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Despite a late run and a very huge scare by the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth quarter of Game 5 of the NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics were able to hold onto to for the 92-86 win and 3-2 lead, their first series lead in the NBA Finals. The Celtics also became the first team to win two straight games in the series, and did so on the back of Paul Pierce.
Game 5 was all about the starters and defense. The bench came up huge for the Celtics in Game 4, but it was time for the five Boston starters to solidify their positions as the leaders and best players on the team. Paul Pierce led the way as he and Kobe Bryant traded baskets throughout the third quarter. In all, Pierce finished the night with 27 points.
Kevin Garnett continued his resurgence with his third solid game in a row for the finals. Garnett had 18 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals, and 2 blocks on a very impressive night both offensively and defensively. Ray Allen was nothing spectacular (he still contributed a good deal with 12 points), and failed to regain his rhythm from beyond the three point line as he went 0-4 from downtown. Of course Rajon Rondo continued to put up stellar numbers with his 18 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds.
Now just because the starters carried most of the workload, that does not mean the bench did nothing. Tony Allen was especially good on the defensive end as he was able to hold Kobe in check for the most part and even had a huge block against Pau Gasol in the second half that halted some Laker momentum. So although they did not score a ton of points, the core group off the bench (Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace, Nate Robinson, and Tony Allen) still played effectively against both the Lakers’ starters and bench players. Depth for the Celtics has been and will continue to be the driving factor for them in the entirety of the playoffs.
Well, Kobe Bryant was himself as usual. He sunk bucket after bucket, especially a couple in the third quarter that some would say were impossible shots. Bryant (like him or hate him) was incredibly impressive with 38 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Just like Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, and Dwight Howard in the rounds before, Bryant will get his points and the Celtics need to at least be able to contain his supporting cast.
Contain Kobe’s supporting cast is just what the C’s did and more in Game 5. Pau Gasol was the only other L.A. player able to reach double digits in scoring, as he finished with a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds. Derek Fisher had 9 points and Andrew Bynum was ineffective due to his knee injury, finishing with only 6 points and 1 rebound. And don’t forget about Ron Artest, who looked completely lost against a much better Paul Pierce. Artest had 7 points and 2 rebounds.
The Lakers’ bench was also completely ineffective on any end. Lamar Odom was the only spark for them there, as he got 8 points and 8 rebounds.
So, the series head back to Los Angeles for Game 6 on Tuesday night and Game 7 on Thursday if needed. The Celtics were able to take Game 2 out in L.A. and hope to be able to finish this one off on Tuesday night. Is it time to start planning a parade route through downtown Boston, or will the L.A. Lakers be able to reign themselves back into the series with their familiar Staple’s Center floor to play on? It’s been a series that has shifted gears so many times already that anything could happen, but Celtics’ fans can agree that the Garden was shut down for the summer in good spirits.
Tags: Andrew Bynum, Boston Celtics, Derek Fisher, Glen Davis, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers, Lamar Odom, Nate Robinson, NBA Finals, Pau Gasol, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Rasheed Wallace, Ray Allen, Ron Artest, Tony Allen