Bass erupts for 27 points in Celtic rout
An extra day of rest and a Brandon Bass breakout were all the Celtics needed to regain their advantage in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Celtics responded to a Game 4 wakeup call by routing the Philadelphia 76ers in the second half in taking a 101-85 Game 5 victory Monday night at TD Garden.
Boston has a 3-2 series edge entering Game 6 in Philadelphia Wednesday night.
Bass, averaging 10.1 points in the series before Monday night, scored 18 of his 27 points in the third quarter as the Celtics went on 10-0 and 12-4 runs to take control of the contest.
But first-half signs did not point to a double-digit margin of victory, and the Celtics did not regain the lead for good until late in the third quarter.
“We weren’t right in the first half,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “You could just feel it. We just . . . it was funny, you could see all our guys, they were looking at each other every time someone made a shot.
“I don’t want to get corny, but it was like the Celtic spirit, it wasn’t there. I talked about it a couple times in timeouts. And I just told our coaches we’ve just got to somehow get through this half and just see if we can just gather them back.’’
There might have been carryover effects from the Celtics’ Game 4 collapse, when they were overwhelmed in the second half of a 92-83 defeat.
But this time, the Celtics turned the tables on the Sixers, outscoring them, 54-35, in the second half.
“A malaise came over us in the first half,’’ said guard Ray Allen, who started in place of Avery Bradley (shoulder). “We didn’t have anything going, we weren’t in synch. In the third quarter, we turned the volume up.
“If we start that way in Game 6, then we’ll put ourselves in a good situation.’’
The Sixers led, 50-47, at halftime and Bass had scored 5 points.
But in the third quarter, Bass went 6 for 7 from the field and 6 for 6 from the foul line, finding the range on elbow jumpers, and also aggressively going inside, dunking three times in the quarter.
“They made all the 50-50 plays, they got some loose balls, they made shots,’’ guard Rajon Rondo said of the Sixers’ first-half performance. “They were shooting over 55 percent from the field, so any time a team is shooting that high a percentage and you’re only down 3, that’s pretty good. So the second half, we turned it up a little bit, got some stops, and opened up the lead.’’
The Sixers had moved within 65-64 on a Lavoy Allen 15-footer with 3:12 remaining in the quarter. But the Celtics pulled away with a 10-2 run over the final 2:58, then scored the first 6 points of the final quarter.
Bass dunked off a Rondo (13 points, 14 assists) feed and hit two free throws, then Greg Stiemsma dunked off another Rondo assist to make it 71-64 with 1:14 left in the quarter. After another Lavoy Allen 15-footer, Bass hit from the top of the key, his sixth successive field goal. Bass finally missed from 12 feet, Mickael Pietrus tapping the rebound to Paul Pierce, who wound down the clock to 2.6 seconds before increasing the advantage to 75-66.
Kevin Garnett (20 points) scored 1:12 into the final quarter, and Bass and Pierce each hit two free throws. Lavoy Allen scored out of a timeout, then Rondo’s 3-point play made it 84-68 with 7:38 left.
After two Elton Brand free throws, Bass rebounded a Garnett miss, Rondo’s banker restoring the 16-point advantage. The Celtics extended the lead, Pietrus’s free throw and a Rondo layup answering a Brand follow for an 89-72 advantage with 5:55 left.
Bass gave the Celtics a 96-76 lead with 3:02 remaining, the Celtics going to the bench soon after. Bass was the last starter to depart, with 2:01 to go.
“We turned it up, defensively,’’ Rondo said. “We just tried to dig deep, keep believing in each other - from the coaching staff to the bench players, to the guys on the court, and it transitioned over to the court and we found a way to get stops continuously and we built the lead.
“We’re doing it defensively. We’re playing better at home, so we’ve got to go to Philly and try to get the win. It’s tough. Every game is tough in the playoffs.’’