Funeral Canceled as C's Plot Resurrection
NEW YORK - Call off the undertaker. The Knicks may have dressed for a funeral, but Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and the #BostonStrong Celtics aren’t ready to die.
They’re scrappin’. In fact, they’re plotting a resurrection.
The Celtics have been called too old, too tired, and over the course of five games, many times they’ve looked the part as well. But they granted themselves a stay of execution with a 92-86 Game 5 victory that suddenly shifts the series back to Boston for a Game 6 showdown that gives the Celtics a chance to even it up at three games apiece.
As CSNNE’s Greg Dickerson tried to conduct a postgame interview with Garnett, the rare pro athlete who attentively listens to interview questions before responding, he was interrupted by the Big Ticket.
“All that you about to say ain’t got nothing to do with it…We out here scrappin’,” Garnett said, waiving his left hand to dismiss the question and illustrate that anyone who wasn’t on the floor for Game 5 couldn’t possibly understand what was really going on.
“It’s about survival. Every game from here on out is like a Game 7. And we scrappin’,” he said, soaked in sweat and lost in the moment. Garnett, who posted 16 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, expounded on his hashtag-worthy declaration (#WeScrappin, anyone?) with a rambling monologue that was loaded with passion and candor that only KG can deliver.
“No shenanigans, no nothing. We know what they’re running, they know what we’re running, it’s just all out. Who wants this? This is what it is. That’s all we’ve been doing this last couple of games, man. They came out, they talked. We did no talking. We put ourselves in this position, and we’re scrappin’.”
Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but this team was supposed to be dead a long time ago. The 2010 season was supposed to be the End of the Big Three Era. Only Doc Rivers and the Celtics got the band back together in 2011. And again in 2012, coming within one win of a third NBA Finals appearance in five years.
Sure, Ray Allen may have turned heel and skipped town for the golf courses and fast-lane life of Miami over the summer, but the heart and soul of the squad, the tag team of Pierce and Garnett, stands resolute. They are not South Beach, and they may not be able to carry the load every night anymore, but they’ll be damned if they don’t die trying.
Garnett’s grabbed 52 rebounds over the last three games. Fifty-two. Meanwhile, Pierce played 44 minutes Wednesday night, and while he may have committed some head-scratching turnovers, he also had some nifty thread-the-needle assists. He finished with 16 points, largely thanks to four timely 3-pointers throughout the night.
“Everybody in here wants to win. Everybody wanted to get this game back to Boston for Game 6 and see what happens,” Pierce said. “When it was 3-0, we could have packed it in but this team has the will. That comes from our Coach (Rivers), it comes from our leaders, myself and Kevin (Garnett) to keep going.”
And then there’s Terry. The wily old pro had a forgettable regular season as the “replacement” for Allen, but he’s come alive late in the series and upheld his reputation as a postseason performer who can take a punch or two – or an elbow to the grill. Terry scored nine of his 18 points in Game 4’s overtime, and he dropped another 17 in Game 5.
“I am pumped every game whether I am making or missing them (shots). It is all about being resilient. ‘Do you want to pack up your things and go home or do you want to play another day?’ Every playoff series takes a life of their own. Nobody in here is going to quit,” Terry said.
That includes the Coach, who introduced Ubuntu in Rome in 2007 and has managed to get his team to answer the bell with great pride every spring when the postseason arrives.
“We are looking at each one of these as Game 7s. We are playing a really good basketball team. We know that. We have to be really good defensively,” Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said. “We know our limitations on the other end. For us to move on we have to be really great on defense.”
At the risk of countermanding the head coach, defense hasn’t really been the problem as much as the Celtics’ lack of firepower (and to be frank, a backup point guard) has haunted them throughout the series. The C’s have kept the Knicks’ prolific offense largely at bay; New York has yet to score more than 90 points in the series. But Boston has been severely hamstrung by crippling scoring droughts that are symptomatic of a disjointed Rajon Rondo-less offense.
Think about this: With the season, and perhaps careers and legacies on the line, Rivers rolled out just seven players in Game 5, the best seven guys he’s got right now. One of them is apparently named Terrence Williams. T-Will, as he calls himself, played just less than 17 minutes in Game 5, posting four points, grabbing four rebounds, and shouldering ball-handling responsibilities. Williams appeared in just 24 regular season games (318 minutes of PT) this year for the Celtics, but when called upon Wednesday with the season hanging in the balance, Williams steadied the ship according to Terry. Pierce suggested that he has the “poise of a veteran.”
If you had Terrence Williams in your Game 5 X-Factor office pool, congratulations. You’re an incredible prognosticator. If you’re the type who prefers to imagine what could have been, you can play “what-if” all you want when considering the team’s chances had Rondo (knee) and Jared Sullinger (back) not succumbed to season-ending surgeries.
None of that matters. Undermanned and overwhelmed, the Celtics fell behind 0-3 to the Knicks, and when all signs pointed to impending doom, an ignominious sweep and the end of an era, the Celtics refused to acquiesce.
"You're only buried if the casket is closed," Terry said.
Terry, Garnett and Pierce aren’t getting any younger, but they aren’t going to be buried alive either.