NEW YORK – Back in the series, now back to Boston.
The Celtics, winners of the most NBA championships, are two victories from making more history.
Kevin Garnett had 16 points and 18 rebounds and the Celtics stayed alive in the NBA playoffs, cutting the New York Knicks’ lead to 3-2 with a 92-86 victory Wednesday night.
The Celtics will host Game 6 on Friday night, needing two victories to become the first NBA team to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a series.
“We just wanted to keep it going,” Brandon Bass said.
Bass added 17 points, steadying Boston as it shook off an 11-0 deficit and pulled away in the second half to stop the Knicks again from achieving their first playoff series victory since 2000.
“We didn’t panic and that’s something we’ve done, but we didn’t,” Coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought once the game got back to that five, six area, our guys were good again.”
J.R. Smith, back from his one-game suspension for elbowing Jason Terry with the Knicks way ahead late in Game 3, missed his first 10 shots and finished 3 of 14 for 14 points.
Terry also scored 17 off the bench.
Jeff Green scored 18 points and Paul Pierce had 16 as he and Garnett, the two franchise stalwarts, extended this season — and perhaps their Celtics careers — at least one more game.
Carmelo Anthony scored 22 points but was just 8 of 24 in another dismal shooting night for the Knicks, who face an unwanted trip back to Boston instead of the rest this aging roster could surely use before the second round.
If they get there.
“I think we’re fine,” Knicks Coach Mike Woodson said. “Sure we would’ve loved to close it out and move on, but nobody said it would be easy.”
The Celtics were the first of the eight NBA teams that have come from 3-1 down, beating Philadelphia in 1968, and put themselves on the short list of teams that erased a 2-0 deficit the next year in the NBA Finals.
So perhaps it would be fitting if they were the first to overcome 3-0.
“I think so. I mean, I think that would be wonderful, and someone’s going to do it and I want it to be us, obviously, since that’s the situation we’re in,” Rivers said before the game. “Someone will do it, and I really want to be a part of that.”
He’s still got a chance.
The Knicks limited the Celtics to 75 points per game while winning the first three, and nearly came back to win Game 4 on Sunday even without Smith. So they felt good even after missing their first chance to wrap it up.
Though few of these players were here for the streak, the Knicks were perhaps a bit overconfident leading into the game for a franchise that before last year had lost an NBA-record eight straight postseason games.
Smith said Tuesday he’d have been playing golf instead of practicing had he played in Game 4, and players wore black to the game Wednesday as if they were heading to the Celtics’ “funeral.”
The Celtics didn’t like it, with reserve Jordan Crawford exchanging words with Anthony and Raymond Felton after the final buzzer.
Forget the funeral. The Celtics are still very much alive.
Smith finally made a 3-pointer to end his drought, then another to cut what had been a 15-point Boston lead to 88-83 with 1:05 remaining.
But Garnett made a jumper, then knocked down two free throws to clinch it.