- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mere minutes after the final buzzer sounded, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens arrived at the podium for his postgame press conference. The only problem was that he’d beaten the media there. Stevens sat for several minutes and, to his credit, elected to wait for the entire press corps to arrive.

Once all parties were present and the questioning began, Stevens was asked what he’d said to his team following the 92-91 loss Friday night.

“Game 7 Monday,” Stevens answered.

He paused, grinned, then added: “That’s why I was here before all of you.”

There was no lengthy chewing out of his team. No painstaking review of John Wall’s game-winning shot with the wound still fresh. Stevens just wanted to get to the bus and head back home, where no team has lost in this series, to prepare for Game 7. The Celtics lost Game 6, but still leave D.C. with no major regrets.

“We had our best on-ball defender on their All-Star,” Stevens said, describing the game-deciding play. “We’re going to guard it as hard as we can and shake his hand and move on.”

The defender Stevens referred to is Avery Bradley. Bradley was stationed at the three-point line on the final play, with Wall a couple feet outside the line. Because of Wall’s exceptional driving ability, Bradley kept a little distance in case Wall tried to go downhill for the tie. Instead, Wall shot for the win. Bradley reacted in time to contest the shot, but Wall made it. Ballgame, but also a play the Celtics can live with.

“He just made a big play for their team and that’s all I can really say,” Bradley said.

Actually, if there’s one thing he could take back in the final possessions of the game, Bradley said he wished the Celtics had let Thomas work in isolation instead of going to the pick-and-roll play where Thomas wound up getting trapped and making a bad pass, losing the ball to Marcin Gortat.

“They trapped him and I think it caught him off guard,” Bradley said. “As a team we should know that.”

In addition to defending Wall, who finished 9-for-25, and was a grisly 1-for-9 at halftime, Bradley scored 27 points two days after he scored a playoff career-high 29 in Game 5. For the last two games, he has been a volume scorer for the Celtics while Thomas has been quiet. On Friday, Bradley’s output helped the Celtics stay in the game while getting just five points from their bench, and led them to an unusual 17-8 advantage in fast break points.

Again, the Celtics will take that, particularly on the road, which leaves them not looking for a reset. Game 7 can’t come soon enough.

“Makes you want to lace ‘em up again and go tomorrow because we were so close, you know? We get another chance at it and we’ll capitalize on it,” Jae Crowder said.

In Washington, the result was more significant — literally and psychologically. The win staved off elimination and avoided a second playoff fatality in just two days. Hoots of “I can’t believe we did it” rang through Verizon Center after the game was over.

Meanwhile, the Celtics were quickly on to the next game.

Thomas summed up his team’s mindset well, if perhaps inadvertently:

“Game 7 in Boston, we wouldn’t want it no other way,” Thomas said. Then he seemed to realize the irony of his words.

“I mean, other than winning tonight,” he added.

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