BOSTON (CBS) — There will be a game at the TD Garden on Monday night, just not the one the Celtics would have preferred hosting.
Instead of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics will host the Wizards in a deciding Game 7 to determine who moves on to face the Cleveland Cavaliers. Washington beat Boston 92-91 in Friday night’s Game 6, overcoming a late five-point deficit and walking away victorious on a clutch three-pointer by John Wall to continue the trend of the home team winning each game.
“We’ll bounce back. Our group doesn’t get too high or too low,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said after the loss. “We realize there are things you can do better throughout the course of the game, but I thought we really competed and played hard. I thought we played with great purpose and played together.
“We missed some layups and some opportunities that we have to convert in a game like this,” Stevens added. “But hats off to [Wall] and [the Wizards]; that was a heck of a basketball game between two teams that played really hard.”
After a slow start by both teams and some sleepwalking in the third quarter, the paced picked up in the final frame. Isaiah Thomas scored 27 points for Boston, and made two big shots in the final minutes of the game. He drained a jumper with just over two minutes left to put Boston on top 84-82, and followed that up with a three on their next trip up the floor after a Wall miss give the Celtics an 87-82 advantage with 1:34 left.
It looked like the Celtics would be moving on, but then it all fell apart for Boston. Bradley Beal drained a three off a costly Thomas turnover with 1:07 left (his first triple of the night), and Thomas was blocked taking a three on Boston’s next possession, allowing Wall to speed down the floor and draw a foul on his way to the basket. He drained both freebies to tie the game at 87-87 with 41.2 seconds left. His late-game heroics were not done, either.
Avery Bradley drained a long two for Boston out of a timeout after Wall’s free throws, putting Boston ahead with 39 seconds left. Beal answered with a beautiful layup on the other end to knot things up at 89-89 with 28 seconds to go.
Out of a timeout, Al Horford drained a mid-range bank shot to put Boston back on top 91-89 with 7.7 seconds left. The big man finished the night with 20 points off 8-for-12 shooting and six rebounds.
But Wall calmly took the ensuing inbound and drained a triple over Bradley with 3.5 seconds left, giving Washington the 92-91 advantage. After the Wizards used their foul to give, the Celtics had one final play with 1.7 seconds left. Thomas launched a deep three that clanged off the back of the rim to give Washington the victory.
Thomas took the blame for the late-game collapse, saying he has to do a better job with Washington’s trap defense.
“I wasn’t alert, so that’s definitely on me. I have to do a better job in that situation,” said Thomas. “You have to tip your hat to those guys, who kept fighting. We played a hell of a game as well. At the end of the day, you can live with a John Wall contested three pointer from deep.”
Wall shook off a rocky start and finished the night with 26 points. Beal led the way with 33 points as Washington became the first home team to win an elimination game in the playoffs this postseason.
The Celtics arrived at the Verizon Center in all black on Friday night, mocking a stunt the Wizards pulled during the regular season. The big difference was the Wizards backed it up with an easy win, and the Celtics did not, letting that late five-point lead slip away.
Now it all comes down to one final game in Boston on Monday night.
“You have to give it everything you got. That’s where legends are born,” Thomas said of the upcoming Game 7. “It hurts right now because we lost, but we have nothing to hold our heads down about. We’ll take a few days to figure out our adjustments and then win Game 7.”
Celtics Look Ahead To Game 7: