In Game 3, Doc Rivers went with a lot of small ball and not enough Brandon Bass, and after the loss said he regretted it.
Well, that worked out well.
Brandon Bass scored 18 of his 27 points in the third quarter — Bass alone outscore the Sixers 18-16 in the third — and that sparked a 101-85 win that gives the Celtics a 3-2 series lead.
“I think it all started for us on the defensive end,” Bass said after the game. “We were able to pick up our defensive intensity and it led to good offense.”
Boston did pick up its intensity in the second half, and now the question that faces the young Sixers is the same one from after Game 3 — can Philly find another gear to match what Boston has brought? They did last time, and a series where momentum has been fickle and fleeting nothing would really surprise.
Boston and Philly played a basically even first half (50-47 Sixers at the half) but that intensity really showed in the third quarter — that’s when it felt like Game 3 and Philly was overwhelmed. Boston pressured hard off the pick-and-roll (it was an aggressive show by Boston’s bigs who then recovered well), they cut off any lane to the hoop and blew up the Sixers go-to play. The result was a scrambling Philly team rushed into bad shots as the shot clock winds down and had six third-quarter turnovers.
Philly shot 32 percent in the fourth quarter as the Celtics defense kept the pressure on. They couldn’t mount a comeback. On the night both Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala were 3-10, and Evan Turner was 5-13.
Philly has to get better shots against that pressure — or get turnovers and transition points of their own — if they plan to force a deicing Game 7.
On the other end, Brandon Bass was just playing smart. He made cuts to open spaces and rolled to the hoop when the defense collapsed on a cutting Rajon Rondo. He attacked and got to the line 10 times. When he got looks at the rim it open up space for him when he caught the ball 16 feet out, and he knocked down the midrange, too.
Rondo played well — 13 points, 14 assists — but this was not Boston’s best offensive game. Kevin Garnett had a big first half and finished with 20. Paul Pierce was the focus of the Sixers defense but had 16.
In Game 6 Boston isn’t going to change who they are or what they do. Philly knows what they are going to get.
We’ll see if they can match it.