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Five thoughts on Celtics-Hawks

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  May 9, 2012 11:43 AM

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Trying to look ahead to Game 6, but inevitably rewinding the final 10 seconds of Game 5 just a few dozen more times ...

rondorajonfinn59.jpg1. You know what the Celtics really needed on that doomed final possession -- I mean, besides a better angle on KG's screen, movement to open space from Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce and Michael Pietrus on the weak side, and sharper instant decision-making from Rajon Rondo?

A line change, hockey-style, to get Ray Allen in for Bradley after Rondo stole the inbounds pass. Well, that, or one more timeout. Your choice.

I'm convinced some of the confusion once Rondo and the Celtics scrambled to set up the final shot came from having Bradley on the court rather than Allen. While Bradley seemed to break out briefly ahead of the pack, once the Celtics were in the scramble of the half-court set, he looked frozen by ... something. It could have been the magnitude of the moment, or maybe it was just the recognition that Rondo was going to try to run a pick and roll with KG.

But in retrospect, it's impossible not think that Allen, who is as worthy a choice as anyone in the league to launch a potential winning shot, would have found his way to an open seam and given Rondo a worthy alternative plan after Al Horford and Josh Smith disrupted the plan with Garnett.

It's no one's fault that Allen wasn't on the court, because Bradley should have been out there for defense. It's just too bad that once they had the ball, there was no way to sneak one of the best shooters in the history of the game on the court.

2. Yeah, I'm worried about Paul Pierce. How can you not be? It was evident even when he was playing well in the game's first few minutes that he was having a hard time moving laterally, and it became more obvious over the course of the game. While he's the first to admit that he's not the quickest player in the league, his lack of mobility prevented him from even getting the leverage and clever angles that allow him to constantly beat quicker defenders off the dribble. Pierce has a sneaky-good first step because of superb footwork and a great first shoulder, but last night, his lack of the former prevented him from using the latter. He could not be the Paul Pierce whose funky old-school game we've come to admire, and that is worrisome with Game 6 just 30 hours away as I write this.

3. There's a lot to like about Mickael Pietrus -- his toughness and dogged defense, his sunny personality, his genuine appreciation of playing for the storied Celtics. Given the frightening fall and subsequent concussion he suffered in late March, it's remarkable he's out there at all. But it's impossible not to acknowledge that in a production sense, the Pietrus who became such an important part of this team really hasn't been out there in this series. In 92 minutes, he's 3 for 14 from the field and 2 for 13 from 3-point territory, with nearly twice as many fouls (a team-high 15) as points (8). Pietrus is not shy about teeing it up, and that's not necessarily a bad thing even though his 3-point percentage (33.5) was worse than Bradley's (40.7 in 54 attempts) this season. But he's overdue for a few actually finding the bottom of the net.

4. Man, that was the full Josh Smith experience last night, wasn't it? Horrible fade-away jumpers in the first half to the point he seemed like he was going to give the game to the Celtics, dependable rebounding, some passes that no player his size has any business pulling off on the break, and one atrocious and almost predictable turnover at the end. As talented as he is, should he ever join the Celtics, I may retire from watching basketball. Can you imagine how crazy he'd drive Tommy Heinsohn?

5. One of my colleagues is insistent this afternoon that Game 6 is really Game 7 for the Celtics, meaning that should they lose tomorrow night, there's no way they take the win-or-go-home in Atlanta. I respectfully counter that such a notion is absurd. If you've been watching this Celtics team consistently this season, you know they are extraordinarily resilient whether it comes to injuries, tough losses and big deficits, but also have a maddening habit of adding extra degrees of difficulty to any accomplishment. I think they wrap up this thing tomorrow night, but if they don't, I'll still presume they'll find a way to win Game 7. That's how they do it, bringing out our admiration and aggravation on any given night. It's never easy. That's both their charm and their curse.

@GlobeChadFinn

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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