In a back and forth game that saw two teams lay it all out on the line, it was Boston’s Kelly Olynyk who had the game of his life, helping secure a 115-105 win over Washington to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Both teams hadn’t lost at home in this series, so Boston came in with a slight advance (even though both teams were pretty even statistically.) Coming off a incredible game winner in game six, John Wall and the Wizards had the momentum and confidence they needed to stand toe-to-toe with the Easts’ number one team. After squandering two huge leads in both games one and two, Washington felt they had enough to escape Boston with a win (which they have not done since April 16, 2014.)
For most of the game, Washington looked ready for the moment. While they did have four turnovers in the first quarter, it did not hurt them as much due to their defense not giving up a single fast break point til the second quarter. Markieff Morris started the game scoring seven of Washington’s first 15 points and the Wizards were doing a great job getting foul calls on Boston. Both Bradley Beal and John Wall were aggressive at getting their offense going quickly and getting their teammates involved. While Boston jumped out to an eight point lead early, Washington never lost their footing and roared back to within two or three til they took the lead going into halftime.
Washington expanded their lead to six when Brad Stevens called a time out to galvanize his team, who looked defeated. From that point on, Boston began to click. After Washington went to their bench to insert Ian Mahimi in the game, Boston countered by going on a massive 13-3 run to snatch both the lead and the confidence from the Wizards. Star Isaiah Thomas worked his magic in the pick-n-roll when Washington’s big were switched on to him, nearly scoring with ease or kicking it to the corner for an open three due to Washington’s countless miscommunication errors on the night. Thomas finished with a team high 29 points and 12 assists respectively.
Kelly Olynyk was the grenade that ultimately blow up Washington’s hopes of advancing. He had been at key player coming off the bench the entire series, but it was on this night were he came up bigger than the rest. Olynyk ended the night with a playoff career high 26 points (scoring 14 of which in the fourth quarter.) Due to the clear lack on focus by Washington’s back court on switching, Olynyk was hitting clutch basket after clutch basket (many of which were seemingly wide open.) There was a point in the fourth were Olynyk accounted for nine straight points.
While Washington as a team imploded on themselves in the second half, Beal and Wall still did all they could to try and carry their team to a victory. Wall did go cold in the fourth, going 0-10, but it was his attacking and finding his teammates for good looks that circumvented his cold shooting. Beal on the other hand, caught fire in the second half. From abusing mismatches to hitting timely threes, Beal carried the scoring load for Washington. He finished with a game high 39 points. Not only was that a game high, it was his career playoff high and it tied Washington’s playoff scoring record for an individual player in the playoffs. Wall finished with 18 points, 11 assists, and seven rebounds on the night.
At the end of the day, it was Boston’s bench that decided the outcome of this game and ultimately this series. With players like Marcus Smart and Olynyk coming up big, Boston’s bench out scored Washington’s bench 48-5 on the night. As a team, Boston played a complete game. Key players did what was expected of them while other players stepped up in big moments when their team needed them the most. For Washington, the same narrative that carried them all season ultimately cost them them in the end. While their front court imposed their will and players like Otto Porter Jr. and Morris hit open, timely baskets, it was their bench (and lack of production from Marcin Gortat) that destroyed any change of advancing.
Boston will host Cleveland in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday, May 17, at 8:30 P.M. EST.