Celtics Roll in Game 5, Put Sixers on Brink
BOSTON – Doc Rivers on Sunday likened the then-upcoming Game 5 between his Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers to a Game 7 – a do-or-die situation.
Now that Game 5 is in the rearview mirror, we all know that the Celtics definitely aren’t dying. In fact, they are convincingly alive and on the doorstep of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Boston waxed Philadelphia on Monday night for the second time in three games, this time by a score of 101-85. Their final lineup of the night, consisting of Keyon Dooling, E’Twaun Moore, Sasha Pavlovic, Marquis Daniels and Ryan Hollins, tells you all you need to know about how competitive Game 5 was in the final quarter.
This victory was convincing, but it didn’t feel that way from start to finish. Boston played a sluggish first half that prompted Rivers to wonder whether his team would ever wake up. It finally did, in Rivers’ eyes, when Kevin Garnett was whistled for phantom offensive foul with 7:41 remaining in the third quarter while the C’s trailed by four.
“You could say the foul called on Kevin – I thought from that point on we exploded,” a jubilant Rivers said after the game. “You know, like I said, it was one of those games – we needed something to ignite us together. And I don’t know if that didn’t do it, I don’t know what did it, but something did it, and once we started playing right then we played very well.”
The Sixers agree with that assessment wholeheartedly. From head coach Doug Collins all the way down the line of Philadelphia’s stars, their postgame media sessions gave praise to an inspired and dominant Celtics club.
Such praise was deserved after an impressive second half that featured 22 points from Brandon Bass. Boston outscored Philadelphia 54-37 over the final 24 minutes of this contest to take a commanding 3-2 series lead.
Bass, who was a bit nervous in his first-ever playoff press conference, admitted that his team didn’t quite have it in the first half. The power forward used a touch of humor to explain what lit the fire under the C’s for the final two quarters. Here’s a hint: it wasn’t the foul on Garnett that Rivers highlighted.
“At the half... Reverend (Keyon) Dooling stepped up and gave us a little sermon and let us know that we had to play for each other,” said Bass, who gradually turned from comic to candid. “In the second half, that’s what we decided to do.”
As the Celtics proved Monday night, when they play for each other they can do some serious damage in this postseason. The damage they did tonight was impressive, but more importantly it was necessary.
Philadelphia, not Boston, now has its back against the proverbial wall. The Celtics have pushed the Sixers to the brink of elimination and require just one more win to advance to the Conference Finals. Additionally, this convincing victory allowed Boston’s most important players to get an extra breath of fresh air.
The Celtics just came off of two days of rest, and now this: Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce all logged far less minutes than their playoff averages heading into Monday’s game. That trio leaned back and enjoyed the view from the bench for the final 5:31, 3:36 and 2:49 of the game, respectively.
Then there’s the case of Avery Bradley, who did not play in Game 5 due to lingering shoulder issues that have plagued him throughout the playoffs. By the time Game 6 arrives Wednesday night, Bradley will have had five full days without contact. That can only bode well for the 21-year-old guard.
To sum things up, the Celtics rolled over the Sixers in Game 5 and will roll into Game 6 with some extra rest under their belts. They’ll also have momentum on their side, but as this series has proven, momentum is nothing but a word.
There have been nail-biting wins, demoralizing meltdowns, tantalizing blowouts and everything in between during these first five games. Still, though, as we head into stage 6 of a seven-stage course, neither team has managed to win consecutive games. Both teams have bounced back at every possible opportunity.
“It’s just been one of those series,” said Rivers. “It would be nice to win two in a row.”
The Celtics will finally win two in a row. All Rivers needs to do is tell his players that Game 6s are like Game 7s, too. After all, his team seems to perform well under those imaginary circumstances.