Paul Pierce got off to a quick start. It turned out to be his best game of the series, finishing with 27 points. He consistently got open off the pick and roll and knocked down jumpers. Kevin Garnett and Rondo added 18 points. Garnett played excellent defense on Gasol, who had only 12. Rondo had 8 assists and 7 turnovers, but came up with some key plays down the stretch, namely a couple of acrobatic layups late in the 4th quarter.
Boston's bench didn't have the performance it put up in Game 4, but was better than the Lakers' reserves in any event. It was their play in the 2nd quarter that gave the Celtics a lead they would never relinquish. Kobe Bryant tried to keep the Lakers in the game. He once scored 23 consecutive L.A. points, including the first 19 of the 3rd quarter. He received no help from his teammates. Artest couldn't score on a pop-a-shot in this series. Bynum is banged up. Odom has largely shied away in the big moments.
It occurred to me, should the Celtics win the championship, there is no clear cut MVP at this point. This was really Pierce's only good game of the series. Rondo had a triple double in Game 2 and 18 points tonight, but besides several impactful plays throughout, has mostly played poorly in this series. Garnett's offense has only peeked out of the ground twice, but his defense has been effective. Ray Allen had one record-breaking Game 2 and then missed his next 16 three-pointers. Kendrick Perkins has been the 5th man on the floor. Big Baby Davis had two big 4th quarters and Nate Robinson has been a quick-scorer off the bench. Tony Allen's defense has been sold and Rasheed Wallace's shot-making has helped the cause.
But none of the Celtics has stood out above the others. As in Game 5's 92-86 win, Boston's 3-2 lead has come about through total team play. Thus, I recommend, depending on what happens here on out, that win or lose Kobe Bryant deserves the Finals MVP award. Tonight, he hit repeated impossible shots in a desperate attempt to keep his team in the game. It was his third 30 point game of the series.
The other story of the series has been the poor officiating. Despite a couple of phantom foul calls, it was better this game. Game 4 had three awful calls, including a 3-second violation on Garnett even though Boston didn't have the ball across halfcourt long enough to incur that penalty. For the first time, there was no significant foul trouble in the first half. The series shifts to Los Angeles.