Despite the Knicks wearing black to the arena to mark the Celtics’ impending demise, Brandon Bass and the Celtics survived to force a Game 6. They are shipping up to Boston.
Bass’ defense on Carmelo Anthony and Terrence Williams’ defense on Raymond Felton helped fluster the Knicks, who shot just 38 percent from the field. Anthony and Felton each had more than 20 points, but they were forced to do it so inefficiently that it hamstrung the rest of New York’s offense.
Jeff Green led the Celtics with 18 points, including two dagger 3-pointers in the fourth quarter just as Paul Pierce and Jason Terry began to struggle. Kevin Garnett was immense as well, notching 16 points, 18 rebounds, two blocks and five assists in the victory.
Fourth quarter, :48.3, Celtics 90-83: Garnett may have just bailed out his fellow Hall of Fame teammate. With the shot clock winding down, Garnett pump-faked Chandler out of his high-tops and netted a 20-foot jumper to give Boston some breathing room.
The Celtics are doing this without a point guard, making it very difficult for them to bring the ball up the court and run their offense. They are simply surviving because they have so many veteran shot-makers.
Fourth quarter, 1:05, Celtics 88-83: Pierce is a future Hall of Famer and an all-time Celtic, but sometimes…
With the Knicks needing a quick three, and only a quick three, to keep their hopes alive, Pierce hung back on defense and just let Smith walk up and drill a much-needed three.
Rivers, understandably livid, called a quick timeout, hopefully to knock some sense into his captain.
Fourth quarter, 2:23, Celtics 88-76: With the lead dwindling and Pierce struggling, the Celtics needed Green to step up. He did.
After Pierce was whistled for an offensive foul, Green delivered two threes sandwiched around a triple by Smith. The Celtics are clinging to a lead that seems much smaller than the 12-point one it actually is. They survived a brief rest for Garnett, and Bass is still blanketing Anthony.
Fourth quarter, 5:57, Celtics 75-65: The Celtics still lead, but this is tension time for them. The Knicks came back with consecutive baskets after the Celtics took their largest lead of the game, and now the Celtics have not scored in more than three minutes.
Terrence Williams was huge for the Celtics, filling in for Bradley and actually helping slow down the Knicks’ pick and roll to an extent. Now it is up to Terry, Pierce and the rest to bring it home.
Fourth quarter, 9:04, Celtics 75-60: Uh, oh. Green dashed down the lane, shook off a defender and threw down a dunk over Anthony, and the Celtics now lead by 15.
If somebody on the Celtics breaks out a bloody sock, start to worry, New York.
Fourth quarter, 11:06, Celtics 69-60: Well, this could be terrible news for the Knicks. Anthony and Garnett got tangled up, and Garnett appeared to yank Anthony’s left arm. Anthony came up favoring his left arm or shoulder, grimacing in pain, but he stays in the game.
End of third quarter, Celtics 69-60: Twelve more minutes and the story continues.
After a blistering third quarter for Pierce and Terry, who combined to shoot 7-for-10 from the field (Terry was a perfect 3-for-3), the Celtics are just 12 minutes from heading back to Boston for a Game 6. Maybe the “bad” quarter they have been doomed to have in every game this series was the first quarter.
Pierce and Terry scored 18 of the Celtics’ 24 points in the quarter as their team just kept feeding them. By contrast, Felton gashed the Celtics on the pick and roll — he had eight points, primarily off that play — but the Knicks inexplicably kept going back to what was not working. Anthony was a “perfect” 0-for-4 in the third and is one for his last 11 shots.
Third quarter, 2:48, Celtics 66-60: Pierce has that look about him. You know the look: the one that says he does not feel like losing this basketball game.
Pierce is 4-for-6 from the field since his clunker of a first half, while Terry has kept giving the Celtics exactly the type of timely jumpers they need. At the same time, Garnett is lively in the post. He already has 13 boards and two blocked shots.
The only blemish on the Celtics’ resume is their pick-and-roll defense. It got so bad that Rivers yanked Bradley, who has been unable to navigate Chandler and Martin’s picks all series. The only way the Celtics really slow it down is when the Knicks go away from it themselves with isolation plays for Anthony.
Third quarter, 5:59, Celtics 56-54: Pierce is back. Unfortunately for the Celtics, so is Felton.
With Anthony hardly touching the ball, Felton and Chandler executed the pick and roll with all the perfection they have all season. They generated three baskets using just that simple play, forcing Garnett and the Celtics’ guards to scramble.
Pierce has started the second half by hitting a three and a pull-up jumper, but offense is not the Celtics’ issue. They need to figure out a way to stifle Felton’s penetration off the pick and roll. So far Bradley has been ineffective, so the Celtics may have to find the answer elsewhere.
Halftime, Celtics 45-39: Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and the Celtics are not going to go quietly.
Since their awful start, the Celtics have outscored the Knicks 45-30 and own a six-point lead at halftime. With Bass leading the defense, Anthony scored just two points in the second quarter. Terry, who was consistently booed whenever he touched the ball in the first half, drained a three and ran back up court doing his “JET” celebration thingy.
