We’ve been saying all along that the Celtics haven’t clicked on all cylinders in this series. Well, it finally happened in Game 5. The Big 3 + Rondo all showed up for their last home game of the NBA Finals in top form and the Celtics played their best overall game of the series. Paul Pierce had a huge second half to cap off his best performance of the championship round. Led by Pierce’s 27-point showing, the Big 3 + Rondo all scored in double digits: Garnett and Rondo each had 18 and Ray Allen put up 12. And once again Nate Robinson, Tony Allen and Rasheed Wallace came off the bench to give the Celtics a spark.
The Lakers bench matched the Celtics reserves, narrowly outscoring them 14-13. But only two of their players scored in double digits: Pau had 12 points and 12 rebounds, while Kobe had a spectacular 38 points and kept the Lakers in the game. The reason the Celtics shot over 56% from floor while the Lakers only shot 39% was because of Boston’s outstanding defense. They made the Lakers work hard for every opportunity and aggressively contested their shots. Doc had said that one of these nights the Celtics would have to win when Kobe had a monster game, and that’s what they did in Game 5 by shutting everyone else down.
Game 5 could have been the clincher for LA, but instead the momentum has shifted to the tougher team, and the Celtics have taken command of the series heading into Game 6. However, Phil Jackson managed to put a positive spin on the situation, pointing out that when you do the math both teams have in essence held serve, so things are as they should be. Now the Lakers go back home with two games remaining in their building and it’s their job to hold serve. If they hold serve, they win the series four games to three.
Heading into Game 6 it’s evident that the Lakers are going to need more productivity, not only from their bench, but from starters Artest and Fisher who combined for just 16 points in Game 5. And the Lakers need Bynum’s presence. Bynum obviously struggled in Game 5 and was only able to make a limited contribution because his knee was drained for a second time just prior to the game. He only had six points and one rebound in 31 minutes – and no blocked shots, which is unusual for him.
Any time a Phil Jackson-coached team has won the opening game of a playoff series, they’ve won the whole series. And the Celtics have an 11-0 all-time series record when leading 3-2. One of these streaks will come to an end in these Finals. I have felt from the beginning that this is going to be a 7-game series, so it would not surprise me at all to see the Lakers bounce back in Game 6. They have got to come out on edge and at the top of their game tonight because the Celts have been a very good road team all year, probably the best in the league. And they’ve already proven they can beat the Lakers on their home turf. The Celtics, being a veteran team, know they’re not getting any younger and that the longer this series goes, the more difficult it will be to close out.
Game 6 airs tonight on ABC at 9:00 PM ET.