Wednesday night the Celtics faced elimination on the road in Madison Square Garden. The team came into the night down 3-1 in their opening playoff series against the Knicks, looking to force a game six back in Boston. Kenyon Martin and the Knicks declared this a "funeral game" as the team dressed in all black to represent the series ending tonight. The Celtics had other plans as they came out firing on all cylinders knowing it was win or go home.
Doc Rivers ran a very tight shift tonight as just seven players received time in the game. Of the seven players, five scored in double digits with at least 16 points or better. Boston was able to come out and set the tone early with suffocating defense that translated to offensive production as they went into the break leading by 6. So far this series the Celtics struggles have come offensively in the second half setting historically low marks. That was certainly not the case as they matched the Knicks scoring with 47 points a piece in the second half and came away with the 92-86 victory.
Game 5 in New York: Celtics 92, Knicks 86 - Kevin Garnett reacts after being fouled. Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports
Much has been said about this Celtics team after being put in an 0-3 hole. Fans, commentators, and journalists alike have once again written the obituary and even discussed the Celtics' future going forward. Will Kevin Garnett retire, will the Celtics' pick-up Pierce's option, and should the team go into rebuilding mode have all been brought up. KG, Pierce, and the players continued to have a positive outlook going into tonight and refused to back down.
Doc Rivers elected to go back to his "big" starting line-up of Bradley, Pierce, Green, Bass, and Garnett. The team was led by their veteran, future Hall of Famers, Garnett and Pierce who both had tremendous performances. KG had a monster game going for 16 points on 5-9 shooting and 18 rebounds in 39 minutes (in his 18 season if you forgot), while protecting the paint with authority. Pierce acted as the team's offensive catalyst as he started almost every possession and came away with 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Not enough can be said about the rest of the Celtics' role players this game. Brandon Bass and Jeff Green switched off on the defensive end guarding Carmelo Anthony and held him to just 22 points on 8-24 shooting and 0-5 from three on the night. Offensively Bass kept the team alive in the first quarter when it seemed like no one could get it going early. He continuously made big time hustle plays and shot a extremely efficient 6-7 for 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Jeff Green as well had a great offensive night going 5-8 for 18 points, the team high, and chipped in 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Game 5 in New York: Celtics 92, Knicks 86 - Kevin Garnett attempts a shot while Tyson Chandler reaches out on defense. Joe Camporeale, USA TODAY Sports
The Celtics team as a whole held the Knicks to just 39.5% shooting and limited them to only 11 fast break points. Since Melo couldn't get it going, the Knicks looked to their second option, J.R. Smith who missed game 4 after his suspension for striking Jason Terry across the face with an elbow. Smith had a very cocky outlook coming into the night saying; "Oh yeah, it would've been over" after Tuesday's practice. "I'd have been playing golf today".
Actually, if he played in game four like he did tonight that certainly wouldn't have been the case. Smith started off the game going 0-10, not scoring a single point until the fourth quarter when he drew a foul and went to the line. J.R. did manage to get into a late game rhythm nailing three three pointers in the final frame but it was too little too late. He closed the game 3-14 finishing with 14 points and 4 rebounds.
The Celtics also received a giant lift from the bench, predominately from Jason Terry who had another solid performance. He finally looks like the player Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers expected when signing 'The Jet" to a three year contract. Terry preached the post-season was his time and he would be on another level and tonight he certainly was. Jet shot 6-16 on the night going for 17 points and had a team high +13 rating in the plus/minus category.
Game 5 in New York: Celtics 92, Knicks 86 - Carmelo Anthony drives past Brandon Bass. Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports
In somewhat of a surprise, Terrence Williams was the only other Celtic to record time in the game, soaking up 17 minutes of play which provided much needed rest for the starters. In the past T-Will has been praised for his high basketball I.Q. and he managed to display it tonight on basketball's biggest stage. He was reserved when he needed to be and attacked the basket with force finishing with 4 points on 2-5 shooting with 4 rebounds and two assists.
In fact, in the second half Doc decided to stay with T-Will and his ball handing skills over Avery Bradley who really struggled tonight. Bradley shot just 2-6 in the game for 4 points but more disappointingly got burned time and time again on the defensive end. Raymond Felton has had his way with the Celtics all series and did again tonight as he shot 10-19 for 21 points. I'm baffled by Bradley's play this series as he's been a total non-factor. He has really struggled to find his shot and seems to get beat time and time again by the Knicks speedy guards.
In the end, this was a great all around effort by a Celtics team on the brink of elimination. The team still faces a tall task needing to win out in order to move onto the second round. No team in the NBA has ever came back from a 0-3 hole but the Celtics look to return home and force a game seven to rewrite history.
In order to do so they must continue to apply defensive pressure and execute their offense to the fullest. The Celtics have been able to hold the Knicks under 90 points a game all series so the focus needs to be on their offensive sets. Game six will be played in Boston as they return to the TD Garden. Tip-off is still TBD but should be at either 7 or 8 o'clock on TNT or CSNNE.
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