The Celtics came out of the half up 58-43. After close to 2 minutes of scoreless ball Paul Pierce put the C’s up 17 with a driving lay up. Marvin Williams responded with a jumper. That was followed by a steal and a Mike Bibby 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 12. On the opposite end Rajon Rondo missed a lay up but the Hawks could not capitalize due to a Marvin Williams travel. Unfortunately Joe Johnson picked off a lazy Pierce lob, drove the distance and earned a trip to the line where he connected on both freebies. Ray Allen and Marvin Williams traded missed jumpers before KG missed a fall away from close range. Rondo stole the rebound, made the curious decision to dribble the shot clock down to 6 and missed a floater in the paint. At this point Tommy Heinsohn openly called for a timeout. After another Hawks turnover Doc Rivers agreed.
Coming out of the timeout the Celtics’ lead was down to 10 (60-50) with 7:30 to go in the third. Boston’s offense was once again void of ball movement, missed shots from close range were piling up and I was thinking about the last two games. I’d lost my confidence in the C’s. All of the sudden the squad that won 66 regular season games, swept the Texas triangle and never got blown out seemed incredibly vulnerable. Boston only added to my concern by turning the ball over right out of the timeout. Josh Smith responded with a Kevin McHale like up and under for a lay up. Meanwhile, Smith’s old high school teammate (Rondo) missed a lay up on the other end. Al Horford capitalized with a jumper to pull the Hawks within 6 (60-54) with 6:15 to play in the third quarter. At this point the crowd was far from silent. Rather there was a mixture of artificial noise and a tentative "Let’s Go Celtics" chant. I for one was panicking in a big way. Yet Rondo walked the ball down the court and immediately threw it down low to KG. He backed down Smith, turned away from a double and nailed a HUGE basket. On the heels of that the C’s responded with a phenomenal defensive possession that ended with an air ball from Smith. Back on offense KG blew by Smith and found Ray Allen in the corner for a three pointer and an 11-point lead. From there on things snowballed out of control for Atlanta. Smith missed yet another shot and Pierce drove for a lay up. Horford and Kendrick Perkins traded dunks before another phenomenal defensive possession that included KG sending Josh Childress’ shot into the stands and the Hawks settling for a jumper by Horford well beyond his range. Needless to say it did not go down. Ray Allen hit yet another 3, which gave Boston a 16-point lead (72-56) with 3:30 to play in the third. From there the C’s eventually pulled away to a 25 point victory. Not even a couple of questionable blocking fouls on Pierce, particularly the second one, and a heated exchange between KG and Johnson that led to a technical foul for each could derail the Celtics.
It’s funny that I wrote a post chronicling a difficult stretch for Garnett in game 4 when he finished that contest with 20 points, 9 rebounds and a ridiculous 6 steals. Funny ironic. Not funny haha. Flash forward to game 5 and KG finished with yet another solid stat line – 20 points, 7 boards, 1 assist, 3 blocks and only 1 turnover. However, this time around Ray Allen hit some timely three pointers and Pierce pulled off a spirit breaking/"how the hell did he make that lay up?" three point play. Still there is no denying that KG’s bucket to push the lead back to 8 was a turning point. Boston needed someone to step up and Garnett did. And yet on the next possession he continued to play his game by making the right pass to an open Ray Allen for one of those aforementioned timely three pointers. KG is what he is – a phenomenal athlete, defender and team player with a reputation as one of, if not the, greatest second bananas of all time. Maybe I’m a biased homer. But I envision a scenario where he kills that perception once and for all.