- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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David Butler II/US Presswire
The 76ers made it tough for Rajon Rondo and the Celtics to find room to operate in Game 5.BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 101-85 in Game 5 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series Monday night at TD Garden. (Boston leads the series, 3-2):
HOW THE GAME WAS WON
Brandon Bass exploded for 18 of his game-high 27 points in the third quarter as the Celtics motored away from the 76ers after intermission. Kevin Garnett finished with 20 points and 6 rebounds over a manageable 33:13, while Rajon Rondo registered 13 points and 14 assists. The Celtics shot 52.2 percent from the floor (36-of-69) and cranked up the defensive intensity after the break. That was enough to get Gino dancing on the JumboTron with the Celtics up 20 with 2:49 to play. Elton Brand turned back the clock to chip in a team-high 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting over 30 minutes and pace five 76ers in double figures.
The Celtics trailed by a couple of possessions for much of the first half but finally made their move with seven minutes to play in the third quarter. A Garnett jumper -- shortly after he got called for a questionable offensive foul for clearing out Spencer Hawes -- ignited a 10-0 burst that featured six points from Bass, including back-to-back dunks, and helped Boston surge ahead 63-57 with 4:56 to play in the quarter. The Sixers regrouped out of a timeout and clawed back within a point, but Bass could not be stopped and the Celtics led 75-66 heading to the fourth.
BOLD PLAY OF THE GAME
Oh, just give it to Bass. He made the third quarter his playground. Bass connected on 6 of 7 shots and got to the line for six free throws. When he wasn't throwing down spring-loaded two-handed jams, he was getting fouled trying to do just that. Bass changed the momentum of the game with his dunks, then kept making shots when the 76ers (head-shakingly) gave him space to fire away with confidence. Bass finished with 18 points in the third quarter, or two more than the whole Philadelphia team.
SIXERS' SHOOTING GIVES THEM EARLY LEAD
Paced by Brand (12 points on 6-of-8 shooting before intermission), the 76ers shot 54.8 percent in the first half (23 of 42) and led 50-47 at the break. After generating numerous second-chance efforts in the second half of Friday's come-from-behind win, Philadelphia hauled in eight of its 19 first-half misses for 10 second-chance points. That helped negate the fact that Boston shot 48.6 percent (18-of-37) before the break.
Big games bring out bigger celebrities. Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, part owners of the 76ers, sat courtside opposite the Philadelphia bench (the cheers still outweighed the jeers when he got shown on the JumboTron in the second quarter). A few seats down, Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and his wife, Bianca, were clad in green. Celtics owner Steve Pagliuca had Chris Rock and David Spade alongside on the baseline near the Celtics' bench.
WHAT IT MEANS
If the Celtics hadn't faltered down the stretch of Games 2 and 4, this series might be over. Instead, there's still work to be done. The series shifts back to Philadelphia for Game 6 on Wednesday night and the Celtics still have to deliver the knockout punch (let's just say few will be surprised if these "let's make it hard!" Celtics are back here for Game 7 on Saturday). But there was a lot to like about this second half. Boston was able to keep Garnett on the sideline for the final 5:31 (and Pierce and Allen got out with about three minutes to go) -- all without Philly mounting a feverish comeback. Gino danced, the crowd chanted "Scal-a-brine" (and went berserk when Brian Scalabrine got put on the JumboTron from the media section) and Boston seized a 3-2 lead with two chances to punch its ticket to the conference finals.