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BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Celtics are just the 11th team in NBA history to come back from 3-0 deficit in a playoff series to force a Game 6.
But they don’t give any banners just for forcing a Game 6. The good thing is, you don’t need to tell that to these Celtics.
“We’re not getting overexcited. When we lost our games we didn’t get too down, and now that we won a couple we’re not getting overexcited,” said C’s captain Paul Pierce, who scored 16 points in Boston’s 92-86 win Wednesday night. “You have to maintain a certain calm and take it one game at a time; keep climbing that mountain.”
“We’re down 3-2, the next game we lose is it. I don’t know why everyone is talking about getting comfortable or feeling good; we’re down 3-2,” said Kevin Garnett, who scored 16 points and pulled down 18 rebounds. “Our mentality has to be all-out.”
That mentality has worked the last two games, and now with the series shifting back to Boston for Game 6, the pressure is mounting on the Knicks. They came into the series a cocky bunch, and haven’t stopped talking since taking that 3-0 lead. They arrived to the TD Garden and Madison Square Garden the last two games dressed in black – or showing up for the Celtics funeral.
The talk was still there prior to Game 5, but reality is starting to set in with the series getting a little tight.
“Well, we was going to a funeral, but it looks like we got buried,” said Knicks guard J.R. Smith – who shot an abysmal 3-for-14 following his return from a Game 4 suspension. “Basketball is a very humbling game.”
After woeful showings in Games 1-3, everything seems to be going the Celtics way. They fought back from an 11-0 start by the Knicks on Wednesday and trailed by just two after the first quarter. They jumped out to a 15-point lead in the second half and held off a couple of late runs by the Knicks — something they couldn’t do in their three losses.
“Everybody just wanted to be in the fight, and everyone did their part,” said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, adding this was the first game the team really trusted each other. “They made a ton of runs – third quarter they made a run, fourth quarter they made a run – and we just hung in there.”
Rivers only used a seven-man rotation on Wednesday night, but everyone who hit the floor was effective. The stat-sheet shows a balanced attack with four of Boston’s starters scoring in double figures, and Jason Terry was again a big part of the offense off the bench with 17 points. Jeff Green led all Boston scorers with 18 points on an aggressive 5-for-8 shooting night that saw him get to the free throw line six times. Brandon Bass was not only solid again guarding Carmelo Anthony, but he scored 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting and added five rebounds. Garnett led the way on the glass, pulling down 18 more rebounds to give him 52 over the last three games.
“This team has the will, and I think that comes from our coach and our leaders – Kevin and myself,” said Pierce. “We’re at our best when you look at the stat-line and see four or five guys in double figures. When we defend, rebound, have a number of guys touching the ball able to contribute, that’s when we’re at our best and that’s what you saw (in Game 5).”
“I thought we moved the ball, we trusted each other,” said Garnett. “We put ourselves in this 3-0 position so this is what is it; we have to trust each other at this point. One-on-one basketball doesn’t work against this team. For us to be successful we have to lean on one-another, and that’s what we did.”
While the rhythm and chemistry were present on Wednesday, the downside of the seven-man rotation is the number of minutes each player saw the floor; Pierce played a game-high 44 minutes with KG clocking in at 39, and Bass and Green both went over the 40 minute mark. With just one day of rest before Game 6, fatigue will likely be a factor come Friday night.
But as the pressure builds for the Knicks, the Celtics will continue to take each game they get as potentially their last. The “Game 7 mentality” has worked for two games as the team sat with their backs against the wall, and the Celtics are hoping that approach continues to bring success on Friday night.
“We’re taking it one game at a time, grinding out these games and trying to find a way,” said Pierce. “We keep finding more and more about this team, more about the guys we put out there; just their will not to want this season to end.”