Pivotal Game 5 awaits Boston as it returns home vs. Wizards

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BOSTON (AP) After four games, the Eastern Conference semifinal matchup between the Celtics and Wizards is exactly back where it began.

Following back-to-back comeback wins by the East’s top seed in the first two games in Boston, Washington returned the favor with a pair of dominant wins on its home court. The series now shifts back to the Garden for a pivotal Game 5 matchup on Wednesday night.

The winner of Game 5 in an NBA best-of-7 series tied at 2-2 has gone on to win the series 83% of the time (162-34), according to ESPN Stats & Info.

While happy to return to friendlier confines, the Celtics say they aren’t feeling any added pressure despite being unable to recover from game-changing runs by the Wizards in Games 3 and 4.

“That’s the playoffs for you,” Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas said. “We said it before the playoffs started, you lose a couple and you might get swept. I mean, that’s what the world is gonna say. `You’re not good enough to be here,’ or you win a couple and everybody loves you.”

Meanwhile, Washington may have found the anecdote to containing Boston’s leading scorer – making the game as physical as possible.

Thomas has managed just 13 and 19 points, respectively, over the last two games, while being held to 22 field goal attempts. That comes after his 53-point night in Game 2’s overtime win.

Despite having to win at least one game at the Garden over the next three games to advance, Wizards point guard John Wall said their confidence is higher than it was at the start of the series.

“We have a lot of confidence, understanding that we had a chance to win all four games,” said Wall, who is coming off a 27-point, 12-assist effort in Game 4. “Even though we only won two, and they won two at their place, we had an opportunity to win those games even though we didn’t shoot the ball well or we didn’t play great defense.”

Here are some things to know about Wednesday night’s Game 5:

NEED TO KNOW: Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. can expect to get a cold reception from Boston’s fans. Oubre returns to action after serving a one-game suspension for charging over Celtics center Kelly Olynyk in Game 3. Washington coach Scott Brooks was asked Tuesday about what advice he had for Oubre. “Bring some ear plugs,” he said after a long pause. “They’re definitely going to let him have it. But you just go out there and play, play hard.”

KEEP AN EYE ON: Isaiah Thomas’ free-throw attempts. The All-Star said he felt the Wizards were able to get away with holding and grabbing him at times during a Game 4 loss in which he didn’t once visit the foul line. But he said he hadn’t been contacted by the league office about a fine for criticizing the officiating. “I felt like things should be called different. But I didn’t say that’s the reason why we lost,” Thomas said. “So I don’t feel like I should get anything.”

INJURY UPDATE: Celtics guard Avery Bradley suffered a left hip-pointer in Game 4 after being slowed by a right hip-pointer in Game 2. But Stevens said he is set to go for Game 5.

PRESSURE IS ON: The Wizards. Though Boston is the higher seed, the Celtics will get all kinds of energy returning home, and Washington can set itself up with a closeout opportunity at home for Game 6 with a win.

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Referees misattribute comment to Dwane Casey, incorrectly eject Raptors coach (VIDEO)

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Things sort of fell apart at the end of Sunday’s game between the Toronto Raptors and the Oklahoma City Thunder. It all started with about a minute left in the game when Serge Ibaka tackled Steven Adams.

No, really.

As Paul George finished the second of two free throws, Ibaka and Adams began to battle for the possible rebound. Adams gave Ibaka the slip off the lane line, and as a recovery move Ibaka tackled his former teammate on the baseline.

Via Twitter:

Then, with 30 seconds left and a chance to tie, DeMar DeRozan drove the lane and missed a shot near the rim while being defended by Corey Brewer.

DeRozan felt he was fouled, and quickly let the officials know about it. The Raptors star could be seen going after ref Marc Davis. Shortly thereafter, DeRozan was given a technical foul.

Via Twitter:

But it didn’t stop there.

A few seconds later, as the game wound down, DeRozan went after the referees again. He was given a second technical, and ejected along with teammate Serge Ibaka.

Then came Raptors coach Dwane Casey.

