Another poor shooting night for Rondo, further magnified by a costly turnover in the game’s closing seconds after a nice steal. Blame a hobbling Paul Pierce for not coming back to get the ball perhaps, (although he air-balled a mid-range jumper for the lead just moments earlier) but you have to get some kind of shot up in that instance if you’re Rondo. Great defense by Al Horford cutting off the angle, but as Doc Rivers said postgame, I would have preferred Rondo going up the middle of the floor there where he had more options.
Atlanta shot 6-for-21 in the first quarter, then hit 52 percent of their shots for the final three quarters. It’s hard to complain when you allow just 87 points to a team on the road, but in this case it is warranted. Far too many defensive breakdowns over the final 36 minutes.
Biggest red flag about Pierce’s line? 0 free throws. If not catching iron on a potential game-winning shot with under a minute left wasn’t big enough of a concern for you, the lack of trips to the line should be. Pierce had feasted on manufacturing points at the charity stripe in this series, but when the turnovers return (14 last night) and the free throws aren’t there (just 15 for the team) it’s an issue.
Speaking of issues, this Horford guy is going to be one for the remainder of the series, particularly on the glass. The C’s had held their own on the defensive end for the first 4 games with their rebounding, but with Horford and Josh Smith wreaking havoc, and Pierce banged up, Boston was exploited on Game 5 in this area. They will need to clean this up if they want to finish the Hawks without incident.
Close-out games on the road. They just don’t happen too often in the NBA, and especially for this particular roster. 2008 in Detroit and last year in New York are the only times they’ve finished the job in a series-clinching game away from TD Garden. So don’t be too alarmed that Boston failed to close the deal last night. However, Atlanta presents a new host of challenges with Horford back, so this will not necessarily be a walk-over in Game 6. C’s will have to come out and step on the throat of Hawks to avoid risking another trip to Atlanta.