That the Knicks tossed UMass alum Marcus Camby, who sat out the first four games with plantar fasciitis, stinks of desperation. Remember, though, that the Celtics have held leads at halftime in three of the previous four games, and they lost two of those three.
Second quarter, 5:02, Knicks 35-34: Pierce is finally hitting shots, which is good for the Celtics.
Where else can you get crack analysis like that?
Pierce finally dropped his first shot, a three from the wing, with about seven minutes to go in the second quarter. He added another about a minute later to give Boston its first lead at 34-33 and make him 2-for-9 from the field.
Hey, he’s got to start somewhere.
Second quarter, 8:14, Knicks 28-26: We all know about the Celtics’ troubles when Garnett takes a seat. Now we have to see how they react to Bass sitting down.
With Bass on the bench, the task of defending Anthony falls to Green. Green did a decent job of forcing Anthony to miss a contested layup, but he and Garnett could not box out Chandler for the offensive rebound. Chandler found Anthony for a corner jumper to recapture the lead for New York.
Before that, there was a moment of chippiness between Garnett and Kenyon Martin. As Martin went to block KG’s shot, he caught some of Garnett’s arm and the Big Ticket went down like a ton of bricks. It was initially called a flagrant, but upon review it was rightly called a regular foul. Still, that is the type of play we can expect here. Martin already has three fouls, putting him in the sort of foul trouble Garnett is used to carrying around in this series. (Garnett has zero.)
Pierce continues to struggle, meanwhile. He is 0-of-6 from the field and scoreless.
End of first quarter, Knicks 22-20: For as terrible as the Celtics looked at the outset, it is a minor miracle that they are only down by two points.
The Celtics shot just 6-for-18 from the field while the Knicks hit exactly half of their 18 attempts, but the Celtics were able to get to the line, where they were 7-for-7. That aggressiveness — when it occurred — has helped keep them in the game.
As much as we have raved about Bass, it should be noted that Anthony has 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting. But those shots are coming with difficulty, after plenty of seconds wasted off the shot clock. The Celtics will take those attempts, as they did in Game 4, every time.
First quarter, 2:31, Knicks 19-16: Bass had better get ready for a long night, because at this rate the Celtics cannot afford to take him off the court. He has been their best player by far, not only blanketing Anthony on defense but also scoring six of Boston’s first nine points.
Jason Terry, who entered the game to catcalls, also contributed with a three. They helped the Celtics outscore New York 16-10 since the Knicks’ 9-0 start, although the Celtics’ offense is still slow and easy to predict. The Celtics are walking the ball up the court and settling for jump shots, with the exception of Bass.
First quarter, 8:14, Knicks 9-0: The Celtics’ quest for survival is not off to a great start.
The Celtics have missed their first five shots while the Knicks, spurred on by Anthony’s two free throws after a rip-through foul (which is not supposed to bring free throws anymore), sprinted out to the early lead. It could be even worse if Prigioni were not such a reluctant shooter.
Pierce basically dared Prigioni, a 40-percent shooter on 3-pointers, to fire away from deep on back-to-back possessions. Prigioni missed the first but hit the second. He then turned down a wide-open layup to pull the ball out and reset the offense.
This is not the start the Celtics were looking for. The only positive is that, once again, Bass’ defense on Anthony has been superb. ‘Melo has not even been able to get a shot off yet.
5:54 p.m.: The Knicks reportedly arrive at Madison Square Garden dressed all in black. No, they are not all doing their best Walt Frazier impressions. They are dressed for a funeral — the Celtics’ funeral.
The standard phrase in this type of situation is to “go big or go home.” The Celtics have chosen to “go big,” at least with their starting lineup. Doc Rivers will trot out his usual “big” lineup with Paul Pierce at the two and Jeff Green at the three.
Check out the starters below.
5:28 p.m.: Get ready for what could be Paul Pierce’s final game in a Celtics uniform.
Pierce, who has played for only one team in his 15-year career, would play out the last year of his contract, if it were up to him. It is not — not entirely.
The Celtics hold a $5 million buyout option this summer on his $15 million contract for the 2013-14 season. If the Celtics exercised the option, it would give them quite a bit of payroll money to play with. But it would also rid them of a franchise icon.
“You know, truthfully, I haven’t put too much thought into it,” Pierce told Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. “I mean, the organization’s going to do what they’re going to do. It’s nothing that’s stressing me out. I mean, that’s the way it is. Every year, they’ve got decisions to make, and those are their decisions, so I leave it to them.
Either way, there is at least one more game left in the Pierce era in Boston. The Celtics will try to make sure that era does not end Wednesday.
8 a.m. ET: The Celtics avoided the sweep. Next up, they see if they can make history.
Thanks to Jason Terry’s nine points in overtime, the Celtics survived a Game 4 nail-biter to earn a Game 5 in New York on Wednesday. To get to a Game 6 back in Boston, the Celtics will need to pull off another upset.
Only this time, the Knicks have J.R. Smith. Oh yeah, and no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit.
Smith will be back in uniform for the Knicks in Game 5 after serving his one-game suspension for intentionally elbowing Terry in the face in the fourth quarter of Boston’s loss in Game 3. Smith declared that this series would be over if he had not been suspended, but he was, and it is not. So, there.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 7 p.m. ET.