BOSTON -- Come on, now. You didn't think the Celtics would go down this easily, did you? Well, maybe you did and you can't really be blamed for feeling that way. It's not like they've given you any reason to think they could run a passable NBA offense, let alone win a playoff game.
Many of their fans didn't feel that way, what with all the empty seats at tipoff and all those in blue and orange who infiltrated the Garden. Even if you didn't really believe, this would have been an unconscionable way to go out, getting swept on their home court with the organist trying desperately to drown out the chants and jeers of thousands of Knicks fans.
"It was a close-out game and they take over our building? Not our building," Jason Terry said. "That kind of fueled me up."
Terry was so gassed up he scored their final nine points in overtime that finally pushed the Celtics over the top, 97-90. This was the big-game JET the C's thought they were getting when they signed him as a free agent last summer. Not the one who has rarely been on speaking terms with his wayward jumper. Better a delayed flight than a grounded one.
"We've got a lot of basketball in us," Terry said. "This is the first time we've hit 90 points in this series. We just feel like our offense is coming, it's coming and you can feel it. It's just one quarter that holds us back. If we can put together four quarters of great Celtics basketball, ball movement, getting out in transition, then this series is going to be a long one."
Maybe if they do manage to make this interesting, we can all look back at Chris Wilcox knocking away an inbounds pass with tenths of a second left on the clock like Dave Roberts stealing second. Maybe if they can find a way to get back to Boston on Friday for Game 6, we'll think about J.R. Smith's flagrant elbow as the moment things started to turn.
Maybe if they had figured out a way to score points in the fourth quarter of Game 1, or if they had shown up at all in Game 3 or in the second half of Game 2, we'd be having a different conversation today.
"Maybe there's something special about us this season that says this is the hurdle we must overcome," Terry said.
Yeah, maybe. All the Celtics have really done is shown that they can beat the short-handed Knicks on their home floor.
"We wanted to survive," said Kevin Garnett, Realist. Asked the difference in Game 4, KG added, "Versus talking, we actually came out and did it. This is it. We're down 3-0, what else is there to say?"
There has actually been a whole lot to say around here lately and none of it good. Mostly it has been about what went wrong and what's going to happen next, which is a conversation few people around the Celtics really want to have. They've been putting off the inevitable for so long that there are no easy answers left for them. So, Garnett and Pierce kept it as simple as that pick and roll they used to get KG a corner jumper that beat the shot clock in overtime.
"They were just telling us don't give up," Avery Bradley said. "Keep fighting. I could look in their eyes and tell that they knew we were going to win the game if we played hard. We have a lot of pride and we don't want to let each other down. We knew we could beat this team and we showed it tonight."
This is what it had come down to for the Celtics, or what's left of them anyway. From Bradley to Terry and all the way down to forgotten man Courtney Lee, they didn't want to let KG and Pierce down like they have for most of the season. They owed them one, and for an excruciating, draining afternoon the Celtics were the Celtics again. Ornery, tough old bastards who got by on grit and balls as much as talent and skill.
Doc Rivers tightened his rotation down to essentially just six players and they defended all over the court, forcing the Knicks to shoot 34 percent. Brandon Bass, who has been reborn as Carmelo Anthony's primary defender, hounded Melo into a 10-for-35 shooting performance when he wasn't battling foul trouble. Jeff Green gave them some much-needed offensive punch and Terry took some of the ballhandling pressure off Bradley in addition to his 7-for-10 shooting.
Pierce did a little bit of everything, scoring 29 points to go with eight rebounds and six assists. Garnett, as always, was Garnett. He was snarling, chippy and all over the boards.
It wasn't easy, of course. Because they are the Celtics and everything must be done with the utmost degree of difficulty, they blew a 19-point halftime lead and were forced to fight through six ties and two lead changes in the final minutes.
"They were fighting for dear life," Anthony said. "They showed some heart out there today. We knew the game was going to be physical from the jump. We knew that they were going to fight for their life, which they did today."
So now it's back to New York for one more game. They've always said they like it best when their backs are against the wall and the plastic people melt, as KG said earlier in the season. There were no great speeches from him after the game, just the reality of the moment.
"We put ourselves in this 3-0 position, that's not where you want to be as a team but it's what it is," Garnett said. "Today we fought for another day and we'll do the same Wednesday."