Five points on a B.I.G. Game 5

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Five points on a B.I.G. Game 5

Today would have been The Notorious B.I.G.s 40th birthday a fact that hit me with a range of emotions when I came across it this morning.

Most of these emotions revolved around two harsh reminders:

1. How long hes been gone: 15 years now.

2. How young he was when died: That he was and still should be the same age as Shaq. Only one year older than the Fab Five. Less than four years older than Kevin Garnett.

On so many levels, its hard to imagine what it would be like if Biggie was still around today (assuming he's not actually off getting high and getting on the beach).

On so many others, its clear that he never planned to be around.

Either way, as small birthday tribute, heres a quick look at tonights Game 5, with five Notorious talking points.

Things Done Changed

Or have they?

Despite all thats happened in the five days and 96 minutes of basketball since the Celtics last graced the Garden, this series looks very similar to the way it did after Game 2. There've been no major injuries, no extenuating circumstances, no real shifts in momentum andor overall confidence.

The biggest development is undoubtedly the emergence of Lavoy Allen and the Born Again Thaddeus Young, as the pair now gives Doug Collins the luxury of a larger, more athletic line-up (A. Sherrod Blakely breaks it down here) that presents a wrinkle that hadn't previously concerned the Celtics.

But as Doc Rivers said at yesterday's practice: "In the fourth game, our small lineup hurt us. In Games 1, 2 and 3 the small lineup, defensively, changed the game."

And as I'll say now: "It's one thing for Allen and Young to have a game-changing performance at home. Let's see them do it on the road before calling that line-up a series altering development."

Bottom line: The Celtics are still the better team in this series. They still have home court advantage. Sure, there are plenty of ways in which they can lose, but there will be no excuses if they do.

Everyday Struggle

Well never know exactly how much pain Avery Bradley's in right now, or has been for the better part of these playoffs. All we know is that he's tough as hell, and what he's lacked in production, he's made up for in respect and admiration earned from coaches, teammates and hundreds of thousands of fans.

But in terms of tonight, what can we expect?

Well, Game 4 marked the third time in these playoffs that Bradley's shoulder popped out.

The first time was Game 3 against Atlanta. In Game 4, he only played 19 minutes, and scored only six points on 2-7 shooting (1-5 from three).

The next time was Game 2 against Philly. In Game 3, he only played 20 minutes and scored zero points on 0-2 shooting (0-1 from three).

Not so great. Then again, Game 4 against Atlanta and Game 3 against Philly were far and away the Celtics best two performances of the playoffs. On both nights, they took an early lead and Bradley was free to rest. Perhaps more importantly, those two games prove that the C's are able to click and play some of their best basketball without Bradley heavily involved.

Moving forward, I think all we can do is look at anything Bradley brings to the table as a bonus, and hope that 1) Ray can crank the energy back up (at least to what it was against Atlanta). 2) Mickael Pietrus can convince his Frenchy Godmother to give him a few more nights as the Good Mickael Pietrus before turning him back into a streaky pumpkin.

Whats Beef?

The NBA playoffs are supposed to be nasty. But to this point, the CelticsSixers series has been relatively timid.

We had Garnett's missed elbow in Game 4 (which was nothing), followed by Elton Brand raking him across the face. We had Evan Turner clapping in Paul Pierce's face as the captain frustratingly pushed him away. We've had a fair amount of pushing and shoving, and a few double techs (Bill Kennedy factor). But in general, the on-court feistiness has been at a playoff minimum.

As a fan, four games into a series, there are typically at least two or three guys that you've grown to despise; whose mere existence drives you insane. Is there anyone on Philadelphia that has you feeling like that? Not really, right?

And that's a credit to Doug Collins. He's kept his team level-headed and focused. He knows that if they lose their cool, that's not all they'll lose. They'll be playing right into the Celtics trap.

But thus far, Philly's handled it perfectly. They've stayed respectful, without losing confidence, and I think that's one of the major reasons they come back to Boston tied at 2.

But tonight will be a serious test. Tonight, emotions will be higher than any point in the series. Any point in the season. For some of these guys, higher than at any point in their careers. Meanwhile, the C's have been here before, and know what it takes.

By the end of this game, Philly will know what beef is. How they handle it may very well determine their fate.

Would You Die For Me
"Man, I would die out here if I had to, real talk."

That was Kevin Garnett, a few weeks back during an interview with WEEI, and while Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge surely appreciate the dedication, I'm positive that they'd much rather Garnett just go out there and return to the form that's carried the C's for the better part of these playoffs.

