Celtics Make It a Series With Win In New York

Published on: 1st May, 2013

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New York – It’s come down to exactly what the league office would have preferred seeing in the playoff series between the Celtics and the Knicks. Instead of what looked to be a Knicks sweep, the Celtics have fought back with two consecutive wins, one up in Boston last Sunday and again, tonight at Madison Square Garden with a 92-86 win against the cold-shooting Knicks. So now, it’s on to Beantown and a game six, and is there any better way to spend this coming Friday night than watching these two old rivals slug it out?

These two protagonists, the Celtics and the Knicks are long-time rivals with a great history between them. They’ve been division and conference rivals since the league started doing business sixty-five years ago. The Celtics dominated in the Bill Russell years of the 1960s. The Knicks had their run in the Willis Reed/Walt Frazier era of the early 70s. Then, here came Larry Bird and his crew to take over the 80s.

With tonight’s Celtics win, they’ve cut the Knicks once-commanding 3-0 lead to 3-2, and the league is getting exactly what they want. A battle between two of the most prolific and historic teams in league history who will get to go back to Boston to see if this can be settled by the Knicks on Friday night, in front of a national television audience.

If the Celtics can win the next game, all the pressure will fall on the poor Knicks, who have not won a playoff series since Bill Clinton was still president in April of 2000. Thirteen long years ago.

This is not only a battle of on-court skills and trash-talking by the likes of Jason Terry, Kevin Garnett, J.R. Smith, and Carmelo Anthony, it’s a battle of wits between the two coaches who operate under decidedly different styles.

All Celtics starters scored in double figures

Mike Woodson, the cool customer on the outside, who only shows that side of himself for public consumption vs. the fiery Doc Rivers, who yells, cajoles, encourages and coaches the hell out of his team, in full view of anyone and everyone. One wears his emotions on his sleeve, the other sounds like all this is just a nice, easy walk in the park – a “journey,” Woodson likes calling it.

Except, Anthony doesn’t quite see it as the journey Woodson describes it as.

“I told you from Game 1 that this wasn’t going to be easy or a walk in the park,” Anthony said. “Those guys were going to fight. They threw a couple of punches and now it is time for us to do the same.”

He didn’t sound convincing. And, neither did Woodson.

Both teams reflect their coach’s personalities and right now, the coolness of the Knicks is not winning the battle with the grittiness of Rivers.

“At the start of the game, Coach was like, ‘we just have to come out very aggressive,” said Paul Pierce. “At the beginning, most teams when they get back home and have a chance at elimination, they come out with a certain fire and we had to withstand that. I thought we did an outstanding job of withstanding it.”

Listening to players from both teams tonight, after the game, you get the sense the Celtics players feel like the underdogs, but with these last two successes are beginning to think they’ve got these Knicks figured out. They’ve learned how to counteract the Knicks doubles and traps and find their open man for easy shots. A lot of that is on Doc Rivers. He’s been preaching adjustments since the beginning of the series and it appears, his players are following his lead just in time.

“It was a Game 7 mentality,” said Kevin Garnett. “It’s an all-out mentality. There’s no tomorrow, We need to go out there and play. We put ourselves down 3-0 and we have to work our way out of it now.”

I’m not sure the Knicks “cool” is exactly the formula to close out this particular series against the prideful veterans who make up this Celtics roster.

“We’re fine,” said Woodson. “We would love to close out and move on. Nobody said it was going to be easy. They are competitive and they are fighting. Now we have to see what we are made of. At the end of the day, we still control our destiny and there is a lot of basketball to be played.”

Nice and relaxed, that Woodson.

What will be interesting to watch this Friday is whether the Knicks and Woodson can make the adjustments to the adjustments Rivers’ team has made in this little chess match known as playoff basketball. Either way, NBA Commissioner David Stern is smiling somewhere with this sudden momentum shift in the Celtics favor. He’s got a series.

 

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