The Celtics reached down and relied on their fabled pride as they staved off elimination for yet another game, as they shocked the Knicks, 92-86, in Game 5 of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Boston has now climbed back into the series as they’re down 3-2, but with Game 6 back in Beantown, there’s now a real possibility that both teams will be playing again in New York Sunday at the Garden for a Game 7.
“I thought we came out ready to play, but then they got that thrust that they needed early and I don’t think we responded. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but now it’s a series. We had an opportunity to close it,” Woodson said. “But at the end of the day we still control our own destiny and there’s a lot more basketball left to be played. ... I think we’re fine. Sure, we would’ve loved to have closed it out, but they’re competitive. They’re fighting, too. But now we need to see what we’re made of in Boston.”
The Knicks apparently forgot the memo that the hardest thing to do in the NBA playoffs is to close out a series — no matter how big of a lead — because the Celtics scratched and clawed their way out of an early 11-0 deficit to actually take a 45-39 lead at the half.
Jeff Green led a balanced Celtics’ attack with 18 points, as four others reached double figures in scoring. Kevin Garnett was dominant in the post as he notched 16 points and a game-high 18 rebounds, while Paul Pierce had 16 points and Jason Terry added 17 points off the bench. Even Brandon Bass, who’s not known for his offense, added 17 points in 41 minutes of action for a Celtics team that only played seven players.
Carmelo Anthony did all he could to keep the Celtics at bay as he tallied a team-high 22 points, but he needed 24 shots to do so. It also didn’t help as he got no help from his sidekick, J.R. Smith, who at one point shot 0-for-10 from the floor. Smith finished with just 14 points on 3-of-14 shooting.
Woodson shot down the theory that Smith was forcing the issue to show his value to the team after leaving them hanging in Game 4.
“He missed shots, but he took some tough shots, too. It was a struggle for him pretty much the whole game. We have to get him in position to not let him struggle anymore, because we need him to score the basketball,” Woodson said, adding that the absence of Steve Novak in the second half added a big burden to his bench. “We were shorthanded because Novak’s back went out on him, so we couldn’t come back to him, so offensively we were searching.”
Smith, who said afterward he’s a “streaky shooter,” admitted that maybe he pressed too much.
“I was extremely anxious. A lot of fans got me hyped and I couldn’t wait to play,” Smith said. “I think we got too excited, so we need to stay patient, stay humble and try and get the next one.”
Staying humble and patient are keys, but Woodson would rather just see his team put the ball in the basket with more frequency.
“I like what we’re doing defensively, because any time you hold a team to 92 points at home that’s a good thing. We still held them to less than 95 points, but we’re having trouble on offense,” Woodson said. “We have to find some offense somewhere. Raymond [Felton] was solid, but we’re just not getting into our offense. ... We’re laboring and our pace has to pick up. We have to do something differently and come up with another plan.”
Felton was the Knicks’ most efficient scorer as he continued his stellar play in this series. He had 21 points, six rebounds and four assists, but no one else in orange and blue was able to apply pressure.
Knicks notes ...
» Dave Roberts corollary, anyone? Roberts, the one-time spunky Boston Red Sox outfielder has a spot in the hearts of Boston sports’ fans forever with his role in the Sox’s historic comeback from an 0-3 deficit to the New York Yankees to win the 2004 American League Championship Series. It was Roberts’s steal of second base in the ninth inning of Game 4 that sparked Boston to a 12-inning win, and is credited as the signature move of the Sox’s path to the World Series. Jason Terry’s chin could have that same effect, as the elbow he took from J.R. Smith in Game 3 apparently awakened the Celtics and also resulted in Smith’s one-game suspension for Game 4. Terry has gotten hot since, including nine points in Game 4’s overtime win and 17 points (including five 3-pointers) off the bench Wednesday night, as the fiery guard has relished being an antagonist to the Knicks.
» Terry’s shooting has been a thorn in the Knicks’ side the last two games, but the Knicks aren’t doing themselves any favors either. New York shot a surprising 1-of-6 from 3-pointers in the first half, and finished a meager 5-of-22 from behind the arc. The Celtics, conversely, shot 11-of-22 in 3-pointers.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.