Celtics-Knicks review: Celtics show heart

Celtics-Knicks review: Celtics show heart
May 4, 2013, 12:45 am
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BOSTON — When the New York Knicks surged ahead by 26 points in the fourth quarter of their series-clinching Game 6 matchup with the Boston Celtics, no one would have blamed the C's for calling it a season.

Instead of allowing the crushing to continue, they did what they seem to do whenever adversity strikes - they fought back.

And while their fourth quarter comeback was spectacular, it was too little too late as their season ended with an 88-80 loss.

The Knicks move on to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000, and they will face the Indiana Pacers.

To see the Celtics catch fire the way they did in the fourth quarter did not come as a shock to head coach Doc Rivers.

"I think that's a microcosm of the year," he said. "We'd been counted out four or five times this year."

When Rajon Rondo went down for the season with a torn right ACL in January, the C's responded by winning seven straight which included a win over defending NBA champion Miami Heat.

There were other injuries, such as the back surgery that ended Jared Sullinger's solid rookie season; the torn ACL injury suffered by Leandro Barbosa that eventually led to the C's including him in a trade to Washington for Jordan Crawford.

Darko Milicic left the team to be with his ailing mother, and ... the list of setbacks for this crew was a lengthy one.

"And each time we just fought back," Rivers said.

But some holes are just too deep to dig out of, as the C's know all too well.

First they fell behind in the series by losing the first three games. And after winning a pair, they fall behind by 26 in the fourth quarter of a game they had to win in order to keep their postseason dreams alive for one more night.

And while disappointed with the outcome, it's clear that the C's were happy with the fight and grit they showed in the fourth quarter, the darkest hour of their entire season.

"That's what the definition of a true Celtic is," said Jason Terry. "Never say never, never say die."

That never-say-die mindset certainly was a factor in the Celtics making what looked like a blowout into a nail-biter that wasn't decided until the final minute of play.

Here are some factors outlined prior to the game, and how they played out as the Knicks move on to the next round of the playoffs with a series-clinching win over the Celtics.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Lately it has been player's talk and not their talent, making headlines in this playoff series. As much as Doc Rivers says he doesn't like to see that stuff, it actually has worked in the C's favor. Boston has the kind of squad whose leaders for the most part, can block out all the white noise - or as Kevin Garnett calls it, "shenanigans" - and just play basketball. The Knicks, at least in the last two games, have allowed chatter on and off the court to impact their play negatively.

WHAT WE SAW: The in-game chatter was kept to a minimum most of the game, which might have been because the biggest talker - New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith - was a non-factor most of the game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jason Terry vs J.R. Smith: NBA Sixth Man of the Year winners of the past (Terry) and present (Smith) have been major factors in this series. It's not a matter of who will score more points. Most nights, that'll be Smith by a landslide. It's whether those points are impactful, something Terry has been able to deliver in the last two games for the C's.

WHAT WE SAW: Terry won the head-to-head points matchup with 14 to Smith's 13, and did so on 4-for-6 shooting compared to Smith who was 5-for-13 from the field. But this was a game when the Celtics had so many players having off nights shooting the ball, there was a need for Terry to deliver something more than just a good game - but a great one. And sadly, he fell short of that on Friday.

PLAYER TO WATCH:  Brandon Bass came up with 17 big points in Boston's Game 5 win, equalling his scoring total in the first four games combined. Since becoming a Celtic, the C's are 5-2 at home in the playoff games when Bass has 10 or more points scored.

WHAT WE SAW: It was another strong night defensively for Bass on Carmelo Anthony, but what made his play so special in Game 5 was his ability to defend at a high level and then produce offensively. Friday was arguably Bass' worst game of the series offensively, as he scored just six points while missing five of his six shots from the field.

STAT TO TRACK: Kevin Garnett has grabbed 52 rebounds in the last three games, a ridiculously astounding number for any player let alone a 36-year-old veteran. You have to wonder if Garnett has it in him to deliver yet another monster game on the boards with such a quick turn-around following the C's Game 5 win on Wednesday.

WHAT WE SAW: As gaudy as Kevin Garnett's numbers can be, they rarely do justice to how much he impacts a game. He had 15 points and 10 rebounds for his fifth straight double-double, looking every bit like the perennial all-star that he is with contributions coming in so many areas that are too numerous to rattle off individually. "He is as tough a guy, as tough a competitor, than I've ever been around," said C's coach Doc Rivers.