Game 5 was Brad Stevens’ dream. The Celtics head coach has built Boston into a specific type of team over the past few seasons, one that has risen from rebuilding to playoff team to, now, Eastern Conference contender. On Wednesday, in a 123-101 win against the Wizards in Game 5 that put the Celtics a game away from the conference finals, Stevens must have been beaming internally pretty much the whole time.
It started quickly, with the Celtics leading 16-4 and then 31-16 in the first quarter, ending the frame up by 12 points. By halftime, it was 16, and after three quarters, the lead was 17. Not for a moment did the Wizards seriously threaten to comeback, not against a hostile Boston crowd and a Celtics team that kept hitting timely buckets that never let Washington feel any sort of momentum going their way.
In that decisive first quarter, the Celtics leaked out aggressively and had 13 fastbreak points in the opening 12 minutes alone. Al Horford took an active role in the offense at the top of the key, flustering Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, lumbering centers who prefer the paint. It’s curious why that hasn’t been an even bigger part of Boston’s offense before this game, but his 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting in Game 5 speaks for itself.
Boston’s dream offense is a five-out offense that will never let any defender rest, and of the nine players who earned rotation minutes in this game, all nine attempted at least one three-pointer. Seven hit at least one three, and five hit multiple shots from behind the arc. Avery Bradley, in particular, was unconscious in the first half, scoring 25 points with four triples in the first half alone (he finished with 29).
Defensively, the Celtics bent occasionally without breaking. They allowed John Wall to score 21 points but limited him to four assists and just 17 shot attempts. Washington only managed to shoot 7-of-29 from behind the arc. Boston’s defensive versatility gave the Celtics the chance to switch frequently and handle mismatches, something they did well.
It wasn’t a perfect performance — none are — and the Celtics can’t always expect things to go so well, but Stevens has to be nodding his head somewhere pleased with the team he has built. This is what they can do at their best, and now they have the three games to two advantage in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, just a game away from advancing.