Mickael Pietrus was more apt to make you groan than cheer as of late. The always entertaining Boston Celtics reserve hadn't exactly been tearing it up on the court. Entering the Celtics' game against the Miami Heat on Tuesday night, Pietrus had done practically nothing on the offensive end in the series, with the exception of some big offensive boards in Game 4, and had mustered a mere five points in four games on 1-for-9 shooting.
Pietrus turned the tables in Game 5, though, scoring 13 points off the bench -- including two critical three-pointers in the fourth quarter -- to help lead Boston to a 94-90 win and a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. Pietrus was 5-of-8 from the field in the game, making the same number of field goals as he did in the past six playoff games combined.
Both of Pietrus' big threes came in the corner, and both were wide open. Of course, even wide open looks haven't assured a Pietrus make during his Celtics tenure, so for Pietrus to step up in the clutch and make both was huge. No doubt, they were game changers.
The first trey came with 6:01 left in the quarter and brought Boston within three, 78-75, after Miami had pulled ahead for a six-point lead. The second, part of which Celtics coach Doc Rivers called the play of the game, came after Brandon Bass went up for a dunk, but was rejected by Dwyane Wade. Rajon Rondo then jumped up for a heroic one-handed tip pass to Pietrus, who drained the open look with 2:11 to go, giving the Celts an 85-83 lead.
"When Rondo took the rebound and kicked it out to me, I knew I had to take a shot and make it, and that's what I did" said Pietrus.
Rivers knows his swingman well, and he didn't doubt Pietrus on behalf of his experience. Even though Pietrus hasn't had a lot of playoff success in Boston, he was a key member of the Orlando Magic's run to the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers back in 2009.
"The one thing you know about MP is he's going to shoot it," Rivers said. "You know, he's been down this road before. He played with Orlando, made big shots, had great defensive stops, very comfortable. The thing I love, he didn't hesitate on either [three]. He kind of actually slowed down a little bit to gather himself and took two big threes for us."
Beyond the clutch abilities of Pietrus, Rivers credited Rondo for his presence of mind.
"I thought the play that Rondo made was absolutely sensational to get MP the one three," said Rivers. "It was a long rebound on a blocked shot, and Rondo not only saved it, but he saved it toward one of our shooters. I thought that was the biggest play of the game."
"It's just the will," Rondo said. "I think I just try to find us the will to win. The ball came out, D-Wade made a block on Bass' dunk, I saw Pietrus out of the corner of my eye, and I just tried to tap it to him as soon as possible because I knew LeBron [James] was coming."
Pietrus said that he received encouragement from a former Celtic on Monday. A big one.
"Yesterday, I got a text from Shaq[uille O'Neal]," Pietrus said. "He was telling me keep believing and keep playing. So that's what I did."
Now with a 3-2 series lead in hand, Pietrus and the suddenly red-hot Celtics will look to bring an end to the Heat's season when they host Miami for Game 6 on Thursday night.