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

Paul George takes to Twitter to explain moving truck

Paul George takes to Twitter to explain moving truck

The internet went crazy on Friday when a fan posted an image of what appeared to be moving trucks outside of Paul George’s house.

While the Pacers star could eventually be on the move this summer via trade, he took to Twitter to explain why the trucks don't necessarily mean he's moving right now. 

The Celtics held trade talks for George on during the NBA Draft, but could not complete a deal.

MORE: 

According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Cavaliers, Pacers and Nuggets have reportedly discussed a three-way deal that would send Paul George to Cleveland and Kevin Love to Denver.

The deal is similar to the one Brian Scalabrine proposed during draft night that involved the Celtics, Cavaliers and Pacers.

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

BOSTON – With his new head coach Brad Stevens and Boston Celtics ownership and front office officials surrounding him, Jayson Tatum’s mind seemed to be somewhere else briefly.

He looked ahead, way, way ahead to the other end of the Celtics’ practice court where there were banners, lots of banners, raised high above all else in the gym.

This wasn’t just a passing glance, either.

TATUM SPEAKS

It was clear that the newest Celtic was in deep thought as he stared at the 17 banners and the one left blank, a steady reminder of what this franchise is about, past and present.

Yes, it’s a lot to soak in for anyone let alone a 19-year-old kid whose career with the Celtics can be timed on a stopwatch.

But the soft-spoken 6-foot-9 forward has been here long enough to understand that success around here is about more than playing well; it’s playing to win a championship.

And that in many ways separates Tatum from his teenage brethren who made up the majority of Thursday night’s NBA draft which included an NBA-record 17 players taken in the first round who like Tatum, were just one year removed from high school.

All come into the NBA with lots to learn, as well as goals and aspirations for this upcoming NBA season.

During an interview with CSN on Friday, I asked Tatum about what in his mind would make for a successful season.

And his answer initially was to ask me a question, “Individual or team?”

So I replied, either one.

“To get back to where they were last year and get over that hump,” he said. “Championships, chasing that number 18, that would be the ultimate success for me.”

That served as a reminder as to why despite having a handful of players under consideration at No. 3, the Celtics did the right thing in selecting Tatum.

His words may seem like the politically correct response, but take a look at the kid’s basketball resume and you’ll quickly see he is indeed about winning and doing so in whatever way possible.

After missing his first eight games at Duke with a foot injury, Tatum gradually improved as the season progressed and wound up on the all-rookie team as well as being named to the All-ACC third team.

Once the Blue Devils got to the ACC Tournament, Tatum became a different, better, more dominant player.

Indeed, Tatum led the Blue Devils to their first ACC championship since 2011 and did so in historic fashion as the Blue Devils became the first ACC school to win the conference tournament with four wins in four days.

Late in the title game against Notre Dame, Tatum put together a sequence of plays that speaks to why the Celtics were seriously considering taking him with the number one overall pick had they not been able to trade it for the No. 3 and a future first-round pick.

With the scored tied at 65, Tatum made a free throw that put Duke ahead.

Moments later, he blocked a shot and finished off the play with a lay-up that gave Duke a three-point lead.

After a Notre Dame basket, Tatum connected with a teammate for a 3-pointer that pushed Duke’s lead to four points with around a minute to play.

And then there was the 3-point play Tatum converted after getting fouled on a dunk which secured a 76-69 Duke win over the Fighting Irish.

Free throws. Blocks. Getting out in transition. Passing.

When his team needed him most, he gave whatever was required at that moment which is one of the intangibles that makes Boston feel good about his future.

“He does whatever he has to do to help you win,” said an NBA scout who said he has seen Tatum play “at least a dozen times.”

He added, “Like all of these kids coming into the league now, he has some things he has to get better at, get more consistent with. But he makes winning plays, whether it’s for himself or others. He’s a lot more unselfish a player than he’s given credit for being.”

And he’s 19 years old, which is both a blessing and a burden when you’re an NBA team executive charged with committing at least two years and millions of dollars into a young man.

Part of the process when making a draft choice, especially when it’s one of the top picks, is character evaluation.

Of the players at or near the top of the draft board, multiple league executives contacted by CSNNE.com in the past couple of weeks said this was an area where Tatum stood out in comparison to all of the top prospects.

“He’s the kind of young man you’d love whether he was a basketball player or not,” one Western Conference executive told CSNNE.com. “If you’re ranking guys on character alone in this draft, he’s your number one pick.”

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, acknowledged the challenge of differentiating between miscues made by a teenager as being problems of concern going forward, or whether that’s a teenager making the kind of bad/questionable decisions most teens make.

“It’s dangerous to play too much into a 19-year-old kid’s behavior,” Ainge told CSN’s A. Sherrod Blakely and Kyle Draper on Friday. “But I think that, with all the things we do, from physical, emotional, mental, character, work ethic and their skills … it’s just really hard at 19. You hate to just be labeled what you are at 18.”

But in regards to Tatum specifically, Ainge added, “Jayson is a high character guy. We know he will get better because of his character and his work ethic.”

Said Tatum: “It’s a great feeling. Being part of a great organization like the Celtics; think of all the great players of the past and you can follow in their footsteps.”

And in doing so, blaze a trail of his own in the pursuit of Banner 18.