C's Show Championship Pedigree in Close-Out Game

Boston Slams the Door on Knicks' Comeback Bid

NEW YORK – We all know that every team makes a run in the NBA, but how many teams can survive such a run and still pull out the win?

The Boston Celtics used Sunday afternoon’s Game 4 against the New York Knicks to prove that they don’t just survive those runs. Instead, they deliver a knockout punch.

Paul Pierce

While the Knicks were making their run on Sunday, Paul Pierce had some incredulous moments, but the Celtics locked in and shut down the Knicks' rally -- not to mention their season.
NBAE/Getty

This playoff-version of the Celtics can navigate through turmoil and slam the door on an opponent’s hope. That’s a characteristic that oozes from champions.

Madison Square Garden hosted its second NBA Playoff game in seven years on Easter Sunday, but the entire arena fell asleep once its team, already down 0-3 in the series, was trampled in the first half. Boston jumped ahead by as many as 19 points in the second quarter while the Knicks looked like a lottery team playing its final game of the regular season.

Boston’s lead grew to 23 points in the early stages of the third quarter, and at that point it seemed as if New York’s fans would begin filing out of the arena and into the busy streets of Manhattan. Instead, they stuck around, and they nearly saw one of the greatest comebacks in NBA Playoff history.

Anthony Carter, a seldom-used 35-year-old point guard who was a throw-in in the Carmelo Anthony trade, was the sparkplug off the bench for New York on this night. He entered the game with 5:37 remaining in the third quarter while Boston held onto an 18-point advantage. He immediately provided pressure defense and two assists while injecting life into a dormant Knicks squad.

By the time the third period came to a close, New York had drawn to within 10 points and MSG was rocking. The Knicks’ run continued into the fourth quarter and, thanks in large part to some more heroics from Carter, Boston’s lead was trimmed down to four points with 7:35 remaining in the contest.

At that moment it began to cross many onlookers’ minds that they may have been witnessing a second historic NBA comeback in as many days. On Saturday night in Portland, the Trail Blazers battled back from a 23-point second-half deficit to stun the Dallas Mavericks and even their series at two games apiece. In that game, Brandon Roy played the role of Miracle Man off the bench, a role that Carter played perfectly tonight for the Knicks.

Many people in MSG began to wonder if a similar comeback was developing in New York, but none of those people were wearing a Celtics jersey on this night. For Boston, the message was clear: stem the tide and adjust accordingly.

“It was, ‘Hold your own, let’s tighten up on the defense,’ “ Kevin Garnett said of the message delivered during Boston’s late-game huddles. “Lawrence (Frank) threw some new schemes in there and made some adjustments, and that was it.”

That was it on New York’s return to the postseason, because the Celtics responded to the momentous comeback bid with a suffocating close to the game that sent the Knicks from the postseason to the offseason.

Whatever adjustments Frank made to Boston’s defense, they worked to perfection. New York, which scored 42 points over the first 14 minutes of the second half, was silenced down the stretch.

Boston’s defense locked down the Knicks and allowed just nine points over the final 7:35 of the contest. That close-out defense just happened to be jumpstarted immediately after Carter’s 23-foot jumper brought New York to within four points.

The Celtics used their balanced offensive attack to score at the other end while the Knicks were coming up empty. Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen combined to score Boston’s next seven points to double the lead back up to eight and again seize control of the contest. Garnett, who recorded team highs of 26 points and 10 rebounds, put the icing on the cake with Boston’s final three baskets of the night.

While many teams would have folded under the pressure that was mounted by the Knicks and the MSG crowd, Boston kept its cool and ran away with the game when it mattered most. Instead of fearing the worst, it expected the best, and Jeff Green touched on that fact after the game.

“We still had the lead, so there was no reason to put pressure on ourselves,” he said. “The only thing we had to do was revert back to what got us the lead and let’s get stops, and we got that.”

Those stops put the ball back in Boston’s court, and the C’s capitalized on the opportunities. Their response to adversity was of championship quality, and that’s exactly what you want at this time of the year.

So in the end, we learned yet again that every team does make a run in the NBA. Just remember that while every team can make a run, not every team can withstand one.