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Five thoughts from Game 5 of Celtics-Lakers

Posted by Bill Koch on June 15, 2010

Paul Pierce

What better way to prepare for a chance to clinch the NBA Finals than thinking about how the Boston Celtics arrived at this point in the first place?

Boston’s 92-86 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night at The Fake Garden put the Celtics one victory from Banner 18, their second title in three years and eternal damnation of Kobe Bryant’s place in NBA history. Think back to that night while you watch the action unfold in Game 6 with these thoughts in mind:

— Wedding season robbed me of the chance to view this game live, but all you need to know is how I felt when I heard Boston was up by 10 points midway through the fourth quarter. I didn’t feel any urge to check and see if the Celtics would hang on down the stretch – I already knew that they would. Boston’s ability to close out games with the lead and Los Angeles’ toothless displays in the fourth quarter have defined this series.

— Rajon Rondo is one bad little dude, and it has nothing to do with how well he’s played this postseason. Introducing Ron Artest to the basket stanchion in the second quarter after his hard foul on Kevin Garnett and drawing a technical foul was the perfect incident to highlight what sets these two teams apart. Here’s Rondo, the smallest player on the court for the Celtics, defending his teammates and sending Artest, the Queens-bred alleged tough guy who was brought in during the offseason to give Los Angeles some grit, to the ground with one well-timed shove. Rondo’s message was clear – ‘F*** you, Ron, and f*** your teammates while you’re at it. We’re in charge here.’ It’s that same attitude that carried the Celtics to victory over the softer Lakers in the 2008 Finals.

— Boston scored 46 points in the paint on its way to shooting 56 percent in Game 5, a sure sign that the Lakers lacked both the will and the skill to clamp down on the defensive end. Los Angeles relied too much on Kobe Bryant at the offensive end while the Celtics dished out 21 assists on 40 field goals. It’s that team approach that clinched Banner 17 for Boston and we’ve seen it throughout this series as well.

— Paul Pierce was overdue to have a big game this series, and he delivered on Sunday night. The Truth poured in a team-high 27 points and saved the day late in the fourth quarter with a difficult catch on an inbounds play that led to Rondo’s clinching layup. Pierce led four Boston players in double figures – the Lakers had just two in Bryant and Pau Gasol.

— Let’s get back to Bryant to wrap this up. He scored 19 points in the third quarter on his way to a game-high 38. He sunk 3-pointers, fadeaways and attacked the rim. He looked like Michael Jordan did when the NBA’s greatest player poured in 63 in the old Boston Garden for the Chicago Bulls in a 1986 playoff game. Jordan and Bryant both had another thing in common in those two performances – they lost, and it’s not a coincidence. Bryant had just three rebounds and four assists in Game 5, finished at minus-6 in his 44 minutes and allowed the three players that he guarded (Rondo, Pierce and Ray Allen) to shoot 26-for-43 from the field. A word of advice, Kobe – look in the mirror next time when you ask for help on the defensive end. Losing this series will bring Bryant’s record in The Finals without Shaquille O’Neal to 1-3, placing a permanent dent in the claims that he’s a top-5 or top-10 player in league history.


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