With fans in the Air Canada Centre chanting at referees, and with tensions high, the officiating crew mistakenly attributed a comment made by a fan or someone else on the Toronto bench to Casey. They decided to eject Casey with just eight seconds left, despite the coach not being the person who actually spoke to the referees.

Kyle Lowry couldn’t believe it, and even Brewer had a good laugh about that one.

The NBA is going to have some explaining to do on that one. Officiating is still under fire in the NBA, with New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry being the most recent coach to go off about the grey shirts.

I’m going to set a few alarms for when they release the L2M report Monday morning.

Meanwhile, the Thunder beat the Raptors, 132-125.

Oh, and the referees had to leave the floor in Toronto with a security detail.

Alvin Gentry on refs after controversial James Harden foul: “You can’t guess on plays”

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Alvin Gentry was heated after the New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, all thanks to a late foul on James Harden. Oh boy.

Gentry was given a technical foul after speaking with officials with 5:39 to go in the fourth quarter in a tight matchup between the two Western Conference playoff teams. The Pelicans coach was heated about a foul called on Jrue Holiday after Harden swung through the defender’s area to get free throws on a 3-point attempt.

That didn’t sit right with Gentry, who went after referee David Guthrie. After complaining for some time, Gentry got a handle on himself and went back to his seat on the bench. That’s when he was called for a technical foul.

Here’s the play in question, and Gentry’s response after the game:

Gentry does have a general point, and sounds like just about any non-Houston fan you overhear at games or in bars regarding Harden’s wacky inflatable flailing arm tube man style. Nevermind his driving — which consistently gets players to legitimately hack away at his arms — the question on the play in New Orleans is whether the defender has a right to that space, and whether Holiday made a move.

Pelicans broadcaster David Wesley pointed out that if a defender is in his own defensive space and not moving, it shouldn’t be a foul if the offensive player jams his way into the defender’s arms. That’s part of why the idea of verticality works for modern NBA big men defending the rim.

Offensive players are getting more astute at drawing contact, then finding a way to immediately get fouled after the contact. It’s something that will need to be addressed by the NBA in coming seasons, as there are quite a few instances of contact specifically being drawn by an offender by moving into the defender’s space and drawing contact with their arms.

However, on the play in question, if you rewind it enough times you can barely see Holiday’s arm and elbow flex reactively before Harden moves the ball up. Thus, in the purview of instant replay, it was probably a foul.

Here it is in super slo-mo:

Gentry is likely to get a nice big fine as others have this season for criticizing officials. It seems that even after the All-Star Break meeting to sort out some issues between the NBPA and NBRA not everyone is happy.

Expect a bigger overhaul and more announcements regarding NBA refereeing in the offseason.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue sits out second half Saturday with illness

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CHICAGO (AP) Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue remained in the locker room to start the second half of their game against the Chicago Bulls because of an illness.

Lue was on the sideline as the Cavaliers used a strong second quarter to build a 17-point halftime lead. He did not come out for the start of the third Saturday night, and he did not return to the game.

Lue has missed one other game this season due to illness. He is expected back on Monday when the Cavs host the struggling Bucks.

The Cavaliers went on to get the win over the Bulls Saturday, 114-109.

Grizzlies snap 19-game skid with 101-94 win vs Nuggets

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Dillon Brooks scored 24 points, Tyreke Evans added 20 and the Memphis Grizzlies snapped a 19-game losing streak with a 101-94 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.

Wayne Selden scored 16 points for Memphis by hitting 6 of 7 shots, including 4 of 5 from outside the arc. Marc Gasol added 14 points as Memphis won for the first time since Jan. 29.

Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Jamal Murray finished with 16 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Denver shot just 37 percent overall and 27 percent from 3-point range.

Denver entered the night in ninth place in the Western Conference, a game out of the playoff race. Denver played without leading scorer Gary Harris, who is expected to miss the next few games with a right knee sprain suffered against Detroit on Thursday.

The Nuggets struggled through a miserable first half of shooting, connecting on 22 percent in the first quarter. Memphis stretched its lead to 21 early in the second quarter before Denver cut it to 53-48 at halftime.

Brooks hit four 3-pointers to start the second half and keep Memphis ahead.

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