Celtics 92, Knicks 86
As long they’re still standing, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are a force to be reckoned with in the NBA playoffs. J.R. Smith and the Knicks tried to dismiss the Celtics’ chances before Game 5 even began, but as the results have shown, it’s best to keep those comments to yourself.
J.R. Smith is going to have to wait even longer to work on his golf game. The Knicks streaky shooter shot his mouth off on Tuesday night, as he pretended to be unaware of Jason Terry’s existence, and claimed that the series would have been over if he had been eligible to play in Game 4. When prompted by reporters about the outcome of Sunday afternoon’s contest, Smith quipped, “Oh yeah, it would’ve been over [if I had played]. I would be playing golf today.” So naturally, J.R. came out cold as ice (he missed 11 of his first 12 shots from the field), while his trash talk inspired the Celtics to play their best ball of the series and stave off elimination.
For the first time during this series, the C’s offense didn’t disappear for an entire quarter. Although they fell behind 11-0 at the start of the game, Boston executed with ruthless efficiency throughout the remainder of the contest and left the crowd in Madison Square Garden squirming with unease.
Those fans felt uncomfortable because they know the Celtics pedigree. They worried because they’re two most dynamic scorers- Smith and Carmelo Anthony- are notorious for their inability to win in the playoffs despite posting gaudy offensive numbers all year long.
So they sat in silent disbelief as the Knicks offense sputtered, and eventually stopped for seven minutes at the end of the third and the start of the fourth quarter. This time it was New York that couldn’t buy a bucket in the second half, as Carmelo missed nine of his ten field goal attempts during a 16-6 run by Boston. The Celtics took a 75-60 lead midway through the fourth quarter, and never relinquished it.
That run, which was capped off by Jeff Green’s decisive slam, consisted of Paul Pierce returning to the offensive form of his youth, and someone named Jason Terry (whom J.R. Smith is apparently unfamiliar with) hitting two of the five threes he hit on the night.
Since the Knicks are led by two players whose defense tends to suffer if their shots aren’t falling, the C’s were lucky that Smith and Anthony combined to go 11 for 38 from the field. Thanks to the disposition of these two ornery stars, and the aggressive play of a suddenly spry Pierce, Terry was able to get a number of open looks from deep, and ended up shooting 5 for 9 from beyond the arch.
As a team, the Celtics shot 50 percent from three-point range, as well as 100 percent (17 for 17) from the free throw line for the second time this series. They didn’t just take it quarter by quarter, they concentrated on every possession, and only turned it over once over their first 22 possessions. Kevin Garnett grabbed over 17 rebounds for the third consecutive game, Brandon Bass played an outstanding first half and finished with 17 points, and Jeff Green stayed calm and collected on two gigantic corner threes that kept the Knicks at bay in the final minutes.
While the Knicks may be the team with more to lose, the C’s are a group that didn’t seem willing to lose in Game 5. Yet even as they walked off the court in triumph, two of their young bench players made the exact mistake that J.R. Smith made on Tuesday. As the two teams passed each other on their way to the locker rooms, Jordan Crawford had some choice words for Carmelo Anthony. D.J. White then jumped into the verbal foray, and he ended up having a heated exchange with Raymond Felton.
It’s a small wonder that Doc Rivers was only willing to play seven players throughout the entire game, considering this is how some of the more inexperienced C’s tend to act. With their team trailing 3-2, Crawford and White decided to add some fuel to the fire, and effectively insured that the Knicks will have their own bulletin board material ready for Game 6.
“You don’t hold Carmelo to 10 of 35 shooting,” Rivers said after the Celtics overtime win in Game 4, and the Celts didn’t hold him to 8 of 24 shooting in Game 5. They played solid defense, and were fortunate in the sense that Anthony was slightly off on a number of jump shots. The only way they were able to achieve that result in back-to-back games was by staying humble, as evident by the words of their coach.
Now the pressure is on Boston in Game 6. They will be facing the NBA’s leading scorer, the 6th man of the year, and a strong point guard in Felton, who they have been unable to contain in all 5 games this series. But, now, they won’t just be facing these three guys, they’ll be facing three pissed off offensive dynamos who are on a mission.
All the motivation the C’s had going into Game 5 has essentially swung the other way, and it will take a monumental effort to win on their home floor and force a Game 7. When asked about the crowd at MSG, Jeff Green said, “They don’t impact the game. We do. We play the game,” and that goes for the crowd at TD Garden as well. If the Celtics are going to pull off the greatest comeback in NBA playoff history, their going to have to play hard, execute perfectly, and kept their mouths shut after a win.