All eyes have glaringly turned to this series after the Hawks seemingly came out of nowhere to knot things up at 2. Many fans and analysts around the country started questioning this Celtics team. Even though they still had the edge with the home court advantage, people were talking as if they had lost the series already. This was a pivotal game 5 and one that the Celts answered many questions with, as they stepped things up in this game and played like the team people have been used to seeing all season long.
Boston broke out the gate with a solid first quarter effort by taking early control 27-19 going into the second frame. In the second, Boston seemed like it wanted to pull away, but refs whistles aided Atlanta's efforts as the Hawks kept getting freebie's from the line to keep the game within striking distance. The foul calls against Boston was so one-sided for much of the game and Atlanta took advantage by sinking their free throws. The 2nd period featured a flagrant foul of Al Horford pulling down KG in the paint with the Celts up by 10. KG sank his two free throws and got the ball back. What happened next was one of the plays of the game even though it happened so early. With Boston possession, KG drove the lane and missed a tough layup with the ball popping up and seemingly right to two Atlanta players. Big Baby, Glen Davis who has seen a decline in his normal minutes in these playoffs, made the play of the half, if not the game as he lunged for the ball and tipped it out towards a Celtic player towards half-court. A quick pass to Ray Allen parked at the 3-point line and the Gahden erupted as Sweet Baby Ray drained the 3 to give the Celts their largest lead of the game at that point being 15. That first half ended with that deficit intact and the score 58-43.
The Celts still had much work to do to put these Hawks down. As evidence from the last two games, Boston knew Atlanta was not going away as they had played two strong second half's against the Celts in Atlanta. The third period began and Boston still looked on its game early pushing the lead up to 17 at one point. But as expected, the Hawks did make their run and got the lead down to 6 to make things very interesting again and have Celtics nation squirming in their seats. However the Celtics then rose up and responded with a run themselves and finished the 3rd with a flourish and built the lead back up to 17 to end the quarter 81-64.
One more period to go and being up 17 was not enough to relax against these Hawks for the next 12 minutes. The Celtics needed to put the hammer down and stay aggressive against this team and they did just that. The officials were still doing their best to keep Atlanta in the game by sending them to the line with so many calls where a whistle was never needed. The free throw advantage for the Hawks was insane at one point being 25-10. But the Celtics battled and really were just red-hot from the field all night. Whether it was the starters or the guys off the bench. From the starting unit, Pierce led scorers with 22, Garnett had 20, Ray Allen added 19 including 5-8 from 3, and Rondo had 12 to go along with 7 assists. The bench was also strong this night with Cassell contributing 13, Leon, giving great minutes for a foul-plagued game by Perkins, added 10 points with 7 rebounds, and the ever consistent Posey throwing in a couple of huge 3's, grabbing 5 boards and playing great defense on Joe Johnson when he had him. The Celtics defensive gameplan was much better and intense as well. Every time Joe Johnson got the ball, he was double-teamed and forced to pass. Josh Smith and Bibby came back down to Earth and the last half of the 4th played out as garbage time with the Celts up by 20+.
The final score of 110-85, a 25 point win, was very satisfying and meant all three playoff games in Boston were won by more than 20 points. So a little home-cooking was much needed. The series shifts again back to Atlanta where the C's can close this series out on the road. I expect Boston to finally grab a playoff road win and close this thing out. They know what they need to do to win against this team. It's just the full 48 minutes of defensive effort. They also know they don't want to give the Hawks any sniff of a one-game, winner-take-all Game 7. But it was good to see Boston firing on all cylinders again and taking control of this series again.