Game over, 101-85: Brandon Bass made his unofficial arrival to the playoffs, scoring 18 points in the third quarter en route to a game-high 27 points in the Celtics' victory over the Sixers in Game 5.
Four other Celtics reached double figures, including 10 from center Greg Stiemsma. Rajon Rondo had 13 points and 14 assists, with only three turnovers — none in the second half.
The Celtics took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series, which returns to Philadelphia for Wednesday's Game 6.
Fourth quarter, 2:49, Celtics 96-76: It's Gino time at the Garden.
Collins picked up a technical foul, presumably for complaining about the 19-free throw disparity and 23-17 personal foul dispartiy.
Meanwhile, Bass drained another jumper. You should be dancing.
Fourth quarter, 5:31, Celtics 89-72: Rondo took five shots in the first quarter, one each in the second and third quarters, and re-asserted himself with three tough shots going to the hoop in the fourth.
The strong start and finish may have created some uncertainty for the Celtics in the middle of the game, but Rondo picked up right where Bass left off. The point guard scored seven points in the first 6:29 of the fourth after scoring six points in the first three quarters combined.
Fourth quarter, 8:14, Celtics 81-66: Bass was on the bench to start the fourth quarter, but his rest did not last long. He re-entered the game 1:52 into the final quarter and immediately made his presence known with a pair of free throws to contribute to Boston's 6-0 run to open the fourth.
End of third quarter, Celtics 75-66: Hop on his back, boys.
Bass did a Cedric Maxwell impersonation in the third quarter, carrying the Celtics into the lead over the Sixers with an 18-point explosion. The Celtics outscored the Sixers 28-16, (you will also notice Bass outscored the Sixers' entire team) as Bass attacked the hoop with more enthusiasm than he has at any time as a Celtic. He played all 12 minutes and went straight at the long and athletic Young, helping to nullify Young's reach.
Third quarter, 2:30, Celtics 67-64: Bass was on his way to a breakout game in Game 4 before he sat for almost the entire fourth quarter. Given a chance to play in the third quarter, which has decided every game up to now, Bass seized the opportunity.
Bass went right at the athletic Young, scoring 14 points in the third quarter. Most of his damage was done down low with two-handed dunks.
The Celtics as a whole picked up the defensive intensity, forcing six turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Bass even came through with two of those steals.
Third quarter, 4:48, Celtics 63-57: The Celtics mentioned how key the Philadelphia fans were in fueling the Sixers' comeback in Game 4. The TD Garden crowd tried to give their team a similar boost in the third quarter this time.
The Celtics sprinted into the lead thanks to an 8-0 run, giving them a 16-7 scoring advantage in the third quarter. Those pivotal third quarters could be cropping up again.
Third quarter, 6:56, Sixers 57-55: The Celtics could generate virtually nothing offensively in the first five minutes of the third quarter. Instead of falling farther behind, though, they actually cut into the Sixers' lead by one point. The Sixers shot a decent 3-for-6 early in the second half, but the Celtics' defense limited their shot attempts. Spencer Hawes was caught in what would have been a 24-second violation before Brand was whistled for a three-second violation.
Halftime, Sixers 50-47: The Celtics did not play very well in the first half, yet they only trailed by three points at halftime, for what that's worth.
The Celtics were outrebounded 19-15 and had nine assists on their 18 field goals. That assist-to-field-goal ratio is usually higher for Boston. Rajon Rondo had five assists but three turnovers.
If not for 13 free throw attempts, with nine makes, the Celtics could have been looking at a double-digit deficit. The Sixers attempted two free throws in the first half.
The Good: Elton Brand had it working, leading the Sixers with 12 points. Point guard Jrue Holiday also put together a strong half with 10 points, five assists, three rebounds and only one turnover. … Kevin Garnett finished the first half strong after a quiet first quarter. He scored only four points in the first 12 minutes but entered halftime with 14 points, four boards and two steals. … Lavoy Allen had another strong performance, hitting all three shots he took and defending Garnett with gusto. Garnett did a good chunk of his damage guarded by Brand in the second quarter.
The Bad: Lou Williams and Ray Allen did not show much of their instant-offense material. Allen missed three of his four shots in his first start since early April, and Williams was also 1-for-4 from the field.
The So-so: Greg Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins made some solid contributions off the bench. The pair had 10 points and three rebounds combined, but made some of the usual mistakes that makes it difficult to count on either as a go-to defensive stopper.
