Boston Celtics Proving They're the One NBA Team You Don't Fool Around with

Matthew SchmidtFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2013

Hold your horses, everybody. This series is not over.
Hold your horses, everybody. This series is not over.Al Bello/Getty Images

Five days ago, I sat in the same chair that I am seated in right now and wrote how the Boston Celtics were "basically finished." They were down 3-0. There was no way they could come back.

Me, of all people. The guy who preached all year how resilient the Celtics are and how you should never, ever count them out. And then I went and counted them out.

Silly me.

After dropping the first three games of their first-round series against the heavily favored New York Knicks, Boston has suddenly turned around and won Games 4 and 5 to cut the Knicks' lead to 3-2.

103. That is the number of times a team has gone up 3-0 in an NBA playoff series coming into this postseason. The record for those teams in those series?


The C's have become only the 11th ballclub to force a Game 6 after being down 3-0, so they are already in fairly good company, and wouldn't it be appropriate that they be the first team to rally from a 3-0 hole?

Going into Game 4, the Celtics needed to win four games, and New York only needed one. Boston proceeded to force a Game 5, and then they needed to win three before the Knicks won one. Now, all of a sudden, the C's must win two games before New York wins one.

You see a pattern here?

Little-by-little, the Celtics are whittling away at the Knicks, putting more and more pressure on Carmelo Anthony. Inch-by-inch, they are decreasing New York's margin for error.

This is no ordinary No. 7 seed, ladies and gentlemen. These are the Boston Celtics, a team led by two Hall-of-Fame players and a potential Hall-of-Fame coach. A team that has been to two NBA Finals over the last five years. A team that pushed the Miami Heat to seven games last season.

Even though they are without Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are still there. So is Doc Rivers.

And yet the Knicks, for some inexplicable reason, decided to poke and prod at this proud ballclub.

It all started when J.R. Smith delivered an elbow to Jason Terry during Game 3, resulting in Smith being suspended for Game 4. When Smith dropped Terry in the fourth quarter, ESPN commentator Jeff Van Gundy said something along the lines of, "7:06. Remember this time. 7:06." Van Gundy was referring to the fact that Smith threw the elbow at the 7:06 mark of the fourth period, and boy, does that resonate right now.

It didn't stop there, however.

After the Celtics won Game 4 in overtime, Smith had the audacity to say that he'd be "playing golf" had he been eligible to play. He then quipped that he didn't even know who Terry was. So, either Smith has the memory capacity of a goldfish, or he was knocking an NBA champion and someone who once won the same Sixth Man of the Year award that J.R. was bestowed with this season. It's probably safe to say that it was the latter.

But wait; there's more.

Kenyon Martin followed Smith's ridiculous remark by saying, "We're ending it Wednesday. Wear black. Funeral colors."

That comment goes beyond basketball. It goes beyond trash talk. How can you possibly say that about a team representing a city which just lost three lives and saw countless other innocent individuals get severely injured?

Martin is 35 years old; not 20. Surely he has some sense, some awareness to know not to make a remark like that, especially at the present time, right? Guess not.

Well, New York did show up to Game 5 wearing black, but they didn't end anything. The best part about all of this was that the Knicks had to conduct their postgame interviews and leave the building donning the same black attire they wore to the arena a few hours earlier. K-Mart's response to TNT's Lewis Johnson afterward was pretty funny, as well.

My question is, why?

Why would you give Boston bulletin board material? Why would you provide Garnett with even more fuel to add to his already blazing fire? Why would you awaken and challenge the beast when you could just slowly tip-toe past it and reach the light at the end of the forest?

And how could head coach Mike Woodson let this occur?

These are types of questions that you really can't answer, but let's stop talking about that. Instead, let's talk about this Boston Celtics team, a team that continues to defy the odds year in and year out.

Let me say that I have never seen anything like this in sports. Ever.

I have never witnessed a ballclub with this much heart, this much will, this much determination, this much resilience. It really is unbelievable.

It truly seems as if the C's do not play well until their backs are placed firmly against the wall. That is what has happened in this series. The Knicks delivered blow-after-blow to the Celtics throughout the first three games, putting them against the ropes and pummeling them with jabs, crosses and hooks.

