Not Dead Yet: Celtics Rise Again With Nostalgic, Defensive, Team Effort in Game 5.

Kevin Garnett is tall, skinny, and unafraid of anything, kind of like the grim reaper. Ironically it was the Knicks who decided to wear black suits to the game (Kenyon Martin’s brilliant scheme), in order to symbolically attend a funeral for Boston. Garnett’s 16 point (on 9 shots), 18-rebound, 5-assist, 2-block performance against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night was masterful. Garnett is a master orchestrator on defense, a defiant presence on the block, a fierce competitor in big games, and despite his 57, 784 career minutes, Garnett ain’t dead yet. For that, all Boston Celtics fans can be grateful. Kenyon Martin’s biggest contribution in his 13 minutes were 5 fouls. As helpful as Martin was in Games 1 and 2, his attitude has come back to haunt him yet again. When TNT cut to the Knicks bench, you could see Martin staring off into the distance, disconnected from the game at hand.

For the Celtics, this was a team win if ever there was one. And that says something about Garnett, Pierce, and the other five players Doc Rivers allowed on the court in Game 5. When your best player is selfless, your team is selfless. The 2008-2012 Boston Celtics have played that way, and the 2013 Celtics have tried to play that way, when at their best.

Playoff rotations are usually controlled and predictable, often team’s go with three reserves, eight total. With older teams, short periods of rest for the aging veterans are necessary. Not last night. Pierce played 44 minutes, and Garnett gave 39. The scoring lines could not have been more evenly distributed: Jeff Green’s 18, Jason Terry and Brandon Bass with 17, and Garnett and Paul Pierce both knocking in 16 points.

The Celtics took a 45-39 lead into the half, by wearing down the Knicks on nearly every possession following the 11-0 deficit. ”Tightening the screws,” is how Doc Rivers likes to describe the lock-down defense he’s seen his KG-led playoff teams play. Put them in a vice, and see what happens. Brandon Bass’ phenomenal on-the-ball defense on Carmelo Anthony has me wondering how it was possible he every was asked to play power forward against 6’10″ defenders. Bass’ lateral movement and ability to make life difficult for Carmelo has been a revelation. Anthony’s shooting line in Game 4 (10 of 35). In Game 5, Anthony was 8 of 24.

Jason Terry was brought in for the sole purpose of balancing the offense and hitting big shots in the playoffs. You know, the way that guy who left for Miami in the off-season used to. Kind of big shoes to fill, the guy with the most 3-pointers in NBA history. Terry’s clutch play in the postseason with Dallas was a critical factor. However, the regular season was nothing short of a disaster for Terry. The NBA is about routines and roles, and Terry’s role in Dallas had been the sixth man/wing scorer, who was unafraid to shoot at any time. In Boston, with Bradley out to start the season, Terry was thrust into the starting lineup. In addition, the Celtics were a brand new collection of players surrounding their new big three of KG, Pierce, and Rondo. Terry’s confidence was shot in December. He kept shooting, but the ball wasn’t dropping, and now matter how hard he tried, the man is not a point guard. Fortunately, Terry is not being asked to run point in the playoffs. Avery Bradley was given a shot, but he’s clearly not able to adapt to the offensive demands, decision-making, and ball-handling that a playoff point guard must be ready for. The JET that Celtics fans envisioned took off at the end of Game 4, helping propel the Celtics to the overtime win. Terry is not prepared for his descent just yet, hitting all three of his shots in a crucial 3rd quarter that saw Boston extend it’s lead to 9 (69-60) by the end of the frame.

Jeff Green‘s long-road back from heart-surgery is well documented by now. Green’s lack of game-to-game assertiveness on the court has been talked about endlessly. Bill Simmons continues to say things like, “You never know which Jeff Green you’re going to get!” While Green is sometimes a bit too content to retreat into the corner (where he drops corner 3′s as well as any 6’9″ player in the league), and let others dictate, and while he certainly needs to improve his left-hand in penetration, Jeff Green is exactly the kind of second-scoring-option that a team with Paul Pierce needs. Pierce initiated the offense, and in semi-transition (not exactly fast breaks, but not set-plays either), Pierce was able to find good shots for KG and Terry early. Green is the epitome of the player who is content to let the game come to him (the opposite of J.R. Smith, mentioned below). The offense ran through Pierce and Garnett and Bass was able to get good lucks underneath in the first half. When the MSG crowd was attempting to energize his moribund Knickerbockers, Green quieted them with one of his ferocious, swooping slams. Green provided the emerald frosting in this win, draining two three-pointers from the corner to put the game out of reach with 2:24 on the clock.

The unsung hero of this win might have been Terrence Williams, the journeyman swing guard with unique athleticism and great ball-handling, who hadn’t been given a real shot by Rivers until this game. Williams was playing in Southern China in December, and according to the great Chris Forsberg, hadn’t touched a basketball for two weeks after the Chinese season, when Ainge came calling. How was T-Will (there are too many Williams’, right?) a factor? 18 minutes, 4, points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, and zero turnovers.

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