The Philadelphia 76ers are on the brink of elimination because they couldn't stop Brandon Bass.
An afterthought in a star-studded Boston lineup that includes three future Hall of Famers and perhaps the best pure point guard in the game, Bass scored 18 of his 27 points in the third quarter on Monday as the Celtics beat the Sixers, 101-85, to take the pivotal Game 5 in their Eastern Conference semifinals series with the underdog Sixers.
Boston now has a 3-2 lead in the set and can be comforted by the knowledge that 83.3 percent of the teams that have won Game 5 in a seven-game series go on to win.
"It went downhill quickly," said Sixers coach Doug Collins after the ugly Game 5 setback.
The Celtics, behind a 14-2 run led by Bass, turned a six-point deficit into a six-point lead in about five minutes in the third quarter and rolled the rest of the way to earn some revenge for Philly's comeback in Game 4 last Friday.
Kevin Garnett added 20 points, Paul Pierce had 16 and Rajon Rondo scored 13 with 14 assists for the Celtics, who held a double-digit lead for the last 11 minutes and went up by as many as 20 down the stretch.
Elton Brand led the Sixers with 19 points -- just seven in the second half -- Lavoy Allen scored 12 off the bench and Evan Turner had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The Celtics won despite the absence of defensive-minded guard Avery Bradley, who had started the first 10 postseason games. Bradley is nursing a pair of shoulder injuries, including a left shoulder that keeps popping out. Ray Allen scored five points in his place.
Bass emerged as the unlikely star, getting 22 of his points after halftime and torturing the Sixers' Thaddeus Young at both ends of the floor in a five- minute stretch of basketball that could prove to be the Sixers' Alamo.
"It was just me taking advantage of my opportunity," said Bass. "They've been doubling Paul and we got a few good players on the team that they've gotta focus on so they left me open tonight and I was able to hit the shots."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Bass kept his game simple in the second half.
"Didn't try to do too much; he let the game come to him," said Rivers. "And he trusted his teammates, by throwing an extra pass to Rondo, Rondo throwing it back. But again, like I always say, it's a make/miss league. He made shots and that was great. But I thought he played with the right spirit."
After averaging 10.1 points in the first 10 playoff games, Bass was 6-for-7 in the third quarter and 9-of-13 from the floor in the game.
He scored eight points during the 14-2 run in the third, including a dunk that gave the fourth-seeded Celtics their first lead since 15-14. It was part of an overall run of 45-19 from early in the third quarter to late in the fourth, which gave the Celtics a 20-point lead. Bass was so dominant he outscored the Sixers by himself, 18-16, in the third.
"We did not meet the tenacity they played with from the middle of the third quarter on," said Collins. "We were actually shooting the ball well but we didn't get good shots at the basket."
Philadelphia now hopes its home floor and the fact the team is 4-0 this postseason in games following a loss can get them a Game 7 back in Boston on Saturday.
"We have that same opportunity," Collins said. "Let's give ourselves that chance. Let's get ourselves back to Boston with a Game 7 and see what we can do."
This rivalry began all the way back in 1949-50 when the Sixers franchise called Syracuse home. Since the team relocated to the City of Brotherly Love, the 76ers and Celtics have met in the postseason 11 different times and eight of those were Eastern Conference finals. Boston has taken seven of the 11 series.