You spent most of Wednesday night’s Knicks-Celtics game waiting for the Knicks just to start blowing them away already. The Knicks leaped out to an 11-0 run to start the game, and the Celtics looked tired, lost and ready for this series to get over. It could have been done right quick, right there. And then … for whatever reason, the Knicks seized up. They got jittery on offense, lax on defense and generally overamped: They looked like they wanted this finished, without having to do any more work. That Knicks run you were waiting for … it just never came. And then it was over. This is how Boston wins: They, as the Journal’s Jason Gay put it, had “their Cranky-Old-Guys-at-the-YMCA face.” And suddenly, this just got real scary.
The final score was 92-86 Celtics, but the game was essentially salted away with a 6-0 “run” that started the second half to give Boston a 15-lead with nine minutes left. All the talk before the series that the Celtics’ postseason experience would be the difference looked vindicated tonight: The Celtics kept their cool the whole way, and the Knicks looked lethargic and drowsy. The Knicks made a run late, but they just couldn’t hit enough shots. In fact, watching the Knicks miss shots late became hypnotic: This team that made its living off of Carmelo Anthony and the 3-point shots he both takes and creates was 5-for-22 from behind the arc. That pretty much makes it impossible to win.
It didn’t help that J.R. Smith had an absolute nightmare of a game. The Knicks collectively had the attitude that they would have swept this series on Sunday had Smith been around for Game Four, but he was dreadful all game, not only missing a ton of shots but suffering constant defensive lapses. His final numbers: 3-for-14 from the field, with two turnovers and countless rotation mistakes. (J.R. being J.R., his three makes were threes in the fourth quarter.) Carmelo had a rough game too, the second one in a row, scoring 22 points on 8-of-24 shooting, 0-for-6 from long range. (He also may have messed up his shoulder a little bit.) Raymond Felton was the best Knick on the court, but he couldn’t make up for everyone else.
So. Here we are. The Knicks are still in control of this series, with a 3-2 lead heading back to Boston on Friday night. They are still the favorites. They are still the better team. They still have everything going in their favor.
But man, did it ever not look that way late tonight. The Knicks were hanging their heads, depressed … scared. (After the buzzer, they were even chippy, with a minor tussle at midcourt.) The crowd at the Garden was plainly terrified. And the Celtics, those blasted Celtics, they are torturing the Knicks yet again. This might be their meanest trick yet, putting the fear of God into the best Knicks team in more than a decade and conjuring up those demons of the 2004 baseball postseason in the process. The Celtics have a chance to tie the series and send it back to the Garden for an elimination Game Seven. Game Six is Friday night. Watch if you dare.