Second quarter, 3:20, Sixers 45-40: There could not be any complaints from the Celtics' side about the officiating in the first half. The Sixers picked up three times as many fouls as the Celtics with more than three minutes to go in the half. Holiday was up to 10 points, matching Garnett, but Holiday's points came much more efficiently than Garnett's.
Brand was up to 12 points for the game's scoring high, and even made a solid defensive play against Garnett.
Second quarter, 6:25, Sixers 40-35: Elton Brand received a lot of criticism in this series, and throughout the season, and most of it was deserved. He played the first 18 minutes of this one like a different player, though, looking for his own shot and helping run the Sixers' offense. He hit five of his first six shots, which would be the best mark in the game if Allen was not 3-for-3. Garnett was more aggressive against Allen, taking eight shots in the first 17:35 of the game, but the rookie continued to hassle Garnett with his strength.
Second quarter, 8:24, Sixers 33-33: Stiemsma was not the only big man bringing energy off the bench. Ryan Hollins started the second quarter and was just as relentless as Stiemsma was in the first quarter, grabbing two offensive rebounds and converting the second putback. Pierce drained a 3-pointer to pull the Celtics within one point, and after an Evan Turner jumper, Garnett answered with an and-one layup.
End of first quarter, Sixers 27-23: The point guards ran the show in the first quarter, which is how this is supposed to work. Rondo had six points and three assists, while Jrue Holiday led Philly with seven points and three assists.
Stiemsma finished the first quarter a perfect 4-for-4 from the field, bringing a ton of energy off the Celtics bench. He also exhibited a few of the bad habits that have led to him sitting out much of this series, though, so we will see if those go away once he shakes off some rust.
First quarter, 2:09, Sixers 23-19: Greg Stiemsma entered and injected immediate energy in his first minute-plus on the floor, scoring two quick buckets inside and nailing a baseline jumper.
He suffered a few lapses on an offensive foul and appeared to miss his defensive rotation, but his energy was contagious. Brandon Bass showed two strong moves to the hoop, finishing with a reverse layup and getting blocked on the second. The Celtics need every ounce of energy they can muster, no matter the source, against the athletic Sixers.
First quarter, 5:46, Sixers 12-11: Elton Brand, Lavoy Allen and Thaddeus Young had some success in spots sharing the ball from the high post to the low post in Game 4, but the Sixers have not gone to that approach much in this series. They used it effectively through Brand in the first six minutes of this game, though, with the veteran forward making a couple of crisp passes that led to baskets.
Rajon Rondo came out attacking the hoop, which is often a good sign for Boston. The point guard took five shots early, almost as many as the rest of the team combined (six). He led both teams in scoring with six points in the early going.
6:42 p.m.: Who should Celtics look to have an expanded role in Game 5 with Bradley sidelined? Keyon Dooling is the most obvious, considering how well the veteran guard has defended during the playoffs. Rivers called Bradley "the captain of our defense, along with Kevin," so Dooling may not be able to fill Bradley's shoes completely. But the signs from games one through three suggested Dooling would not be a huge step back defensively from Bradley.
Mickael Pietrus and possibly even Marquis Daniels could see more action. The Celtics would like to see Allen picked up the bulk of Bradley's minutes, "but Ray's limited, too," Rivers said.
6:07 p.m.: The news out of practice sounded dire Sunday when Avery Bradley did not participate due to his recurrent left shoulder injury. Celtics coach Doc Rivers disclosed just how dire the news was when he said before Monday's game that Bradley would not play.
Plus, Bradley's right shoulder is also sore, Rivers said. The right shoulder has not popped out, as the left shoulder has, but Bradley is done to zero healthy shoulders. As you may be aware, that is two less than the typical number of good shoulders for a human.
Ray Allen will move into the starting lineup for the first time since April 4.
Sixers coach Doug Collins noted that the team that has won the first quarter has lost every game in the series thus far, but apparently he has not instructed his players to throw the first 12 minutes. He did note that the team that won the third quarter won every game, though, so he put an emphasis on that quarter with his team.
The probable starters are listed below.
8 a.m. ET: An opportunity missed has been forgotten. The Celtics will turn their attention to a new opportunity on Monday.
The Celtics failed to close out Friday's game to take a commanding lead over the Sixers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but they return home tied 2-2 with a chance to take the lead. After four games — two in Boston, two in Philadelphia — the series is now best-of-three, with the Celtics holding home-court advantage in those last three.
Game 5 will be pretty important.
"Obviously, Game 5's a swing game," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said at practice Sunday. "It's a swing game for both teams. Game 5s and Game 7s are pretty much the same."
Join us for updates and analysis from the TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7 p.m.
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