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Fast Break: Celtics let one slip away, Hawks still alive

Posted By Ryan Hadfield On May 8, 2012 @ 10:51 pm In General | 4 Comments

With the Celtics trailing by one, 87-86, and just over 10 seconds left in the game, Rajon Rondo stole the ball and frantically dribbled up the court. He would never get a shot off, however, as Al Horford and Josh Smith pressured the ball, forcing Rondo to lose control as time expired. The Celtics still have a 3-2 series lead over the Hawks, and will have another opportunity to advance to the second round in Game 6 on Thursday night at the Garden.

Horford led the way for Atlanta with 19 points and 11 rebounds in only his second game back from a pectoral injury that had sidelined him since January. For Boston, Rondo finished with 12 assists and 13 points, but shot just 6-of-17 from the field, and had five turnovers. Kevin Garnett added 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Three-dom!: The Hawks weren’t rotating on defense, the crowd was dead (except for the C’s fans), and it appeared the Hawks were fine with jump-shooting their way to a summer vacation as the Celtics lead grew to double digits midway through the second quarter.

Then Atlanta got pay back for Boston’s 3-point assault in Game 4, by knocking down four straight 3-pointers, leading to a tie game at halftime. The Hawks finished 7-of-16 from beyond the arc.

It’s easy to dismiss the run as a hot streak. That’s fair, it happens. However, the Celtics were late closing down on each of Marvin Williams’ back-to-back 3-pointers, and even worse, no defender was within 10 feet of Joe Johnson‘s 3-pointer. Additionally, the Celtics failed to execute on the offensive end to stop the bleeding.

The Truth Hurts: Paul Pierce started Game 5 like it was simply a continuation of Game 4. He was 4-of-6 from the field and seem poised for another virtuoso performance. But the C’s captain only hit one of his next seven shot attempts, finishing the game with 16 points.

Pierce did seem to be laboring a bit which could be related to the left knee injury he suffered during shoot-around before Game 4 on Sunday.  His airball that would have put the Celtics ahead by one point with less than 20 seconds left would suggest that is entirely possible.

Youth Served: It’s been an up-and-down series for Avery Bradley. Maybe his left shoulder started bothering him again, or maybe Doc Rivers just wanted to go with Ray Allen, but Bradley only saw 17 minutes of action Tuesday night. He took just two shots and had two turnovers in a forgettable night.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Rondo’s Road Rage (The Good): It’s safe to say Rondo won’t be visiting Atlanta anytime soon. His Game 1 performance was excellent, but was overshadowed by Bump-Gate. In his return to the scene of crime Tuesday night, the floor general started 2-of-10 from the field and was largely a non-factor through 33 minutes of action.

Then Rondo went crazy (In a good-natured-I’m-taking-over-this-game kind of way).

After the dreadful start, he hit four of his next seven shots. The stats don’t justify Rondo’s impact. He took over the last three minutes of the third quarter in a stretch that saw him feed a perfect lob to Ryan Hollins, put back a Allen missed 3-pointer, steal the inbound pass, hit the ensuing jumper, and score a driving lay-up the next trip down the floor.

It was the type of play the C’s have grown accustomed to seeing from Rondo. He was the catalyst the Celtics needed, dwindling an 11-point deficit to just two at the end of the third quarter. The fourth quarter was more of the same for the All-Star point guard.

Allen’s Acclimating: Allen played his best game since being relegated to the bench. The offensive spark the sharp-shooter provided is precisely what Rivers envisioned when promoting Bradley to the starting lineup. Late in the game, with the score 83-76, the Celtics stormed back going on a 7-0 run, capped off by an Allen 3-pointer.

The 36 year-old finished with 15 points, going 5-of-10 from the field.

Forcing the Issue: Throughout the first half Boston played the aggressor. Through 20 minutes of action the Hawks had just two free-throw attempts to the Celtics nine, and Boston had only one personal foul called on them, while Atlanta had nine.

This speaks to the fact the Hawks were comfortable settling for jump shots — whether contested or not — while the Celtics forced the issue.

The Little Big Guys: The Celtics starters and Allen get the fanfare, but Keyon DoolingGreg Stiemsma, and Hollins gave Boston solid play in the first half of Game 5. Dooling had a big 3-pointer in the second quarter, and both he and Stiemsma had highlight blocks.

Hollins’ stat line doesn’t show much, but he battled hard underneath and, remarkably, registered a plus/minus of +8. Furthermore, he was on the court during the Celtics second half comeback, stuffing home two lobs from Rondo.


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