Final, Knicks 88-80: If that was the end of the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett era in Boston, at least it did not end with a whimper.
The Celtics stormed back from a 26-point deficit to put a scare into the Knicks late, but they finally ran out of gas after cutting the deficit to four points. In a game marked as much for the Knicks’ refusal to put the Celtics away as for anything, the Celtics’ bid to become the first team to come back from a 3-0 series deficit fell short.
There will be a lot to sort out after this game, but mostly remember the near-comeback and the rousing ovation Garnett received as he left the court, and the disappointing sendoff Pierce received.
Fourth quarter, 1:21, Knicks 87-75: It was fun while it lasted.
Finally, despite some wasted offensive possessions, the Knicks were able to put the ball in the hoop. They did it by going back to their bread and butter, a screen and roll with Felton and Anthony that left Bradley looking clueless once again. Anthony was freed up for a wide-open three, which he drained, and the wheels came off.
If this was the last stand of Pierce and Garnett, it was memorable, at least.
Fourth quarter, 2:54, Knicks 81-75: With Green taking the mantle from Garnett and Pierce, the Celtics are not letting go of the rope. Although a steal and layup by Shumpert ended a 20-0 Boston run, it was still a 20-0 Boston run. Bradley was even able to add a pick-off — his third of the game — and threw down a two-handed dunk to cut it to four points.
Anthony responded with a jumper over Bass, finally, but for the Knicks and their fans, this clock cannot tick away fast enough.
Fourth quarter, 5:44, Knicks 75-68: Wow. The Celtics will not die.
In less than three minutes, the Celtics have surged back to cut a 26-point lead to seven. Bradley is finally showing himself to be the defensive stopper he was supposed to be, and the Knicks are simply imploding. Anthony looks especially lost.
Fourth quarter, 8:49, Knicks 75-51: A lot of folks seem to be pretty convinced this is Garnett and Pierce’s last game. I am not so sure. Pierce, maybe. He is clearly not a $15 million player anymore, but Garnett is definitely an $11 million player, and he has a full two years left on his deal. Do not be surprised if both are back in green next season.
Also, it is hard to imagine either one wants to go out like this.
End of third quarter, Knicks 67-47: Try as they might, the Knicks will be hard-pressed to give this one away now. A triple by Shumpert gave the Knicks a 20-point advantage, their biggest lead of the game, after a series of Boston turnovers and New York missed shots.
The Celtics have 16 turnovers, but it feels like a billion. Pierce is having one of his worst “big” games in recent memory. He went for nine points on 4-for-18 shooting in Game 6 of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, but this one might be worse.
Third quarter, 2:27, Knicks 61-47: Is it possible to be any weaker mentally than the Knicks? The Celtics are not playing well at all — that’s the understatement of the week — yet they are staying in this game off pure effort.
Meanwhile, the Knicks are doing their best to melt down. Felton dribbled to the hole, lost the ball out of bounds and promptly threw an elbow at Garnett, drawing a technical foul.
The Celtics have to be gassed, but they do not have much choice other than to go the rest of the way. Terry, Pierce, Green, Bass and Garnett might be the only lineup Rivers can trust.
Third quarter, 6:12, Knicks 53-42: No matter how badly the Celtics play, the Knicks refuse to put this game away. Anthony, who is playing with three fouls, might as well be on a milk carton while Green (2-for-8) and Pierce (2-for-12) keep misfiring.
Green managed to get the ball on the break, lose control of the ball and still toss in an awkward layup, just before Garnett rolled home his own awkward layup.
Neither team is going to win this game. One just will happen to not lose.
Third quarter, 9:58, Knicks 45-29: All right, maybe this one is not so manageable for the Celtics now. Felton continues to be Bradley’s kryptonite, dashing off a double screen and draining an 18-footer to extend New York’s lead. That marks four assists for Anthony.
Halftime, Knicks 39-27: There are the pyramids of Egypt, the hanging gardens of Babylon and now the first half of Game 6 of this series.
The Celtics managed to go a whole half with 27 points yet not be entirely out of the game. That qualifies as the Eighth Wonder of the World.
They shot an inconceivable 8-for-34, committed 10 turnovers and missed 10 of their 12 threes. Pierce is a 1-for-10 from the field with just two points more than you have. Green has attacked the hoop and has six free throws among his nine points, but he has hit just one shot not at the stripe. Aside from Garnett, who is 3-for-5, the Celtics’ starters have shot 3-for-24 from the floor.
The Knicks are having an ungodly time shooting as well, but they are holding a block party on defense. They have blocked six Boston shots, with Felton, Prigioni and even Jason Kidd notching a rejection.
