In a way, watching the Wizards’ stunning 92–91 victory over the Celtics in Game 6 on Friday night felt like watching an abridged version of basketball’s evolution over the last two decades. The game started out as a time capsule straight out of 1997: It was a brutal, artless brick fest that thankfully holed itself into a cocoon and emerged as a free-flowing game where shots rained aplenty. It was one of those games where neither team seemed in control of their own destiny. Both teams looked hapless at various points in the game and it remained perilously close throughout, leaving the window open for some playoff magic. We were rewarded for our patience in the history lesson the two teams were unknowingly offering. The final two possessions, both equally unlikely, reflected styles that were worlds apart.
In the first, Al Horford — in what would’ve served as a fitting end to the game — had the ball in the midrange after catching a switch on an Isaiah Thomas pick-and-roll action. He hoisted a ’90s-ass shot over John Wall that was so Duncanesque, that kissed glass so gently, people took to Twitter legitimately suspicious as to whether he meant to bank the shot. (He admitted after the game that he didn’t.)
Then, in a broken play that nearly led to a five-second violation, the Wizards’ plan was to find Bradley Beal in the corner. But with the Celtics’ pressure, Wall took the ball for himself and won the game with a shot that hadn’t fallen all night, a 3-pointer from the right wing (a 3-pointer from anywhere, really):
There were some disparaging numbers that hung over the Wizards throughout the game. The Wizards shot 5-for-24 (20.8 percent) from 3 — fans were losing their minds at the Verizon Center on every made 3, as though it were the first long-distance shot they’d ever seen go in. At one point in the game, the team missed 14 consecutive shots in a seven-minute span between the second and third quarters. The Wizards entered the game knowing that teams were 0–10 all postseason in home elimination games. They’re fighting for a chance at the Eastern Conference finals, a place they haven’t seen in 37 years, the second-longest conference finals drought in all four major professional sports leagues, trailing only the snakebitten Clippers. The Wizards will have a chance to break that streak on Monday.
"Don’t come to my city, wearing all black, talking about, ‘It’s a funeral,’" an emphatic Wall said in his ESPN postgame interview. The Celtics attempted to send their message before the tipoff, arriving to the game in funereal garb, like a motorcade escorting a coffin — a call-back to the Wizards making the exact same gesture back in January. (That’s a serious deduction in Tommy Points on originality.) "I’m going to talk to my lawyers," Wizards coach Scott Brooks joked after the game. "I think we have that trademarked."
Boston’s harbingers of demise strode into Death Row D.C., which I guess is like trying to sell water to a drowning man? Thankfully, the two overwrought symbols cancelled each other out. What remained was an incredible Game 6.