John Wall stood atop the scorer’s table, popping his jersey, yelling and celebrating his 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left for the go-ahead basket that put his Washington Wizards into a Game 7 against the Boston Celtics.
After Washington’s 92-91 victory extended the Eastern Conference semifinal, Wall offered his thoughts on Boston’s failure to back up its fashion statement of wearing all black clothing to the arena Friday night.
“It was just funny to me. It was kind of copy-catting what we did,” said Wall, whose Wizards donned dark outfits before a regular-season game between these teams that are building a rivalry. “It was in my mind throughout the game that I didn’t want them to come here, wear all black, and basically call it a funeral.”
Thanks to him and backcourt mate Bradley Beal, Washington’s season will last at least one more game. Wall finished with 26 points, Beal scored a game-high 33, and they combined for 23 of Washington’s 26 points in the back-and-forth fourth quarter.
“All we asked for was one more game,” Wall said, “and we got it.”
Game 7 is at Boston on Monday night. The winner will face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East finals starting Wednesday.
The host has won all 10 games between the Wizards and Celtics this season – four in the regular season and six in the playoffs.
“Two best words in playoffs is ‘Game 7,'” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “Seems like it was meant to be.”
Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley each scored 27 points for Boston, the conference’s No. 1 seed.
But Bradley could do nothing defensively to stop Wall on the winning shot, coming off an inbound play that was designed to get Beal the ball. And Thomas’ heave at the buzzer clanked off the rim.
“I thought it was going in,” Thomas said. “Honestly I did.”
Like the rest of his teammates, he was left to get back into his dark outfit afterward. Wearing a black shirt, he scoffed at the idea Wall and the Wizards derived some boost from knowing about the Celtics’ choice of attire.
“Their season was on the line,” he said. “They should have been motivated by everything else.”
Boston, which won Game 5 at home by 22 points, led Game 6 by 69-66 entering the fourth quarter, when a relatively blah game became much more compelling. The final period was tight throughout, featuring six ties and nine lead changes.
Boston was up 87-82, but did not hold on.
“We put ourselves in position to win the game,” said Al Horford, whose 16-foot baseline bank shot with 7.7 seconds left gave Boston its last lead at 91-89. “Couldn’t finish it. … We can’t dwell on this.”
Wall and Beal both shook off slow starts.
Beal was 0 for 7 on 3s before making his only one of the game with 69 seconds left. The Wizards as a whole started 1 for 15 from beyond the arc. And Wall started 1 for 12 overall before closing by making 8 of 13.
“If I go 1 for 30,” he shrugged, “that’s the way I go out.”
Not since 1979 have the Wizards reached the conference finals, and Wall has made clear he’ll consider this season – Brooks’ first as the team’s coach – a waste of time if they don’t get there this time.
“We don’t win Game 7,” Wall said, “we feel like it was a failure.”
Celtics: Their 42-41 halftime lead was the visitors’ first since edge since 2-0 on Horford’s basket. … Trying to reach the East finals for the first time since 2012.
Wizards: Had lost seven consecutive elimination games at home. … Last reached the Eastern Conference finals in 1979. … This was the first win by a home team facing elimination on its court in these NBA playoffs; hosts had been 0-10 in that situation until Friday. … F Otto Porter Jr. had zero points.
BACK IN BLACK
Some Celtics said it was purely coincidence that they showed up wearing black, the way the Wizards did for what became known as the “Funeral Game,” won by Washington in January. Joked Brooks: “I’m going to talk to my lawyers. I think we have that trademarked, right? That’s our thing.”
Source: Associated Press