Bass Bounces Back, Delivers in Game 5
BOSTON - Sitting at the postgame press conference podium, staring into bright lights, Brandon Bass was sweating.
After dropping 18 of his 27 points in the third quarter and making it look easy, Bass sat in front of a room of reporters and TV cameras, and he made it look like hard work. His answers were short. He appeared uncomfortable, unsure of what to say as he was peppered with questions. He admitted he’d never done a playoff press conference before, surrounded by so many people.
“This is the first time for a lot of things for me man, and I’m grateful,” Bass said, grinning as he sat up and leaned into the microphone. “That’s probably why you see all of these beads on my forehead, because I’m a little nervous. But I’m grateful.”
Doc Rivers and company are grateful for Bass’ series-altering third-quarter explosion that led them to a 101-85 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 5. Down 50-47 at the half, the Celtics seemed out of sorts. The energy in the TD Garden matched that of the team, which was somewhere between lethargic and half-awake. But after a questionable offensive foul call against Kevin Garnett drew the crowd’s ire, and a Garnett jumper on the next offensive trip, the energy in the building picked up.
And then Bass came alive.
Famously, Bass only played three seconds in the fourth quarter of Game 4 in Philadelphia, but his work during the last 6:45 of the third quarter of Game 5 changed the complexion of the series. Bass, who had just five points at halftime, was suddenly ubiquitous, dunking, stealing and rebounding for the Celtics. He erupted for 18 of his 27 points in the period, helping stake the Celtics to a 75-66 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
In less than two minutes alone, he helped the Celtics rip off an 8-0 run that tied the game and then put the Celtics out in front 63-57. Bass came up with a steal, nailed a pair of free throws, had two dunks in traffic, and then picked up another steal that helped set up a Ray Allen layup. The action jumpstarted the crowd, and the Celtics finally had life.
They outscored the Sixers 44-28 over the final 19 minutes of the game, and now they lead the series 3-2 with Game 6 on Wednesday night in Philadelphia. Teammates said Bass had watched a lot of film between Games 4 and 5, but his coach was just happy that Bass wasn’t over-thinking things.
“I thought he kept the game simple. Didn’t try to do too much, let the game come to him and trusted his teammates. I thought he played with the right spirit,” Rivers said. “I thought the biggest difference was his energy. I thought he went after rebounds, he played with a force, and I just thought he let himself go.”
Trying to explain how Bass was able to shred their defense, Sixers coach Doug Collins sounded exasperated, noting that his team had picked it’s poison. They apparently didn’t expect any venom from Bass. Almost prophetically, Collins said before the game that the team that has dominated the third quarter has won every game. He said it again in postgame, referring to Boston’s 28-16 edge in the third.
“Too many easy baskets. Too many dunks. They did a great job with our coverages. We were making a conscious effort to keep Paul Pierce down,” Collins said. “[Bass] didn’t depend strictly on the jump shot. He must have had three, four, five dunks tonight.”
Pierce, who was limited to 16 points, nine of which came at the free-throw line, was pleased with the support Bass provided while he was being swarmed.
“Brandon just stayed aggressive, he took the shots that were there, he was aggressive and mixing it up, going to the hole, finishing, taking the mid-range shot and that’s what we need,” Pierce said. “We need different guys on different nights to step up. A lot of times they’re gonna collapse on me, Rondo and KG, and there’s opportunities for other guys to take advantage.”
And take advantage he did. Bass often found himself wide open, alone as the Sixers defense collapsed elsewhere, and he cashed in while left unattended around the paint.
“It was just me taking advantage of my opportunity. They’ve been doubling Paul… they left me open and I was able to hit the shots,” Bass said. “And Rondo, if you set picks, in pick-and-roll with him, he’s going to get the ball to you.”
Bass has had an up-and-down series. After averaging more than 31 minutes per game in the first round versus Atlanta, Bass played less than 25 per contest in the first four games against the Sixers. He shot just 5-for-15 in the Celtics’ Game 2 loss at home, and the next day at practice Rivers was talking about his shot selection. Bass was more picky in a Game 3 victory, scoring 10 points on 10 shots in 26 minutes of play. As Rivers went to a small lineup down the stretch of Game 4, Bass watched from the sidelines.
Rather than get frustrated over his lack of playing time, Bass said he looked at film and worked on his jumper over the weekend. Rivers was impressed that Bass, who’s been saddled with the “No Pass Bass” nickname with good reason, played so hard, yet was patient enough to score on secondary pick-and-rolls and execute the offense without thinking too much.
“I thought he played very free tonight,” Rivers said. “Now we have to keep him there.”
As long as he doesn’t have to do another press conference, Bass should be just fine.