BOSTON — The Boston Celtics are looking across town for inspiration as they attempt to become the first NBA team to rally from an 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series.
Needing to win four straight games to stay alive in the playoffs, Celtics Coach Doc Rivers talked to his team about the Red Sox and their comeback against the New York Yankees in the 2004 AL championship series. Celtics guard Jason Terry invoked former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar and said, “If we win this next game, then anything’s possible.”
“We just know every game for us is a Game 7,” Terry said after beating the New York Knicks 92-86 on Wednesday to cut their deficit in the best-of-seven series to 3-2. “It’s all about being resilient. Do you pack up your things and go home or do you want to play another day? You got guys like Kevin (Garnett) and Paul (Pierce) who’ve been in a lot of playoff series, and everyone takes a life of its own.
“Obviously being down 3-0 ... we could have folded shop,” Terry said. “Nobody in here is going to quit.”
Only three times in NBA history has a team rallied from an 0-3 deficit to even force a seventh game: The Knicks did it in 1951 against the Rochester Royals, the Denver Nuggets came back against Utah in ’94 and Portland did against Dallas in 2003. All of them lost in the seventh game.
If the Celtics can win Game 6 on Friday night in Boston, the decisive seventh game in New York is on Sunday. Garnett said there won’t be any consolation in just making it close
“Next game we lose, this is it,” he said. “So I don’t know what everybody is talking about getting comfortable or feeling good. It’s not like we evened it up and we’re going back home. We’re down 3-2. So I don’t know what being comfortable is about.”
The Celtics have won an NBA-record 17 titles, the last in 2008, so they don’t have nearly the baggage of the Red Sox team that was trying to end an 86-year title drought. In fact, it’s the Knicks who are struggling against history: They haven’t won a playoff series since 2000, and their last championship came in 1973.
So most of the pressure would seem to be on them.
“We didn’t get it done last night, and the mood of the team is that ‘Hey, there’s a sense of urgency,’” Coach Mike Woodson said. “It’s not going to be easy by any means going to Boston and getting a win there, but again, we still control our own destiny. We have won in Boston, so we’ve got to see what we’re made of now.”
CALL IT BAD fashion sense or poor playoff etiquette.
Woodson sure didn’t like his players’ decision to wear black to Game 5 of their playoff series against Boston on Wednesday night, which they expected to be the Celtics’ “funeral.”
Only the Celtics are still alive after winning 92-86, and Woodson said Thursday he told the Knicks to focus only on the court, not their closets.
“I made reference to our guys, we need to stay out of the paper and just concentrate on playing,” Woodson said after practice, “because that’s not important. What you wear doesn’t have anything to do with how you play on the basketball floor.”
The Knicks won the first three games of the series and perhaps got overconfident along the way. Guard J.R. Smith threw an elbow into Boston counterpart Terry’s chin late in Game 3, earning a one-game suspension, then said he would have been playing golf Tuesday instead of practicing if he’d played in Game 4.
New York then broke out the black for Wednesday’s game, showing a lack of humility for a franchise that hasn’t won a series since 2000.
“This game has shown the immaturity of the Knicks team — the inexperience, maybe, in this situation. The playoffs are always a process and you have to learn as you go. They have learned something here,” TNT analyst Steve Kerr said, according to a transcript of the broadcast.
“You have to approach things in the playoffs in a very professional manner. You had the elbow from J.R. Smith that led to the suspension; a lot of trash talking the last couple of days; the shenanigans with wearing black. This is about executing and playing as a team and playing hard, and this is part of the process.”
Center Tyson Chandler said the Knicks understood Woodson’s message but didn’t regret wearing black, saying his Dallas Mavericks 2011 championship team that included current teammate Jason Kidd and Terry did the same.
“We did that every single time we had a closeout game in Dallas. There was nothing to look back on. It just reminds you of what you’re trying to accomplish,” Chandler said. “It’s nothing against the Celtics, it’s something we were doing as a team. It wasn’t meant to offend anybody or anything like that, it was meant to motivate the guys in the locker room.”
It may have motivated the Celtics, so Woodson, who said he wasn’t aware of the players’ dress code until Thursday morning, wants his team bringing the right mentality to Boston.
“I’ve addressed that with our players and that’s enough,” he said. “Again, the game is played on the floor and that’s where it should be played.”