Just when you think they’re ready to roll over Doug Collins’ young squad, they squander an 18-point second-half lead in Game 4. And just when it looks like they’re in the fight of their lives a game later, they play arguably their best second half of the entire season in pulling away for a pivotal 101-85 Game 5 victory.
Certainly there was no indication that Boston would end up winning the contest so easily, considering they entered the TD Garden locker room at the half down by three. Philadelphia big man Elton Brand paced the 76ers in the first half with a team-high 12 points.
Apparently, though, the Celtics downed their Wheaties at the intermission, because it was all Boston from there on out. And evidently, unsung Celtic hero Brandon Bass gulped down two bowls himself.
Bass exploded in the second half, outscoring the 76ers by himself (18-16) in the third quarter and scoring 22 of his 27 points after the break.
"It was just me taking advantage of my opportunity," Bass told reporters afterwards. "They've been doubling Paul and we got a few good players on the team that they've got to focus on so they left me open tonight and I was able to hit the shots."
Bass’s effort, coupled with Boston’s ability to get to the line on such a frequent basis (33 attempts), means the Celtics are now a win away from advancing to their third Eastern Conference final in the past five seasons.
I realize it’s been tough trying to figure out this enigmatic team, but I’m ready to say that the Celtics will deliver the knockout blow to Philadelphia in Game 6. They’ve really started to separate themselves on the scoreboard, holding impressive double-digit leads over Philly now in each of the past three contests.
Kevin Garnett continues to play at an extremely high level, as he had 20 points and six rebounds in Game 5. I don’t expect his play to diminish anytime soon.
And as long as Doc Rivers continues to get a solid performance from someone outside of the Big 4—whether it’s Bass again, Greg Stiemsma or Avery Bradley if he returns from injury—then that will alleviate pressure from the likes of Paul Pierce and a hobbled Ray Allen from putting up ridiculous offensive numbers.
Finally, the veteran-laden Celtics know what they need to do to put a team away in the playoffs. They let a golden opportunity to vanquish Philly in five games slip out of their grasp.
They definitely don’t want this series going the distance, and will do what it takes to wrap the series up on Wednesday.
And if they don’t, then they’ll become an even greater enigma, if that’s even possible right now.
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