Wizards refused to back down and immediately followed with their own 9-2 run. Bradley Beal continued to shoot unconsciously, knocking down key jumpers to keep the Wizards in the ballgame as John Wall continued to struggle from the field.
It seems like every Game 7 in the NBA Playoffs has an unsung hero that nobody would expect to shine. In this game, it was the Celtics’ big man Kelly Olynyk who shot 10 of 14 off the bench. Olynyk scored a healthy 26 points, with 12 of them coming during a three-and-a-half-minute stretch in a tight fourth quarter. He exchanged jumpers with Bradley Beal and subsequently ended up with two more layups and a three pointer to cap it off. His strong play proved to be vital and ended up being a huge factor in contributing to the Celtics win. The packed TD Garden crowd rewarded him with chants of “Kelly!” following his scoring outburst.
The Wizards were also unable to hold Isaiah Thomas, as he ended up with a team-high 29 points on 9-21 shooting, including 3-5 shooting from beyond the arc.
The Celtics saw all around production from most of their squad, with every player contributing in some way to help the team. Marcus Smart, who hasn’t played all too well this series, came away with 13 points on 4-7 shooting along with 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and his hounding defense which did not go unnoticed. Jae Crowder and Jaylen Brown also had productive nights, coming away with 14 and 9 points respectively. Big man Al Horford had a very good night, shooting 6-10 from the field.
Washington, on the other hand, did not get much production out of their second unit. Bojan Bogdanovic was the only Wizards reserve to put points on the board with 5, as Boston demolished them in bench scoring with a grand total of 48 to 5 points. The offensive load proved to be too much for the Washington starters to carry on their own, as they ultimately could not combat the all-around production of Boston.
Washington gradually cut into the deficit in the waning moments of the game but Marcus Smart’s layup with 38 seconds to go put the Wizards away and sealed the game. Bradley Beal led all scorers with 38 points on 12-22 shooting, including 5-10 from three.
The Celtics will face off against the 2nd seed Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday at 8:30PM(EST).