“You can write the obituary; I’m not.” Even after losing star point guard Rajon Rondo to a torn ACL earlier this season, Doc Rivers wasn’t ready to die. He made sure the Celtics weren’t either. Apparently, the Knicks missed the memo.
In their second closeout opportunity Wednesday night in Game 5, the Knicks had plans for a funeral. Knicks forward Kenyon Martin told his teammates to wear all black, and even before that, Sixth Man Of The Year J.R. Smith said had he not been suspended for Boston’s 97-90 victory in Game 4 on Sunday, the Knicks would already be relaxing, waiting for the next round.
“Oh yeah, it would’ve been over,” Smith told the media after Tuesday’s practice. “I’d have been playing golf today.”
Well, the Knicks could be playing golf soon, but for all the wrong reasons.
While Kevin Garnett is the top rebounder of the postseason, averaging an age-defying 14.4 rebounds a night, and Paul Pierce is getting buckets like it was Game 3 of the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals (just ask Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin about that one), their veteran partner Jason Terry had yet to join the party.
However, after taking an elbow to the dome from Smith in Game 3, the JET has officially left the runway. Since then, Terry is shooting just below 65 percent from the field. For Celtics nation, Terry’s stellar play is an encouraging sign. Most had expected him to fill the scoring void left by Ray Allen all season. But while JET has been known for his clutch playoff performances throughout his career, this isn’t the first time he took a full year to get used to his surroundings (his scoring dropped by 4.4 points a game transitioning from Atlanta to Dallas during the ’04-05 season).
While the “grit n’ balls” mentality of the Celtic vets have made this a series, the fountain of youth that Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley are bringing to the Cs this postseason has alleviated the pressure off from Boston’s 35-and-older crew. Jeff Green is on the verge of becoming a superstar, putting up over 20 points per game throughout this playoff series. Brandon Bass is doing a fantastic job defending Carmelo Anthony in the last two games, holding him to 18-for-59 shooting from the field. Offensively, Bass arrived in Game 5, going 5-for-6 for 17 points, joining four other Celtics in double-figures. Avery Bradley struggling offensively but he is still a player that can put pressure on Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni and Kidd and in the back-court.
The New York media may be quick to point the finger at the Knicks poor offensive play in the last two games, (12-for-52 from three), but I believe much of the credit goes to Boston. They finally put together the team effort we’ve been waiting for. In a number of days, they completely turned the series around. As the Celtics travel back to Boston for tomorrow’s Game 6, the pressure is solely on the Knicks. If New York doesn’t take care of business, they risk the chance of being the first team ever to lose a playoff series after going up 3-0. This wouldn’t be the first time New York has experienced this type of pain: the Yankees gave up a 3-0 series lead to the Boston Red Sox, who rallied, and eventually won the World Series in 2004.
After losing Rondo in February, the Celtics went on to win 14 of their next 18 games. Without their best player, they began playing more of an uptempo team game. While Rondo has certainly been missed in the playoffs, his presence would dramatically changes things for the Celtics. Would Jeff Green have emerged as an offensive juggernaut while still being the fourth of fifth option? Would Jason Terry’s offensive production been better with Rondo in the lineup as he wouldn’t have to also serve as a primary ballhandler? Who knows. All we know is the KG/Paul Pierce era’s funeral has been put off for another day, which is all the Celts claim they need.
“Every game from here on out is like a Game 7,” Garnett told CSNNE’s Greg Dickerson after their 92-86 victory last night. “We scrappin. Easier said than done… no shenanigans, no nothing.”
The Celtics are living for at least one more day as their seasoned vets all try to somehow “scrap” their way to another championship. Like the great Rudy Tomjanovich once said, you can “never underestimate the heart of a champion.”
Who will win this series?
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