The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The wild swings between Wizards’ play at home and in Boston

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BOSTON — Leave it to Markieff Morris to explain this Eastern Conference matchup between the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics, a series lacking symmetry and any trace of predictability.

“They beat our [butts],” Morris said following the Celtics’ 123-101 drubbing in Game 5. “We just beat they [butts] two times in a row.”

Morris, in his colorful way of sharing truths, was referring to the 27- and 19-point margins by which the Wizards easily handled Boston in Games 3 and 4 inside Verizon Center. However, in the three games the Celtics have worn the home whites, they’ve won by an average of 14.6 points, and now own a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven playoff series.

After five games of wild pendulum swings, one conclusion can be drawn: there’s no place like home.

“We’ve got a chance to win our home game and go to Game 7,” Wizards Coach Scott Brooks said on Thursday, anchoring his hope on home court in Friday’s must-win Game 6.

Together, the top-seeded Celtics and fourth-seeded Wizards have created the outlier of the 2017 NBA playoffs. While both teams strut at home but stagger on the road, the postseason has favored the road warriors. Through the first round, seven of the eight matchups were closed out by the road team — including the Wizards, who earned their only road win of the playoffs in Game 6 against the Atlanta Hawks.

Boston would prefer for this trend to continue, but the Wizards have five good reasons to remain confident ahead of Game 6.

As Brooks talked to reporters and searched for silver linings, he mentioned the only statistic that matters: the Wizards own a 5-0 home record in the playoffs. This undefeated mark ranks even higher than the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, although these two title chasers have swept a pair of playoff opponents and have played only four games on their respective home courts.

At home during the postseason, the Wizards are still the same highly-functioning offensive team, shooting similar percentages inside Verizon Center as in other arenas. However on the defensive end, the Wizards transform into a worse team on the road.

In the five home games, Washington has held opponents to 40.9 percent shooting, the second-lowest among all playoff teams. Through the six road games, opponents shoot 49.4 percent against the Wizards, who are 1-5 in those games.

Fan support and familiarity with the court can help explain why teams perform better at home. However, if there’s a far deeper meaning behind a home-court advantage, Brooks has yet to find one.

“I think that’s been analyzed and studied since the game was invented. The home court, you always have a comfort level,” Brooks said, “and a lot of times your bench always plays better at home. Just happens. I don’t really know the real reason. I’ve been thinking about it for many, many years — even as a player I’ve always felt better.”

Oubre was showered with profane chants in Boston. And he embraced them.

This season, the Wizards reversed the losing tide by owning their home court and compiling a streak that extended to 17 consecutive wins inside Verizon Center. But the team’s past two playoff appearances — in which current starters John Wall, Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat made up the core — Washington lost elimination games at home. Beal admitted those memories will factor into the Wizards’ motivation on Friday night.

“Strongly,” Beal said. “We’ve all been there before. It’s no more bitter feeling than that, losing at home and getting knocked at that, too. So the biggest thing is having that same mentality, that feeling, man, and just never forgetting about it.”

Late Wednesday night inside the visitor’s locker room, the Morris-inspired team nickname lived on as young role players Daniel Ochefu and Chris McCullough wore “Deathrow DC” T-shirts under their suit jackets. After taking a 22-point loss, however, the Wizards’ season now faces an execution.

The menacing nickname and coordinated T-shirts won’t seem so out of place back in Washington, and with the threat of elimination looming, Beal clung to the comforts of home.

“Everybody plays well at home,” Beal said. “We’ve got to take advantage of it. Think of it as a positive and forget about this game, move on. Get a win and hopefully come back here.”

More Wizards:

Wizards bottle up Isaiah Thomas, and Celtics’ supporting cast picks up the slack

Brewer: The Wizards give a lackluster effort, and it may cost them the series

Wizards fail to bring their defense to Boston, and Celtics snatch 3-2 series lead

Best and worst moments from Celtics-Wizards Game 5

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