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Friday night betting advice: Wizards facing elimination vs. Celtics
Back the Celtics to move on
Washington Wizards (-5) vs. Boston Celtics (+5)
If you enjoy close games, this best-of-seven series between the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards is not for you.
Though this set is close overall, with the Celtics seizing a 3-2 lead in Game 5, the average margin of victory for either squad is 18 points—a truly ridiculous number in the playoffs. And neither side has responded well to an initial loss. The Celtics rattled off two straight victories, then the Wizards followed suit. Now the Celtics have taken another game, which doesn't bode well for their counterpart.
Game 5, in fact, served as a microcosm for everything that's wrong with the Wizards.
With such a shallow roster, they need three of their five starters to be on point every single night. If they're not, it's almost impossible for them to win. And that's what we saw on Wednesday night, albeit to an uncharacteristic extreme.
No one really had it going for the Wizards. Both Bradley Beal and John Wall struggled to get buckets, Otto Porter shot 1-of-5 from downtown, Marcin Gortat was a non-factor, and Markieff Morris drilled just four of his 11 shot attempts.
It's reasonable to expect the Wizards to perform better in Game 6. Wall has been a stud for most of the postseason, and they've been a terror at home since after Christmas.
Still, the adjustments made by the Celtics cannot be thrown by the wayside.
Head coach Brad Stevens re-inserted Amir Johnson into the starting five, creating a lineup that outscored the Wizards by 10 points over the course of 15 minutes in Game 5. Again: The Wizards' own starters will be better, so this particular performance might be immaterial. But the opportunities it generates for the rest of the game are not.
Stevens is more willing to go super small later on when he's beginning the game with some extra size. The Celtics' three-guard lineup featuring Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and Avery Bradley has been an absolute nightmare for the series, and they were out in full force on Wednesday night. The Wizards couldn't defend them, particularly with Smart, who has battled turnover woes all postseason, turning in one of his best performances of the year.
In the end, this is what matters most about the series. Maybe the Wizards win this game. But they're not advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics have more X-factors. They are deeper. They have a more versatile offense; the Wizards could not get away with running as small as they did.
Expect this game to be closer than the others. If nothing else, the series is overdue for a tightly contested affair. But the Celtics appear to have found their groove.
Because when they figure out how to not just beat you, but pummel you, with Isaiah Thomas doing minimal work, you're in trouble.
And the Wizards are in heaps of it.
The Pick: Boston Celtics (+5)
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