Second quarter, 3:11, Knicks 34-24: Green is the one Celtic to start finding his rhythm on offense, and it all started by attacking the basket. He has earned three trips to the foul line, where he is 5-for-6, and he drilled a long 3-pointer as the shot clock expired. After the Celtics forced a Knicks miss, Green took the ball up court and found Terry for a three to pull the Celtics back within 10.
Second quarter, 6:36, Knicks 32-14: Lee did not take long to remind everyone why he has not been playing. Felton easily went by him for a layup, then Lee was whistled for a costly foul while Anthony attempted a jumper.
The bad part for the Celtics is, Lee was not alone. Pierce is now a cool 1-for-10 from the field and has apparently forgotten how to dribble. Bradley continues to be exposed, and Bass and Green are each 0-for-3. The boo birds have come out early at the Garden, which was rocking an hour ago.
Second quarter, 10:18, Knicks 24-14: Believe it or not, Lee and Williams are actually doing some positive things for the Celtics. Lee missed his first shot, a corner three, but Williams outjumped three Knicks for the offensive rebound.
The Celtics were not able to do anything with that extra possession, but the Knicks kept giving them extra chances. After a forced turnover, Lee dribbled up the court and hit Terry with a bounce pass for a layup to cut New York’s lead to 10.
End of first quarter, Knicks 24-10: Well, now. This is different.
Apparently employing the time-honored “miss tons of shots and play everybody,” the Celtics shot 4-for-16 in the first quarter while using nine players. That is two players more than they used in Game 5. Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford, who have had to call in favors to make it off the bench in much of this series, even made appearances.
The Celtics are on pace for 40 points, which probably will not be enough to win the game. Prigioni is almost outscoring them by himself with nine points. He also has two assists and five rebounds. The Celtics have three assists and eight rebounds.
First quarter, 2:44, Knicks 21-8: Things are not going well for the Celtics, but you would not know it by listening to the crowd. The Garden fans loudly chanted “Hon-ey Nut Chee-rios” after Anthony picked up his second foul, trying to contest a jumper by Bass.
The Celtics’ energy has not let up. Their shots simply are not falling. They now are just 3-for-12 from the field, with Pierce a putrid 1-for-8.
First quarter, 6:28, Knicks 13-4: If this game is anything like the last one, the Celtics have the Knicks right where they want them.
The Celtics have looked slow and out of step in the first six minutes, misfiring on four of their six shots and committing three turnovers. As much as everyone has criticized the Knicks for playing hero ball with Anthony and J.R. Smith, the Celtics are making a concerted effort to go to Pierce, who has a mismatch against Felton.
That may sound good on paper, but Pierce is just 1-for-4 and has forced some off-balance shots. Even with Pierce matched up against a smaller, inferior defender, ball movement is still the key to the Celtics being successful on offense.
7:09 p.m.: The night’s proceedings began with a video montage, which included Kevin Millar’s famous “don’t let us win this game” quote, footage of the 2004 Red Sox’ comeback and ample shots at the Knicks for wearing black to Game 5.
It continued with a stirring anthem by Justin Waithe, as usual, and ended with a fired-up crowd’s response for the starting lineups. There is a much smaller Knicks presence in the stands than there was for Game 4, for some reason.
6:28 p.m.: The Celtics are back in the friendly confines of “The Jungle,” as Kevin Garnett calls TD Garden, and this time around we will assume most Celtics fans did not resell their tickets. That appeared to be the case in Game 4, when a heavily pro-Knicks crowd made the Garden feel like that other Garden in Manhattan.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers welcomes the return home, with a warning.
“They’ve been great,” Rivers said. “They’ve been great, but listen, I told our guys, we can’t lean on that. We have to supply the energy. We can’t think that just because we’re here now, we can let our guard down. We’re playing a really good team and an extremely talented team. We have to do more to win it, in my opinion.”
The projected starters appear below.
5:22 p.m.: One of the quickest ways for the Knicks to put away the Celtics in Game 6 is to get hot from outside, drain a lot of 3-pointers early and force the Celtics to claw back from a huge deficit.
That still might happen, but the Celtics have one less long-range shooter to worry about.
Steve Novak, who has battled back spasms, was placed on the inactive list shortly before the game. Earl Barron, a veteran center out of Memphis, replaces him on the roster.
Novak has been limited to just 8.4 minutes per game in the series and has taken six threes in five games.
8 a.m. ET: History is just 96 minutes away.
No team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series, but this series suddenly has a different tenor. The Celtics seized the momentum from the Knicks, who won the first three games, by winning Games 4 and 5 behind strong performances by Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. Now the Knicks seem worried, and for good reason. If the Celtics win at home on Friday, they force a Game 7 in New York with all the pressure on the Knicks.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has juggled his rotations throughout the series as he has sought the right combination. He may have found some options he likes after Game 5, when Terrence Williams played 17 minutes off the bench and Brandon Bass delivered a gusty effort on both ends of the court.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7 p.m. ET.