Then the Celtics saw an opening, and they delivered a vicious uppercut that has planted New York on their behinds.

Of course, Boston still has work to do. They are still down in this series, but you can't help but think that the momentum has shifted to their side and that the Knicks, not the Celtics, are the team that is feeling the heat.

I was watching ESPN First Take this morning, and Stephen A. Smith said that he feels Game 6 in Boston is basically a must-win scenario for New York. That this Knicks team wants absolutely nothing to do with a Game 7 against Garnett, Pierce and the boys, even though it would be at home.

It's hard to argue with that.

KG has been an absolute monster, gobbling up 52 rebounds over the last three games. After grabbing 17 in both Games 3 and 4, he hauled in another 18 on Wednesday night. And this is a guy who is playing through bone spurs and a hip pointer.

Brandon Bass has also been outstanding, hounding Anthony this entire series and playing a significant role in holding the MVP candidate to 18-of-59 shooting (0-of-12 from three-point range) over these last two contests. He has been physical with Melo, getting into his body and preventing him from creating any space for himself. Not only that, but Bass dropped 17 points off 6-of-7 shooting in Game 5.

Terry, the 2011 NBA champion whom Smith claimed not to know, was his old self for the second straight outing, dropping 17 points off 5-of-7 shooting from distance.

Jeff Green poured in 18 points, including a violent dunk through several Knicks defenders to put Boston up 15 with about nine minutes to go, and then two backbreaking triples late which essentially sealed New York's fate.

And how about Terrence Williams? With Rivers losing confidence in Avery Bradley's ability to handle point guard duties, Doc turned to the man known as T-Will, and it worked beautifully. In 17 crucial minutes, Williams scored four points, grabbed four rebounds, dished out two assists and, most importantly, did not commit a single turnover. He seemed to be in complete control of the offense, and it would not surprise me in the least to see his minutes increase for Game 6.

None of us have any idea what was said in the Celtics' locker room prior to Game 5, and we likely never will. However, it doesn't really leave much to the imagination, especially considering how Boston looked like a squad on a mission last night.

The fact that the C's started out the game down 11-0 meant nothing to them. They were just getting warmed up. KG and Pierce had been through this too many times to fret. The Celtics would then outscore the Knicks by 17 the rest of the way, ending with five scorers in double-figures. Doc only used seven players, Terry and Williams being the only two members of the bench to get any burn. You'd figure that would be a problem with Boston's older legs, but it wasn't.

Garnett played 39 minutes and looked like he was 28 years old again. Pierce logged 44. Green, the man who had heart surgery a year-and-a-half ago, put in 43. Terry compiled 35. Yet, they looked fresh for all four quarters, something we haven't seen a lot of from the C's during this series.

The bigmouths on New York? Well, let's just say they didn't play too well.

Smith missed his first 10 shots and finished 3-of-14, his three buckets coming in relatively meaningless garbage-time fashion. But wait; didn't J.R. say that he'd be "playing golf" if he were available for Game 4? Why isn't he hitting the links today, then?

Martin? He committed five fouls in 13 minutes and registered a minus-13 plus/minus stat.

Then you had Anthony, shooting 8-for-24.

It's pretty clear what is happening here.

The pressure is mounting on the Knicks, a ballclub that, while experienced, is not battle-tested like the Celtics. After all, last season marked New York's first playoff win since 2000. They have talked the talk, but they aren't walking the walk.

It also looks as if Boston is getting into their heads. Why was New York getting involved in a postgame scuffle with the C's after Game 5's conclusion? Why did Raymond Felton have to be restrained by T-Will? Just head back to the locker room and start planning for Game 6. Don't worry about anything that Jordan Crawford, someone who didn't even play on Wednesday night, has to say.

The Knicks are still up in this series, and they really should win. They are the second seed going up against a seventh seed. They are a 54-win team playing a squad that managed 41 victories during the 2012-13 campaign.

But they have fooled around with the wrong team.

New York may still be up 3-2, but they are running out of chances to wear black. Unless, of course, they would also wear it to their own "funeral."


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