The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards held to form in Game 5.
The home team dominated. The road team rolled over. Such is the nature of this second-round series that will determine which lamb heads to slaughter against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This is a clash of role players, with each team possessing a lone proven star. Boston has Isaiah Thomas. Washington has John Wall.
(Sorry, Bradley Beal and Al Horford, but you don't quite make the cut as elite players — even though you had a great Game 5 that helped the Celtics to a win, Mr. Horford.)
Yet on Wednesday, with neither franchise player playing particularly well, the pivotal game in this matchup was there for the taking by the Wizards.
And with one head-scratching decision, Washington handed a blowout Game 5 victory right to Boston.
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"No thanks. You take this series. We'd rather not face LeBron James, really."
That's the message the Wizards send every time they spend an offensive possession doing anything other than attacking Thomas.
Washington understands that fundamental truth, on some level. Scott Brooks has posted up Wall against Thomas for three, four or even five consecutive possessions at a time throughout this series.
The result is utterly predictable. Eventually, Boston switches Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart onto Wall to try to save their star point guard. The Wizards either have Wall keep attacking his new defender if Thomas hides on a forward, or they swing the ball to Beal if Thomas tries to guard him. Rinse. Repeat.
The NBA playoffs are built on that kind of exploitation. You find a target, and you bully him into submission.
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Unless you're Brooks, apparently — then, you get bored with success and try something else.
It's truly baffling. For no apparent reason, the Wizards simply stop going after Thomas.
Maybe it's because Wall gets fatigued; if so, run screens before the primary action to switch Thomas onto Beal and let him go to work.
Maybe it's because Brooks thinks you have to vary your play a little bit to keep the opponent guessing.
That's a noble idea, but this isn't poker. You don't need to bluff every once in a while to throw people off your game. You can keep running the same play over and over against the same five opponents with no loss in efficiency if the other team doesn't adjust.
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And maybe it wouldn't have mattered, anyway. Game 5 wasn't exactly high drama, as the Celtics won by 22 points.
But if the Wizards had kept to the script, things could have played out very differently on Wednesday.
Boston goes into a bit of a panic whenever a team targets Thomas, because they know his defense is the team's weak point, and taking the two-time All-Star to the post keeps him from leaking out in transition.
Wall doesn't need to score against Thomas to exploit the mismatch, either. In fact, he's at his best when he reads the approaching soft double-team before it even comes, rocketing a pass to a wide-open teammate cutting to the rim and chuckling to himself all the way back down to the other end of the court.
That confusion is the real key. Boston hasn't figured out how it wants to defend a Wall post-up. Again, maybe Brooks is worried the Celtics will figure it out if he goes to the well too many times, but why would you give them the benefit of the doubt before they prove they can stop you?
A Game 5 on the road where your role players are destined to play poorly seems like a good time to put that theory to the ultimate test. Instead, the Wizards helped the Celtics to a blowout win. How kind of them.
Whatever the reason for the decision — and Brooks has declined to discuss his tactical decisions in his postgame interviews — one thing remains clear. Down three games to two and needing to steal a game in Boston to win this series, let alone hold serve at home, Washington has to play its best basketball for the next 96 minutes.
Any lapse, any lull will send the Wizards packing, as the Celtics smell blood.
So if Brooks wants to make the Eastern Conference finals one year after leading the Thunder to the same stage in the West, it's time to embrace repetition.