Call it the "Heart Attack Series." Danny Ainge's was an omen. These two teams are setting off EKG machine alarms everywhere. Hospital cardiac units will surely ban watching the next game.
None of these games are ever really over. It is just 'to be continued.'
I don't remember when I've seen more clutch plays by both teams in a series long playoff match up. That might be because there has never been a series like this before. An NBA playoff record was set with the third overtime (one double OT) contest of this series.
With Paul Pierce leading the way, the undermanned (Garnett and Powe out) Celtics shot 5-of-6 in OT while holding the Bulls to 2-of-8 to gain yet another hard fought win. The C's went 4-6 in free throws while the Bulls went 7-7 in OT. Three of those might have been a gift. More on that later.
Rondo, Perkins, Davis Come Up Big
The Celtics got huge games from Rajon Rondo, who continues to carry the Celtics on his back, a monster game from Kendrick Perkins with 19 rebounds, seven blocks, including a big one on Derrick Rose in OT, and 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Glen 'Big Baby' Davis came through with a large game and an efficient one with 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting, six rebounds, three assists, and zero turnovers.
Pierce Orders Surf 'N Turf
The final course was Pierce-seared Salmons as he carved up the Bulls for dessert.
Paul put on an incredible, yet methodically controlled show as he went 5-for-5 down the stretch and in overtime to deliver the win for the defending champions. He hit jumper, after jumper, after jumper, mostly over the Bulls' John Salmons. Incredibly, rookie coach Vinny Del Negro let Salmons continue to guard Pierce one-on-one.
From Steve Bulpett's article with the Boston Herald:
“Yeah, I thought about doubling him a lot,” said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro.
“But the problem is that the Celtics do such a good job and he fades away, and he’s 6'8" and it’s his spot. We talked about coming with different players, but they’ve picked us apart a little bit with that on the glass. And he hits some tough fade away shots with hands in his face."
“That’s what great players do. They make big plays. He’s an All-Star player for a reason."
The idea would be to double him before he gets to his spot. Garnett is out. Ray Allen is out. Pierce is the one guy on the court you don't want shooting. The only other guy who was willing to shoot is Rondo.
Paul is better from the floor with a defender on him than he is shooting free throws, missing another one in the extra period. After missing two big free throws earlier in the series that could have tied or won games, Pierce made sure this miss wasn't needed.
Miller Misses Twice
After Pierce's last dagger, and the Celtics up two. the Celtics heavily defended the three point line on the inbound. Brad Miller took the inbound pass just inside the arc and headed for the basket and the tie.
The Celtics closed quickly and as Rondo swept at him, Miller took a hard wrap to the mouth from a Rajon Rondo hand from behind, drawing blood and possibly knocking a tooth loose with two seconds left on the clock. After going to the sidelines to clear the blood, Brad Miller stepped up and missed his first foul shot.
He then tried to miss the second, to get the rebound, but created a turnover when it didn't even hit the rim. Coach Del Negro is claiming that it was a flagrant foul, and is hoping that the league reviews it. Miller received stitches after the game.
The Bulls fouled Pierce on the Celtics inbounds and Paul missed his first free throw, setting up a similar situation. He did manage to intentionally hit the rim on his next attempt. The rebound came to Glen Davis as he went to the floor. Celtic ball. Game over. Finally.
NBA players have voted saying that Kobe Bryant is the one they most want taking the last shot. Honestly, I'll take Paul Pierce or Ray Allen every time. Allen fouled out with about five minutes left in regulation with just 10 points in 26-plus minutes.
What makes these Celtics special is that they still have one of the clutchest players in the league with Paul Pierce.
Exhausted? After 50-plus minutes, not Paul Pierce. After he delivered the consecutive knock out blows, he was interviewed walking off the court and asked if he and his mates were exhausted after three overtime games. Reminiscent of baseball's Chicago Cubs' Ernie Banks saying, "Let's play two today." Pierce answered with a big smile, "No way. This is fun, This is what the playoffs are all about. We could play seven overtime games. But we want to end it in six."
It is a good thing, as the Celtic bench scoring drought continues with just five points from the (no) relief team.
Rondo Rampage Continues
Rajon Rondo continues his spectacular play. Johnny Rondo almost delivered his third triple double of the series, leading both teams in scoring with 28 points, 11 assists, adding eight rebounds, with two steals.
Perhaps more importantly, he held Derrick Rose to 14 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three steals, but six turnovers, including a critical one on a misfired alley-oop pass meant for Joakim Noah as regulation was winding down.
Controversial Three Point Attempt
The Celtics battled back from 11 down, 77-66 with 9:28 left in the fourth period and again from 89-84 with 3:45 left with a 9-4 run to tie on a Perkins put back, Rondo lay-up, Pierce lay-up, and a Paul Pierce jumper with 10.5 seconds left in regulation.
Ben Gordon, who continues to show a knack for clutch shooting, was just 6-for-21. But, in Ray Allen-like fashion, hit two big shots near the end and managed to get a foul called on Tony Allen on a controversial three-point shot in OT.
Two replay angles clearly show that Gordon stepped on the out of bounds line with one heel. That would negate any foul after that. The refs reviewed the play and decided to allow the free throws. Gordon hit all three free throws, tying the game at 104 with 28 seconds left in OT.
In the overtime, Perkins scored the first three Celtic points on a free throw and a lay-up. Rondo scored the next four Celtic points on a quick jump, lean back in, right handed driving lay-up, and two foul shots. The table was then set for Pierce's clinic on "how-to-make-pressure-jumpshots", as he calmly hit three in a row in the last 1:17, just like it was pregame practice time.
Normally the fifth game is the pivotal game. Right now, these teams look so evenly matched, I don't know that anything was concluded in this game except the Celtics are now up 3-2 heading back to Chicago for game six on Thursday.
With Garnett out, this was the Celtics second best defensive game of the series. They held the Bulls to .395 shooting and 93 points in regulation. They also matched the Bulls in fast break points with 14 apiece. The C's destroyed the Bulls inside 54 points to 32.
Also, highly important, the Celtics had only 10 turnovers to the Bulls 13. That, as much as any play, was a key to the win.