'Melo will remember the Celtics

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'Melo will remember the Celtics

Before last nights game, Carmelo Anthony sounded like a man who was beyond the Boston Celtics. Like a man with nothing to prove against the five-time defending Atlantic Division champs and a team barely removed from the Eastern Conference Finals.

Honestly, we dont even think about them, Anthony told reporters at yesterdays shoot around. No disrespect or anything. We focus on ourselves. Just happens the Boston Celtics are the next game on our schedule.

No disrespect? OK, fine. But not much respect either. At least not compared to what his teammates had to offer:

Theyre not done at all, Jason Kidd said. Theres a lot of basketball left. They have a great coach and know what it takes to win.

Boston is a veteran team, Tyson Chandler added. They do things late in the season. Theres not much of a sense of urgency as far as the regular season goes, because they know theyve been together a long time and can turn it on.

Once again, here's Melo: Honestly, we dont even think about them.

Twelve hours later, he was standing out in the cold, wearing an awesome red hat and locked in a staring contest with a bus. He was so consumed by the Celtics that he didn't even shower or talk to the media. That he reportedly needed to be restrained by Rasheed Wallace (Ha!), and even before that, had come dangerously close to getting himself thrown out of the game.

What set him off?

In an abbreviation: KG. But it had to be something more than that, right? Something above and beyond Garnett's typical trash talk. Did he drop another cancer line? Make another joke about Bin Laden? Did he say something about sweet La La, Anthony's wife?

Whatever it was, he was irate. Way past angry. In the kind of volatile state that typically leads to overly emotional and idiotic decisions like, say, trying to pick a fight outside the opposing team's bus.

It will be interesting hear what 'Melo has to say the next time he meets with reporters. You figure by then, once he's done standing on KG's front lawn screaming "Cowwaaaaaaard!" at the top his lungs, Anthony will want to discuss what happened. And I hope he gives us the full story. But in the meantime, here's one thing we know for sure: Carmelo Anthony will be thinking about the Celtics.

He came into the game acting like it was nothing. As if two months of solid Knicks basketball had already erased five years of Celtics dominance. It was basically: "Oh, Boston's in town? That's cool. Just another speed bump."

The Celtics turned out to be a brick wall. And I think it caught 'Melo by surprise. I think he was looking past the Celtics to begin with, then they lost Rondo, then the Knicks jumped out to an early 10-point lead and Anthony was flying high. Like LeBron, he had officially cleared the green hurdle, and was ready to leave the Celtics in his dust.

But then Boston fought back. Playing without Rondo, they delivered the most entertaining and spirited performance since last year's playoffs. Pierce and KG were in post-season form. Avery Bradley was all that he can be. Jason Terry found ways to contribute (five assists, four rebounds) despite missing his jumper. Courtney Lee played defense like the Courtney Lee we all expected. Jeff Green took perfect advantage of Steve Novak. Brandon Bass had the jump shot working. Jared Sullinger continued his crusade to become every single Celtics fan's favorite player.

As the game went on, and the Celtics continued to click, Pierce and KG started having some fun. And why not? How many more chances will either of them have to play in a game like that at Madison Square Garden? Can you imagine how great it must have felt to play on that stage after everything's that's happened this season? Of course they're going to get fired up.

For Pierce, that means doing stuff like this. For KG, that means talking. And he clearly said something to get under Melo's skin. And I imagine Anthony, already dealing with the shock of defeat, was thinking: "What he hell? I thought I was done with this. I thought I was done with these guys. They've got no right to talk to me like that and . . ." Scene.

I don't know. Maybe that's just my romanticized version of it.

But either way, from here on out, the Celtics are no longer just another game on Carmelo Anthony's schedule. He's going to start taking notice. After the events of the last five days, a lot of people will.

And with a 10-day, five-game home stand set to kick off tomorrow night against Phoenix, the Celtics have a serious chance to run with the hype and finally start making an impact on this 2012-13 season.

Now if they can only do it with Rondo.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Opportunity knocked in Game 3, and Celtics answered

Opportunity knocked in Game 3, and Celtics answered

CLEVELAND -- Marcus Smart sat at his locker stall late Sunday night, soaking in the moment for all it was worth. 

The Celtics were just minutes removed from one of the biggest playoff upsets ever, knocking off Cleveland, 111-108, a game in which Boston was a 16.5-point underdog.
 
Smart’s play had a lot to do with the win as he scored a career-high 27 points, which included a career-best seven made 3-pointers.
 
But this win was about more than Smart having the game of his life.
 
It was about opportunity, an unspoken rallying cry that has galvanized this Celtics team through what has been a season in which they defied the odds and naysayers time and time again.
 
Boston was supposed to be pretty good this season, but no one predicted the C's would finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference.
 
Isaiah Thomas had a breakout year in 2015-16, but few anticipated he would be even better while putting up numbers that rank among the greatest single seasons in the storied franchise’s illustrious history.
 
Then Thomas goes down with a right hip injury that will keep him out of the remainder of the playoffs, and the Celtics hit the road while trailing the defending champion Cavaliers 2-0. 
 
So what do they do? Oh, not much. 

They just come up with the most epic playoff comeback win ever against a LeBron James-led team.
 
You can dissect what happened Sunday night all you want, but in the end, it came down to one thing: Opportunity.
 
Which is why Boston’s Game 3 win was so sweet. And for those of us who have followed the ups and downs of this team this season recognized it was another example of the Celtics making the most of their opportunity to shock the world.
 
Look no further than Smart, a gritty physical defender whose shot-making isn’t exactly top-10 worthy.
 
No, I’m not talking about top 10 in the NBA. I’m talking top 10 on his team.
 
And yet there he was, delivering his usual strong play defensively while channeling his inner Isaiah Thomas to get big-time buckets in the second half, which included 11 points during a 26-10 run to close out the third and bring Boston within 87-82 going into the fourth.
 
With the surge came more opportunities for other Celtics like Kelly Olynyk, who gets the superstar treatment in Cleveland with more boos than any other Boston player. (They have not forgotten about that Olynyk-Kevin Love incident a couple years ago, apparently.)
 
Olynyk soaked in the boos while coming off the bench to splash the Cavs defense for 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
 
“Keep fighting, keep fighting,” Olynyk told me when I asked him about what Game 3’s win says about this team. “You can knock us down but we’ll keep getting back up. That’s what we did out there.”
 
Opportunity.
  
The Celtics had their moment on Sunday night, reminding us just how tough-minded a bunch they can be when they are boxed in a corner and left with two choices: Fight or face inevitable elimination.
 
Because had they lost Game 3, they would have been down 3-0 in the series. And no one needs reminding that no NBA team has ever come back from an 0-3 playoff deficit.
 
Fortunately for them, that’s no longer an option.
 
Instead, they have a chance to even this series up and regain home court advantage if they can win Game 4, which, much like Game 3, seems a long shot.
 
They don’t care.
 
It has never been about being the favorite or underdog. It’s about the opportunity, something the Celtics gave themselves with Sunday’s win.