Monday, April 29, 2013

Celtics Live to Fight Another Day

Pierce brings the Boston crowd to its feet with a three-pointer
Just when I had given up the Boston Celtics and resigned myself to the fact that they were almost certainly going to get swept in a playoff series for the first time since Kevin Garnett donned the Celtic green, they sucked me back in. They reminded me that they are a gritty, resilient basketball team with mountains of pride and just enough talent. Not deep enough to win a seven game series without Rajon Rondo, mind you, but enough to compete and battle and hang in there, even if they usually falter at the end.

Playing in front of a home crowd for possibly the last time this season, the Celtics exhibited the kind of heart you'd expect from them in that kind of situation. Playing with energy, purpose, and desperation, they staved off elimination by willing themselves to a 97-90 overtime win over the New York Knicks on Sunday afternoon.

The Knicks were without J.R. Smith, who served his one-game suspension for elbowing Jason Terry's face in Game 3, and clearly missed his presence on offense. With New York stumbling through a 35-point first half, the Celtics roared out to a 19-point lead. Boston was in control, the game seemingly in hand.

But the Celtics have been prone to blowing huge leads all year, a bad habit that almost cost them the game. Boston gave New York easy points, letting the Knicks gather momentum and ultimately battle them to a draw at the end of regulation.

Typical Celtics. They never, ever make it easy on themselves.

So with Boston's season hanging in the balance and no Rondo to save them, Terry took matters into his own hands. JET came on strong at the end, scoring Boston's last nine points to lead them past NY in OT. It was a put-the-team-on-my-back performance usually reserved for superstars of the highest order, the LeBron Jameses, Kobe Bryants and Carmelo Anthonys of the world.

Speaking of Anthony, he finally suffered his first off-night of the series. After torching Boston for 96 points in the first three games, 'Melo shot a pitiful 10-of-35 from the floor in Game 4, the kind of inefficiency that negates the value of his 36 points. He needed and got lots of help from Raymond Felton, who dropped 27 points and sparked New York's second half surge, but nobody else stepped up.With better bench play, the Knicks would already be in the second round.

But they aren't, and there's more basketball to be played. I was ready to forget about the Celtics and move on, but now there's another game. There's still hope. I'll tune in when the series resumes on Wednesday night, expecting to see the same effort I saw today. That's really all I can ask for.

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