Notes on Celtics-Hawks Game 5

1190922388You could tell something was going to be different at the Garden about 10 minutes before tip-off. On the videoboard was one of those cheesy montages featuring all the Hawks highlights from the last two games. There’s Josh Childress dunking. There’s Al Horford taunting Paul Pierce. There’s confetti streaming down like Atlanta just won an NBA Championship.

The point of the video, apparently, was to get the crowd riled up, and on that score it worked. A “Let’s Go Celtics” chant emerged from the rafters and filled up the building to the point that the video people simply cut the sound in the arena and just let the crowd take over. If you closed your eyes it could have been the old Garden, circa 1984, back when the fans didn’t need videos and mascots to tell them when to make noise.

The cheesy t-shirt promotion didn’t take either. This crowd didn’t need any of that NBA-approved nonsense. They wanted blood, and they got it, serenading Horford with a vulgar chant when the precocious rookie hit the deck in the fourth quarter, and harassing Mike Bibby and Zaza the Flopper throughout. It was an M-V-P performance from the Garden faithful.

After the jump, three more things from Game 5.

1. It wasn’t the good Paul Pierce last night, it was the great Paul Pierce. He’s had better scoring games in the playoffs, but rarely has Pierce been so dominant without dominating the offense. He scored 22 points, but it was an efficient 22. He handed out six assists, against one turnover, and he had seven rebounds in what was a very physical game.

Asked before the game if Pierce was still feeling the effects of the hard foul he took from Josh Smith in Game One, Doc Rivers said he didn’t think so, but last night was the first time in the series that Pierce played like Pierce.

2. For two days, Doc told everyone that he didn’t need to make any adjustments, but that sure as hell looked like an adjustment when Kendrick Perkins came flying at Joe Johnson when Johnson got the ball 35-feet from the basket on Atlanta’s first possession. Johnson may have scored 21 points, but they were a hard 21.

Interestingly, Doc also ran everyone’s new favorite player Tony Allen out there in the first half, as if to say, “You wanted him, you got him.” Allen air-balled a 3-pointer and then committed an inexcusable foul on Johnson while he was shooting a 3 on the very next possession. So much for that. It’s worth noting that Doc also left Rajon Rondo in the lineup to start the fourth quarter. Maybe he does listen to talk radio.

3. The Sam Cassell paradox continues. Sam I Am took the same volume of shots that he did in the two games in Atlanta, only last night he hit everything in sight. Doc said he simplified things for Sam and gave him just four plays to run, which may have helped. But this is what you’re going to get with Cassell: When he’s in the game the ball is going up, especially if he’s on the floor with PJ Brown, Leon Powe, and James Posey.

Cassell’s hot shooting, and Pierce’s reluctance to talk, did allow Sammy to take the podium with Kevin Garnett after the game prompting this request from KG: “Would one of y’all please ask Sam a question. He wore his tight-ass shirt for this.”

Order was restored last night, but the Celtics won’t get their reputations back until they do it on the road.