Boston's Brandon Bass, seen her grabbing a rebound Monday against Philadelphia, dropped in a playoff-career-high 27 points to help the Celtics take a 3-2 lead in the best of seven series against Philly with a 101-85 win.
BOSTON — They started as a Big Three and grew to a Big Four when Rajon Rondo earned the right to be mentioned along with the other Boston Celtics All-Stars.
At no point, however, did Brandon Bass merit marquee billing in his first season in Boston.
The fifth, newest and least-heralded member of the Celtics’ starting lineup, Bass erupted for a career playoff-high 27 points on Monday night, scoring 18 in the third quarter as Boston pulled away from the Philadelphia 76ers to win 101-85 and take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“We’ve got a few good players on the team that they had to focus on,” said Bass, who left the game to a standing ovation with 2 minutes left and Boston leading by 18. “That left me open, and I was able to take advantage of my opportunity.”
The 27 points matched Bass’ regular-season career high, and the 18 points in the third was one off his career playoff high for an entire game. It was also more than the Sixers scored in the quarter as a team.
“It was one of those games we needed something to ignite us together,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought the biggest difference was his energy. He played with a force. I thought he just let himself go.”
Kevin Garnett added 20 points and Rajon Rondo had 13 points and 14 assists for the Celtics, who can advance to the East finals with a victory in Philadelphia in Game 6 on Wednesday. The Sixers would need a win at home to force the series back to Boston for a decisive seventh game.
As he walked to his postgame interview, Elton Brand told the Celtics’ ball boys in the hallway outside the locker rooms: “See you on Saturday.”
No team has won consecutive games yet this series.
“It would just be nice to win two in a row. That would be terrific,” Rivers said. “It’s not going to be easy. This series has been hard. Every minute, you think we’re leaking oil physically.”
Brand scored 19 and Evan Turner had 11 points and 10 rebounds for Philadelphia, which led by six points early in the third quarter before Boston scored 14 of the next 16 points. Bass had eight of them, including back-to-back dunks followed by a steal that set up Ray Allen’s fast-break layup to give the Celtics a 63-57 lead with five minutes left in the quarter.
Boston closed out the third with a 10-2 run over the final 3 minutes and outscored the Sixers 28-16 in the period. The Celtics also scored 16 of the first 22 points in the fourth quarter — seven from Rondo — to put away the game.
“We had too many turnovers and that just got those guys going,” 76ers center Spencer Hawes said. “They got a couple of easy baskets in transition off our mistakes. It got them going, they took advantage of it and held home court. Now we have to go home and take care of ours.”
The Celtics acquired Bass in December in a trade with Orlando for Glen “Big Baby” Davis, and he worked his way into the starting lineup after the All-Star break. Although he solidified the power forward position after Garnett moved to center, he hadn’t done anything spectacular — until Monday.
Bass hadn’t scored more than 22 points in a game this season. His playoff high was 19 points, in 2008.
Paul Pierce had 16 points — a perfect 9 for 9 from the free throw line — and Allen, back in the starting lineup because of an injury to Avery Bradley, had five points.
Boston tied it 57-all when Bass stole the ball from Thaddeus Young and got to the free throw line, making both foul shots. After a Sixers miss, Rondo found Bass underneath for the dunk. Bass added another crowd-pleasing dunk before knocking loose a ball to start Rondo on a fast break he finished by finding Allen for the layup.
Notes: Actor Will Smith, a 76ers co-owner, was at the game, as were comedians Chris Rock and David Spade. … Bradley did not play because of problems in both shoulders, Rivers said. … Rondo had seven assists in the third quarter. He picked up one of his most spectacular when he slipped at the free throw line but left-handed the ball to Greg Stiemsma for the dunk.
Thunder rolls past LA, 106-90, into Western Conference Finals
OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook scored 28 points, Kevin Durant added 25 points and 10 rebounds, and the Oklahoma City Thunder surged ahead in the second half to beat Los Angeles 106-90 in Game 5 on Monday night and eliminate the Lakers from the playoffs.
The two All-Stars both bypassed their breaks in the second half and used the time they’d normally be resting to fuel the big run that put away the game and end the Lakers’ season.
Westbrook had a pair of three-point plays during a 14-3 burst that put Oklahoma City ahead to stay late in the third quarter, and Durant hit two 3-pointers as the Thunder scored the first 10 points of the fourth to push their lead to 93-77.
Kobe Bryant scored 42 points for the Lakers.
The Thunder open the Western Conference finals on Sunday at top-seeded San Antonio.
After getting eliminated by Los Angeles in 2010 and Dallas in 2011 before both of those teams went on to win it all, the Thunder knocked both out on their way to the West finals for the second straight year.
The only other time the franchise made consecutive conference finals was from 1978-80, including Seattle’s only NBA title in 1979.
Once there, they’ll face the top-seeded Spurs, the only team other than the Lakers or Mavs to win the West in the past 13 years and currently riding an 18-game winning streak.
Westbrook went running to the scorer’s table and pumped his fist in the air after his first energizing three-point play, when he was able to flip the ball in after Ramon Sessions fouled him on the fast break.
He converted another after banking in a jumper from the left side despite Sessions slapping him on the arm to make it 82-76 with 1:29 left in the third quarter.
Durant extended the lead with a 3-pointer in the opening minute of the fourth and then hit another 32 seconds later — just after Bryant had stepped to the scorer’s table to check in after a brief rest.
There was little Bryant could do after he got back in, despite the 13th 40-point game of his playoff career.
After blowing a fourth-quarter lead in Game 4, Bryant had called out forward Pau Gasol to be more aggressive — much as he had with Gasol and Andrew Bynum before the Lakers faced elimination in Game 7 of the first round against Denver.
Gasol came through with a monster game — 23 points, 17 rebounds and six assists — and Steve Blake scored a playoff career-best 19 points to save the Lakers that time. Bryant didn’t get nearly as much help against the Thunder.
Gasol took 14 shots, his most of the series, but made only five to finish with 14 points and 16 rebounds. Metta World Peace scored 11 and Bynum 10.
The Thunder got five of their first eight baskets on dunks and controlled the boards early on, grabbing 16 of the game’s first 22 rebounds while keeping Los Angeles off the offensive glass for the first 11 minutes.
Bryant had to create all of the offense, scoring 15 of the Lakers’ first 19 points and getting all six of his baskets without the benefit of an assist. When others started chipping in, the Lakers went on a 16-7 run to go up 35-32 following Bynum’s three-point play.
Oklahoma City scored the next eight points, including James Harden’s fast-break dunk, before Bryant got past him for a pair of dunks of his own — the first a driving, two-handed reverse jam and the second a two-handed alley-oop slam over Harden.
But Bryant and World Peace both drew technical fouls as the Lakers lost their cool with 31.9 seconds left before halftime when World Peace was called for a flagrant foul against Thabo Sefolosha on a fast break. World Peace used his right hand to strip the ball from Sefolosha as he went up to the basket but then shoved him out of bounds with his left hand.
Sefolosha hit both free throws and Durant capitalized on both shots from the technicals World Peace and Bryant got for arguing the flagrant call to put the Thunder 54-51 ahead at halftime despite shooting less than 40 percent.
Notes: The Lakers had baskets just after the buzzer at the end of the second and third quarters that both got reviewed on instant replay. … Westbrook got a technical foul for cursing at an official after a no-call midway through the first quarter. … The Thunder’s Nick Collison needed stitches to close a cut on the back of his head that he sustained during Game 4. … Los Angeles is 10-3 when Bryant scored 40 points in the playoffs, losing both times he did it this season.