After two convincing victories in Games 1 and 2 of their first round NBA Playoff series, it looked like the Boston Celtics would be able to easily wrap everything up in a quick 4-game sweep. The Atlanta Hawks had other plans and defended their home court with pride, capturing convincing wins in Games 3 and 4 to even the series at 2 games a piece. Wednesday’s Game 5 match up in Boston followed the same pattern, with the home team coming away with an impressive victory. The Celtics continued to dominate at the TD Banknorth Garden with their 110-85 victory and now have a 3-2 series lead.

Just when Boston fans started to think that could this really be happening to them, the Big Three came to the rescue. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen all played like the veteran stars they are, lifting the Celtics in an impressive effort on both ends of the floor. After being held to a .427 combined shooting percentage in games 3 and 4 (67-157), the Celtics found their stroke again going 45-84 (.536) from the field and outscored the Hawks in every quarter.

Pierce scored 22 points on 10-17 shooting from the floor, Garnett netted 20 pointed along with 7 assists and 5 boards and Allen contributed with 19 points on 5-8 shooting from 3-point land. Allen nailed three consecutive 3’s to crush a late 3rd quarter Hawks run, that would ultimately seal the deal for the win.

With the victory, the stage is set for Game 6 which will be in Atlanta on Friday night.

“We still haven’t won a road game, guys,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “We have to do it again. We have to do it on the road now. We have to go in there and play like tonight.”

Easier said then done as the team found out in the back-to-back losses in front of a raucous Atlanta crowd. The stakes will be high and as always when something is up for grabs, tempers will flare as we’ve already seen happen in the series.

“I won’t say we lost our composure,” Hawks guard Joe Johnson said. “It’s tough when it feels like things aren’t going your way. Temper tantrums tend to fly, and that’s part of it.”

In the past two games, technical fouls have been issued to both teams regarding on court altercations. The NBA announced that there would not be any suspensions or fines based on the activity on the floor from either night.

When watching the game tapes of the series thus far, one has to take note of the tempo of play initiated by the Celtics in their wins compared to the two road losses. In every win Boston has established that they will push the ball when they have a break, but pull back and run a half court set when the fast break isn’t available. Down in Atlanta, the C’s were trying to force the break and attempted too many shots, too quickly with lots of time left on the shot clock.

The key to winning on the road will be to control the style and tempo of the game, while not getting caught up with the Atlanta home crowd. It’s a different and hostile environment, but Boston needs to maintain their composure and play their style of basketball, and not try to run with the Hawks because much of Atlanta’s success comes from their up-tempo, run and gun style of offense led by Johnson and PG Mike Bibby.

Also, the Celtics need their bench to continue to contribute with solid minutes, as they have done very well in the three wins during the series. Veteran PG Sam Cassell gave impressive minutes in the Game 5 win and looks to keep his team’s emotion and energy high for Game 6.

“This is my time of the year,” said Cassell, who was a mid-season addition to the roster. “I love playoff basketball. I understand what it means. I understand what it takes to be successful during this time of year.”

Cassell and the Big Three will certainly be fired up for Game 6 and hope to bring the Celtics organization one step closer to reaching Green 17!