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.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower