BOSTON — There was an odd vibe after the buzzer sounded at TD Garden on Sunday, after the Celtics had outlasted the Knicks in overtime to postpone playoff elimination. Both teams were upbeat and hopeful, which is seldom the case after a hard-fought playoff game.
At the podium, Raymond Felton sat confidently saying how much he looks forward to Wednesday’s Game 5 in New York. In the home locker room, Paul Pierce complimented his team’s pride in refusing to be swept. Across the hall, Jason Kidd said he loved the shots he and his teammates generated, expressing remorse only over the fact that they did not hit more of them.
This is not a good thing for the Celtics. The most expedient way for the Celtics to get back into this first-round series in the Eastern Conference playoffs is to plant a seed of doubt in the minds of the front-running Knicks. Carmelo Anthony and company had a chance to close out their rival on its own court, and the failure to do so should be crushing. Instead, the Celtics gave the Knicks plenty of reason to feel comfortable going forward.
That confidence stems from the 20-point deficit the Knicks wiped out in the second half, turning a laugher into a 97-90 nailbiter. Anthony and Felton led the surge, combining for 40 points after halftime, and seemed to leave everyone on the Celtics in foul trouble in their wake.
The Knicks did not seem disappointed about the series continuing. Rather, they almost seemed giddy that they get to play another playoff game back at their place.
“We’re going back home,” Felton said. “That’s where we’re comfortable at. That’s back in our turf, back in our building. We did our job when we came here and we got us a win. We’d like to have both of these games, but we got one game. That was our goal.”
Anthony did not appear to be very concerned, either, after the Knicks shot 34 percent from the field, 23 percent from three and 75 percent from the foul line. He pointed to the Knicks’ awful shooting numbers, shrugged and quoted the Shirrelles: “My mama said there’d be days like this.” (Seriously.)
“We felt like we gave ourselves a shot to win the basketball game,” Anthony said. “They had the momentum and we fought back. I take my hat off to my guys as a team for fighting back and putting us in a situation where we were in position to actually win the game in overtime. Those guys played extremely well today, but we look forward to bringing this thing back home to [Madison Square] Garden on Wednesday, and the Garden will be rocking.”
On the other side, the mood was just as positive. Pierce grinned. A steely-eyed Jason Terry boasted about his big game. It was as though the Celtics were celebrating a win that just happened, while the Knicks were celebrating a win that was to come.
“There’s still a lot of basketball to play,” Felton said. “Those guys are a veteran team, well-coached, and they have a lot of pride. They didn’t want to get swept. We knew we were still going to be in a dogfight. The fact that we came back from a 20-point deficit in their building shows a lot about our team.”
It also shows a lot about the other team, none of it necessarily good. And now the Knicks know it.