At this point, we've stopped trying to figure when and where the good KG will show up. It's a waste of time. There's no rhyme or reason. No good explanation for where this ridiculous resurgence came from, and even less of one for why it randomly disappears.

All we know is that the Celtics need THAT Garnett to win. There have been times during the past five years when the C's have known KG wasn't at his best, and have found ways to work with and around him. But right now, with Pierce and Allen at less than 100, and the rest of the rotation no where near as consistent as they need to be, the Celtics need the dominant KG. Tonight, and always.

Skys the Limit

If the Celtics lose this series, Game 4 will be remembered as the one that got away, but their performance in Game 3 will be most be the most haunting. As I've written before, it was on that night that this team showed exactly how good they can be; when they raised the ceiling on all our expectations.

Whether or not they show us that level of dominance again remains to be seen, but we know it's in there. At this point, that knowledge serves as a point of optimism and inspiration. If they fall short, it's a nightmare.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Blakely: Despite their spot in East, consistency remains a problem for Celtics

Blakely: Despite their spot in East, consistency remains a problem for Celtics

BOSTON –  Devin Booker went on a scoring binge for the ages against the Boston Celtics on Friday night, the likes of which won’t be seen anytime soon at the TD Garden.

The performance was so great, even the most die-hard Green Teamers had to give the 20-year-old props for dropping 70 points – 70 points! – on the Celtics who still wound up winning, 130-120.

And as Booker continued to pour on the points and the Celtics’ double-digit lead remained just that, a double-digit lead, the narrative of what we witnessed was a lot deeper than just some young kid getting hot.

The Suns are trying lose as many games as they can, while throwing youngsters out there like Booker to play major minutes and predictably make their share of mistakes with the goal being to learn from those miscues and get better.

But the true lesson in what went down Friday night had little to do with Booker’s big night or some Celtics being a little salty about it afterwards.

Lost in all of the hoopla surrounding Booker’s big night was the repeated revelation by Celtics head coach Brad Stevens after the game about his team’s play and their record not being on one accord.

“That’s why, like I’ve said before, I’m surprised at where we are record-wise because we’ve got to play at a higher level for 48 minutes,” Stevens said. “We just don’t do it.”

And Booker’s historic night is the latest example to illustrate Stevens’ point.

Not having Avery Bradley (sickness) was a factor, obviously.

But that’s no excuse for the way they allowed Booker to do anything and everything he wanted to on the floor, allowing a really good shooter to gain confidence to the point where there was literally nothing the Celtics could do to cool him off.

The Celtics looked casual for three-plus quarters defensively against the Suns and still managed to win which says more about Phoenix and its desire to lose as much as possible, than Boston’s ability to find success and overcome a player with a hot hand.

It was another case of Boston getting away from what works while settling into what felt good and easy.

Most of the guys Phoenix played on Friday weren’t players you would consider big-time scoring threats, so the Celtics defensively didn’t play with a defensive edge other than the first six minutes of the game.

In that span, Phoenix didn’t make a single shot from the field while Boston bolted out to a 16-3 lead.

From there, the Celtics didn’t play with the same sense of urgency.

Fortunately for them, they were playing a team that didn’t want to win.

That’s not going to be the case in these remaining games, a mixture of playoff-bound clubs, wannabe playoff-bound crews and a few others with rosters full of players fighting to stay in the league who will use these remaining games essentially as an audition for next season.

If Boston plays like this in any of their remaining games, they’ll most likely lose.

And that’s why Brad Stevens continues to harp on this team not being as good as their record.

Because when you’re in the same class record-wise with teams like Golden State, San Antonio, Cleveland and Houston, there’s a certain expectation of consistency you should play with most nights.

The Warriors and Rockets have explosive scorers; the Spurs play elite-level defense most nights and the Cavs have LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Those factors form the basis of their consistency in terms of winning and overall play.

But the Celtics are very much a wild and unpredictable bunch, able to knock off Cleveland and Golden State, but get blasted by Denver and lose to Philadelphia.

If inconsistent play is a hallmark of this team, their potential for having a great season will be remembered as just that, potential.

Because games like the one they played on Friday against Phoenix on more nights than not, will result in a loss which could put the Celtics very much in the crosshairs for an early playoff exit.

Five takeaways: Booker's 70 puts focus on C's lack of D

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Five takeaways: Booker's 70 puts focus on C's lack of D

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