Celtics roll in second half, take 3-2 series lead over Sixers

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Celtics roll in second half, take 3-2 series lead over Sixers

BOSTON Because of the earlier than usual 7 p.m. start, the Boston Celtics had a late-arriving crowd at the TD Garden for their Game 5 matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The same could be said for the Celtic players, whose slow start had many in Celtics Nation ready extremely nervous.

But as the game wore on, the crowd grew louder.

And as they continued to make their presence felt, the players did the same.

When all was said and done, the C's pulled away for a 101-85 Game 5 win that gives them a 3-1 series lead. Boston now needs one victory to advance to the Eastern Conference finals to face either Indiana or Miami.

This game, like so many for Boston, certainly had a heavy dose of that Green team defense fans have come to know and love.

And while there were a number of moments in which the Celtics showed signs of life, they ultimately got a spark from about as unlikely a place as you could imagine - the officials.

Trailing 57-53, Kevin Garnett drove into the lane for what he thought was a foul.

It was a foul against him, with official Ed Malloy ruling that Garnett used his arm to shield the defender, Spencer Hawes, from cleanly blocking the shot.

After the play was shown on the Jumbotron, the crowd came to life with a chorus of boos that seemed to be just what the Green team needed to hear.

From there, they reeled off 10 straight points before the Sixers called a time-out.

That was just the beginning, as the Celtics went on to close out the quarter with a 22-9 run that gave them their biggest lead of the night at that time, 75-66.

The key player during that run by Boston was Brandon Bass, who went into the fourth quarter having already scored a playoff career-high 23 points. He finished with 27 points and six rebounds.

Boston's fantastic finish came after the Sixers dominated the first half with some hot shooting and strong rebounding.

Philadelphia connected on 54.8 percent of their shots in the first half compared to 48.6 percent shooting by the Celtics.

Much like the third quarter foul against Garnett provided an unexpected spark, the same could be said for the contributions in the first half made by Greg Stiemsma.

Having been replaced by Ryan Hollins as the first big man off the bench for Boston, C's coach Doc Rivers opted to go back with Stiemsma on Monday.

Good call, Doc.

Stiemsma responded with his best game of the series, scoring eight of his career playoff-high 10 points in the first half which included a driving lay-up just seconds after stepping on to the floor.

It was indeed a bizarre first half that at one point, had Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins having more points scored (10), than Garnett and Bass (8).

The game also saw the Celtics establish themselves as the aggressor, and they were rewarded with a slew of free throw attempts.

In the first half, Boston had 13 free throws taken compared to just two for the Sixers.

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

BOSTON – The trip to the TD Garden is one that Jared Sullinger has made many times but never like this. 

The former Celtic was back in town with his new team, the Toronto Raptors who signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal after the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to him and thus made him an unrestricted free agent. 

“I had a feeling it was going to go that way once they signed big Al (Horford), that they were going to let me go,” Sullinger said prior to Friday’s game.  “We were prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m happy these guys are doing well.”

And he hopes to say the same for himself sometime in the future after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot – the same foot he had season-ending surgery on during the 2014-2015 season with the Celtics. 

There’s no specific timetable as to when he’ll be back on the floor, and Sullinger is cool with that plan. 

“I don’t know. They’re hiding the protocol from me so I won’t rush; we’ll see,” said Sullinger who is still in a walking boot. 

The 6-foot-9 forward played well in the preseason and solidified himself as the team’s starting power forward. 

Now that he’s out with another injury, he’ll have to once again try and prove himself either later this season when he returns, or this summer when he becomes a free agent again.

For now, Sullinger is happy to be back in town, seeing lots of familiar faces, friends and ex-teammates that he says he still keeps in close contact with. 

“Some of these guys I considered like brothers to me,” Sullinger said. “IT (Isaiah Thomas), Jae Crowder to name a few. So I watch from a distance, I support from a distance. They’re playing well.”

In addition to his former teammates, the lines of communication remained open between him and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as well. 

Stevens said the two exchanged text messages right before he had foot surgery, and afterwards. 

“Obviously, everyone here wishes a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back on the court soon,” Stevens said. 

Sullinger has been an effective player during his time in the NBA, with career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

But this will be the third time in his five NBA seasons that he will miss a significant amount of time on the court due to an injury or recovering from an injury. 

Stevens acknowledged that he feels for Sullinger who once again has to go through rehabilitation in order to get back on the floor.

“I like Jared a lot,” Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s a really smart guy. Got a lot of respect for him and it stinks that he’s got to go through that but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.”

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics have no answer for Lowry

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics have no answer for Lowry

BOSTON — For most of Friday night’s game, the Boston Celtics played the kind of game that on most nights would result in a victory. 

But Toronto is one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference with talent, depth and an undeniable desire to win at all costs. 

One strong quarter by the Raptors was just enough to put away the Celtics, 101-94. 

And it came in the third when Toronto outscored Boston 33-18 which turned out to be the only quarter the Raptors (16-7) outscored the Celtics. 

“They got hot; made some tough shots,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “The tough shots kind of hurt us.”

The tough shots and a flawless 8-for-8 performance from the free throw line. 

While it’s a 48-minute game, there was no getting around the fact that it was Toronto’s dominance in the third that ultimately determined the game’s outcome. 

“If you look at it from our perspective it’s what went wrong; if you look at it from theirs, they ratcheted up the defense quite a bit (in the third quarter),” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “It was hard for us to break their … break their wall of defense.”

In the third quarter, Boston shot just 27.8 percent from the field, 30 percent (3-for-10) on 3’s and a woeful 5-for-10 from the free throw line. 

“We started making everything difficult for them and not letting them get that easy in and try to take advantage of that,” said Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday night’s game.

 

STARS

Kyle Lowry

The Celtics had no answer for the All-Star point guard who led all players with 34 points, 21 of which came in the second half. 

Avery Bradley

Bradley was the lone Celtics starter who seemed to be in a good shooting flow, tallying 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting which included five made 3’s. 

DeMar DeRozan

The Celtics made him work a lot harder than he usually does to score, but he still managed to tally 24 points – just four points below his season average – on 9-for-25 shooting.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

He made a few more turnovers than usual, but Horford still put together a relatively balanced performance. He had 19 points and seven rebounds with six assists and a blocked shot. 

Norman Powell

The X-factor in Friday’s outcome had to be Powell. A 5.8 points per game scorer this season, Powell had 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting along with a game-high five steals. 

 

DUDS

Jae Crowder

With Isaiah Thomas (right groin) out, the Celtics really needed its core starters to step up and have a productive night offensively. Crowder just didn’t have it going on Friday, scoring just seven points on 2-for-11 shooting which included a number of 3s that rimmed in and out on him.