Boston Celtics

Celtics-Sixers game 5: What we saw


Celtics-Sixers game 5: What we saw

BOSTON There were times when Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers found himself with the option playing a hunch.

Unlike the team's Game 4 loss, Rivers seemingly hit all the right buttons, made all the right calls in Game Five as the Celtics rallied in the second half for a 101-85 victory. Boston now leads the best-of-seven series with Philadelphia 3-2, with a chance to close out the series and move on to the Eastern Conference finals.

Boston tried to keep things relatively the same in Game 5, but one adjustment Rivers was looking to make had to do with how the Celtics ended quarters.

This was a major problem for Boston in their Game 4 loss, one that Rivers was determined to rectify on Monday night.

"We didn't like the way we ended quarters the other night, so we made the change where we put Paul (Pierce) back on the floor with Kevin (Garnett)," Rivers said. "In the other games, we had Ray (Allen) on the floor with Kevin, so we just thought it gave us two pretty good offensive options with whoever else we had on the floor."

Pairing the two together certainly worked well for the Celtics, with Pierce and Garnett having a plusminus ratio of plus-12 and plus-17, respectively.

In addition, Rivers also gave Brandon Bass an opportunity to play in the fourth quarter which is when Bass scored four of his playoff-career high 27 points.

"I wasn't really frustrated. I trust Doc (Rivers) and his coaching ability. For me, I just stayed ready," Bass said.

Being ready for the moment was indeed a key to Boston's Game 5 win, with several players stepping up and making the most of their opportunity to play a major role in the game's outcome. Here are some other keys identified earlier, and how they actually played out in Boston's Game 5 win that puts them just one win away from the Eastern Conference finals.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Sixers have wisely challenged Avery Bradley to become more a scorer, well aware that his shoulder injury has significantly impacted his ability to score. Bradley, whose status for Game 5 is up in the air, will have to continue being a difference-maker with his defense.

WHAT WE SAW: Bradley was a last-minute scratch because of the shoulder. He is expected to travel with the team to Philadelphia for Game 6, but it remains to be seen if the 6-foot-2 guard will actually return to the floor. If he doesn't play, look for the Celtics to once again start Ray Allen. On Friday, Allen had five points on 2-for-7 shooting. It was Allen's first start since April 4 against San Antonio.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Celtics bench vs. Thaddeus Young and Lavoy Allen: Boston's second unit has had little to no impact in this series, while the Sixers bench - namely Young and Allen - have been arguably the two biggest reasons this series is tied at two games apiece. Young's ability to score and Allen's defense on Kevin Garnett have paid huge dividends for the Sixers thus far. Boston's backups have to contribute more than they have in order to lessen the impact of Philadelphia's dynamic backup duo.
WHAT WE SAW: Score one for the Green Team's second unit, led by Greg Stiemsma's playoff career-high 10 points. Although Philadelphia's bench still outscored Boston, 27-20, the fact that it was that close was a good thing for a C's team that's still heavily reliant on scoring to come from their starters.

PLAYER TO WATCH: It has to be Kevin Garnett. The most dominant figure in this series through the first three games, the Sixers limited Garnett to just nine points while he connected on just 25 percent (3-for-12 shooting) of his shots in Game 4 - the worst shooting percentage Garnett has had as a member of the Celtics in a playoff game. You can expect the C'sa to use multiple sets offensively to try and get Garnett the ball deeper in the lane where he has been next to unstoppable in this series.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett was much more aggressive and forceful offensively, which led to him spending more time on the line - he had five free throw attempts - than any player on the Sixers roster. He finished with 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting, with six rebounds and two steals.

STAT TO TRACK: Rebounding is always going to be a challenge for the Celtics, but a bigger concern for them has to be limiting their turnovers. In their two playoff wins over Philadelphia, Boston has averaged 10 turnovers that led to 10.5 points for the Sixers. In the two losses, the turnover numbers rise to 18 per game and led to 12.5 points for Philadelphia.

WHAT WE SAW: Philadelphia won this battle 37-31, but the Sixers weren't able to put the Celtics away as well as they would have liked when it came to rebounding. The game turned in the Celtics' favor in the third quarter, and the C's ability to rebound was one of the reasons why. Boston actually out-rebounded Philadelphia 8-7 in the third quarter, which helps explain how when you combine that with the C's shooting 61.1 percent from the field, figuring out how they dominated the third quarter isn't all that complicated.

Report: Thomas won't need hip surgery


Report: Thomas won't need hip surgery

Danny Ainge told the Boston Globe Wednesday that Isaiah Thomas will not need surgery on his right hip after being hampered late in the postseason. 

Thomas originally suffered the injury March 15 against the Timberwolves and missed two games before reaggravating it in Game 6 of the second round against the Wizards. He played the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals but was shut down for the final three. 

“Isaiah is making good progress,” Ainge told the Globe. “He’s out on the court; he’s shooting. He’s full-speed ahead on the stationary bike and working in the swimming pool. He’s progressing nicely.”

The Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach wrote that the team waited for swelling to go down before determining whether surgery would be needed, and that “barring any further setbacks,” he will not. 

Thomas is coming off a career year in which he averaged 28.9 points a game. He is entering the final year of his contract.