Bradley steps up as Celtics handily beat Wizards in Game 5, 123-101

Bradley steps up as Celtics handily beat Wizards in Game 5, 123-101

BOSTON – Home cooking continues to be a recipe for success in this Boston-Washington playoff series, with the Celtics putting together their best all-around performance in handily defeating the Wizards, 123-101.

Boston now leads the best-of-seven series 3-2 with a chance to advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a Game 6 win.

But you have to believe there will be a Game 7 back in Boston considering the home team has won each of the first five games by double figures.

And it was the Celtic who has been with the franchise the longest time, Avery Bradley, leading the way.

In addition to playing strong defense most of the night against John Wall, Bradley had a playoff career-high 29 points which is also the most points the veteran guard has scored at the TD Garden.

Bradley’s big-time scoring night was huge, as it took a tremendous amount of pressure off Boston’s leading scorer, Isaiah Thomas.

For most of the game, Thomas seemed more concerned with finding teammates for scores rather than getting his own scoring on track. He finished with a near double-double of 18 points and nine assists.

As well as the Celtics played, there was a sense that at any moment the Wizards would get going and climb their way back into the game.

Washington has been a team of runs throughout this series, so you kind of figured at some point they would put a surge of significance together.

Not tonight.

Give the Celtics credit.

Every time the Wizards would string a couple of baskets together, one of two things happened: Brad Stevens would call a time-out to settle his group down, or they would take things into their own hands and find a way to get back on track with big stops defensive on the perimeter and at the rim, not to mention timely shots from players besides Isaiah Thomas.

Indeed, Thomas got a huge helping hand from his teammates who unlike Games 3 and 4 – both Boston losses – were far more aggressive at attacking the Wizards’ defense.

No one embodied this new mindset more than Bradley who had a playoff career-high 25 points by halftime.

He continued to be a problem for the Wizards at both ends of the floor, but he wasn’t alone.

Jae Crowder had a nice first half with 14 points, but was even more valuable helping out on the boards. Crowder was trending towards a double-double before finishing with 18 points and eight rebounds.

Teammate Al Horford was giving the Wizards the business in several categories, finishing with 19 points, seven assists and six rebounds. He became only the third Celtics player (Paul Pierce and Larry Bird were the others) to tally at least six rebounds, seven or more assists and three or more blocked shots in a playoff game.

Meanwhile, Wall and Bradley Beal led the way for the Wizards with 21 and 16 points, respectively.

The Celtics got off to their best start in this series with a 13-4 run to open the game. Boston would lead by as many as 15 points in the first before settling on a 33-21 lead.

Boston’s control continued throughout the second quarter as they continued to push ahead with their lead peaking at 48-26 after Jae Crowder banked in a 3-pointer.

At the half, Boston had a comfortable 67-51 lead.

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

CLEVELAND – Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Tuesday night’s Game 4 matchup between Boston and Cleveland which ended with the Cavs rallying for a 112-99 win. Boston now trails Cleveland 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving

He was simply the best player on the floor by a mile in Game 4 as he tallied a career playoff-high 42 points with 21 coming in the pivotal third quarter.

LeBron James

Despite picking up four personal fouls in the first half – a first for him in a playoff game ever – James bounced back with a dominant performance. He finished with 34 points, 15 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter. He also had six assists and five rebounds.

 

STUDS

Jae Crowder

He continues to be one of the more consistent Celtics in this series. In Game 4, he had 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting with eight rebounds and four assists.

Kevin Love

Most of Game 4, Kevin Love found ways to make life difficult for the Celtics. He ended up with a double-double of 17 points and 17 rebounds with five assists and two blocked shots.

Avery Bradley

Boston’s Game 3 hero couldn’t deliver like that in Game 4, but Bradley still managed to score a team-high 19 points to go with five rebounds, three assists and two steals.

 

DUDS

Boston’s sense of urgency

They had the Cavs in prime position to be beaten. But they didn’t play with the kind of effort and focus in the second half, that we saw through most of the first. And that 6:46 stretch in the second quarter when LeBron James was on the bench, and they didn’t increase their lead? That was a major, major factor in the game’s outcome.

Irving takes over in third quarter, Cavs beat Celtics in Game 4, 112-99

Irving takes over in third quarter, Cavs beat Celtics in Game 4, 112-99

CLEVELAND – They had them right where they wanted them.

LeBron James was in foul trouble.

Kyrie Irving had not yet heated up, and the lead hovered above double figures but seemed oh-so-close to creeping upwards of 20 points if the Celtics did a better job of making open shots in the first half.

Those missed shots, combined with a Kyrie Irving takeover in the third quarter, would prove to be part of the narrative for Game 4 – missed opportunities - as the Cavs rallied for a 112-99 Game 4 win.

Cleveland now leads the best-of-seven series 3-1, with a chance to eliminate the Celtics in Boston on Thursday and advance to the NBA Finals where a well-rested Golden State team will be awaiting them.

Irving led all scorers with a playoff career-high 42 points, 21 of which came in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Boston’s Avery Bradley had 19 points while Jae Crowder (18 points), Al Horford (16), and Kelly Olynyk (15) also finished with double figures scoring.

"He put the team on his back," said Tristan Thompson, regarding Irving's play. "He still has another gear."

Boston spent all of the fourth quarter playing from behind, failing to get that necessary made shot or defensive turnover or stop that they needed to slow down Cleveland’s growing momentum.

And with Irving making a slew of clutch baskets that put Cleveland in control, it was James’ turn to put the game away.

He did just that, finishing with 34 points which included 15 in the fourth quarter.

But for a good chunk of Tuesday’s Game 4 matchup, it looked as though the Celtics were coming back to Boston for Game 5 with the series tied up.

It was an odd game for sure, with nothing being any stranger than LeBron James being whistled for not one, not two, not three, but four personal fouls … in the first half.

The fourth came when he was whistled for an offensive foul against Terry Rozier with 6:46 to play and Boston ahead by 10 points.

With James on the bench, Cleveland managed to play Boston to a standstill as the half ended with the Celtics still leading by 10 points (57-47).

Cleveland slowly crept back in the game in the third, and eventually went ahead 73-72 following a pair of free throws by James with 3:15 to play in the quarter.

The Cavs were able to lead by as many as five points in the third quarter which ended with Cleveland ahead 87-80 as Irving scored the last 14 points for Cleveland which included a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that would be the final points scored in the quarter.

Cleveland’s strong finish to the third was a striking contrast to how the game began.

Boston got off to its best start in this series after a 3-pointer by Jae Crowder put the Celtics ahead 18-11.

The Celtics went ahead 22-13 after a pair of free throws by Jonas Jerebko and would eventually lead by as many as 16 points.

Meanwhile, James – the man Crowder was defending most of the time early on – had six points in the first quarter on 3-for-7 shooting.