Game 5s that aren’t elimination games are weird for me. It’s hard to know how to feel. Due to that, along with the rest of these contests’ oddities and peccadilloes, I wasn’t about to make any predictions regarding what SB Nation’s Paul Flannery called “The Series Where Nothing Makes Sense.” The Boston Celtics were once again tested by the Chicago Bulls, but this time responded in kind to take a 3-2 lead in this first-round series.
THE GAME FLOW
Boston didn’t come out to the firebreathing start that distinguished Games 3 and 4, missing early and often. While Chicago didn’t go as hard as they had in Games 1 and 2, they got enough ahead off a few smart plays and dumb Cs turnovers that panic would be more than understandable. Boston’s inability to buy a shot in the first 7 minutes of play (2-12 from the field overall and no made threes) didn’t help matters.
Fortunately, Chicago’s flirtation with the competence that had eluded them the past two contests didn’t last long. Avery Bradley led the scoring charge for Boston when the squad’s offense was off, and kept it up as things got back to normal. (Also, quite satisfyingly, Marcus Smart interrupted the progress of a Jimmy Butler drive and mean-mugged a bit to show that he was indeed About That Life. Google life stories of Smart. He has most assuredly been About That Life.) Kelly Olynyk, who has been fairly solid if not massively productive for much of this series, came out blazing in the 2nd–11 points! 3 rebounds, including one of his own OREBs! Made threes! Barking at Anthony Morrow, whom I was reminded, is A Person Who Exists in the NBA! (I’d forgotten, and so had you. No, stop lying.)
Butler, Dwyane Wade and the Bulls weren’t quite ready to roll over. Robin Lopez continued his barrage on the glass as the team balanced putrid range shooting with excellent work down low to reach 53 percent on FGs. Despite this and in defiance of disappointing 42 percent shooting, Bradley’s 17 points, Olynyk’s Woody Harrelson impressions and Chicago’s 10 turnovers allowed Boston to hold on to a slim 52-50 lead at the half.
Going into the 3rd, Chicago did their level best to move in on Boston’s small margin of victory. Wade pulled his predictable postseason shit: a.k.a. “I can inexplicably shoot 3s in the playoffs despite not hitting them at all in the regular season, WHICH IS IN NO WAY SUSPICIOUS OF ANY UNTOWARD BEHAVIOR AT ALL, CERTAINLY NOT…SUPPLEMENTS, RIGHT?” (He was left for dead after 2.5 rounds of the 2014 playoffs, his knees having virtually eroded, and had a “comeback season” in 2016. Yeah. Sure.) And in tonight’s role as “generally mediocre roleplayer who inexplicably kills the Cs,” Isaiah Canaan stepped up to fill shoes previously occupied by Paul Zipser and Bobby Portis.
Boston typically found answers to Chicago’s various mini-runs, even though Wade stayed productive throughout most of the contest and Canaan’s performance was probably the most consistent reserve that Chi-city coach Fred Hoiberg has rolled out. Things got hairy near the end of Q3 as Nikola Mirotic, Zipser and Butler made a series of jumpers and capitalized off the Cs game-long difficulties with 3-point shooting, taking a quick 81-79 lead.
It wouldn’t last very long. Before 9 minutes of the frame elapsed, the Celtics had gone on a 25-8 tear, led by Isaiah’s drives and trips to the stripe, Al Horford’s…everything (threes, post buckets, free throws, rebounds, defense, passes out of the post, mental gamesmanship that straight up broke Lopez’s goddamned brain) and Avery’s determination to make this a podium game. When the Bulls’ ball control disappeared, it did so with great calamity, and the team suddenly resembled the infighting- and drama-choked black hole of misery that launched approximately 36,000 #hotsportstakes this past season. They remained that way. The game was never close enough for the Celtics to coast, but with all the weirdness this series has contained I wouldn’t want any luck being pushed. It got iced in the last 2.5 minutes with a Horford dunk and stupid-easy Crowder layup, with only formality possessions following, en route to a 108-97 Boston win.
Cs couldn’t hit the big side of barn tonight for the majority of the game–42 percent overall from the field and a Pennywise-levels-of-horrific 22 percent from three. I’m not particularly worried about that happening again, because of all the Celtics’ inconsistencies that’s not among them, but still never fun. Also: Jae Crowder WYD? He’s been offensively MIA most of this series.
Say something about Horford’s salary again. C’mooooonnnn. No? Nothing? SIT DOWN, ROBIN LOPEZ, BE HUMBLE.
Isaiah’s bad shooting shouldn’t be ignored–1 from 9 on threes; yikes–but he began to realize it wasn’t falling and adjusted accordingly with drives and Eurosteps. This one still happened, though.
Avery Bradley: Taking the most shots and making the most (11-19 on FGs including 2 threes) for 24 points doesn’t do justice to his full impact on this game. His unflappable defense made life hell for Butler, and only Horford (7) and Crowder (8) rebounded more than his 6 boards.
Al Horford: This Horford performance epitomizes Boston fans’ best hopes for the veteran big man, excelling at every facet of the game and playing Robin Sideshow Bob Lopez off the bloody floor. 21-7-9 plus a steal and only one turnover.