Kevin Garnett celebrates a big, big win. - Jared Wickerham
The Celtics outlasted the Nuggets tonight, 118-114, in triple overtime. Game of the year? That might be an understatement.
Does it get any better than this?
If so, I sure haven't seen it in a long while.
Forget the Celtics and their "Can they still win without Rajon Rondo?" identity crisis. Forget the Denver Nuggets and their no-All-Stars, chips-on-their-shoulders success story. Tonight wasn't about over-arching season-long storylines -- tonight was just two great teams, trading blows like heavyweights, overtime after overtime after overtime, 63 minutes in all.
It wasn't perfect by any means -- both Boston and Denver were plagued by blown open looks, sloppy turnovers and missed opportunities -- but it was compelling drama, driven by two teams who absolutely refused to lose. The Nuggets, winners of nine straight games, and the Celtics, winners of six, dueled to the death. Ultimately, the C's wouldn't be denied.
"[Kevin Garnett] looked at everybody and said, 'We are not going to lose this game,'" Avery Bradley said. "We told him, 'We know.'"
KG was eventually proven right by a 118-114 final in triple overtime. They tried to win it in regulation, but Denver's Ty Lawson dashed those hopes by attacking the rim for a driving layup in the final seconds. They tried to win it in the first OT, but Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee were overpowering and the C's played from behind. They tried to win in the second OT -- that didn't work, either, as Boston fell behind again and needed a desperation Paul Pierce 3-pointer to stay alive.
It wasn't until the third and final overtime that the Celtics prevailed, led by Pierce, Garnett and the much-beleaguered Jason Terry.
"Triple OGs," Terry dubbed Boston's three veterans. "I'll take experience over youth and athleticism any day. When it's a big game, when it's playoffs, when it's the NBA Finals, you've got to have guys that have been there before. If there's a game to be won and you've got us three guys on the floor, you've got a good chance to win it."
Cliche? Maybe. But on this particular night, the C's vets really were the difference.
Terry himself was both a blessing and a curse for the Celtics -- he missed six consecutive 3s late in the game, but he managed to come through in the third overtime, propelling the C's to victory with both a late trey and a key steal against Andre Miller. No matter how many shots he missed, he wouldn't be deterred.
"Jason in the huddle was like, 'Man, we're missing some wide-open looks,'" Pierce said. "Then he was telling me, 'I'm making this next one.' So there was a situation where I drove the lane and I thought I had a shot, but they collapsed on me. Then I saw Jason wide open, and I knew it was going in. I saw the confidence in his eyes, and I knew he'd been there many a time."
"No question," Terry concurred. "I told him, and I told anyone else willing to listen. That's just my motto. That's just how I've been."
As for Pierce, he was the Celtics' MVP. His numbers -- 27 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists -- spoke for themselves, but perhaps even more notable was the huge 3-pointer he hit at the conclusion of the second overtime, tying the game at 107 and keeping the Celtics alive.
"The original play was Pierce coming off the pick-and-roll, and if he can get a 3 off, get it, and if not, JET," coach Doc Rivers said. "Then it was broken, and Paul just made a play. That's what great players do. I would love to tell you that I had something to do with it, but I was just sitting there like the fans, praying, 'Please, Lord, make a shot.'"
Rivers' prayers were answered. Among Pierce, Terry, Garnett and a smattering of minor contributors, the Celtics had just enough to eke out a great win over a great team.
"That's what we've been doing since we've lost Rondo," said Garnett, who by the way had 20 points and 18 rebounds. "Just playing basketball really hard, putting forth the Grade A effort. This was the NBA at its best. Man, this was a dope game."
That it was, Kevin. That it was. And the seven-game winning streak is fairly dope as well.