The Knicks showed up at New York City’s Madison Square Garden thinking that the Celtics were ready to roll over and be buried. Instead, we saw a resurrection, even without Jesus Shuttlesworth.
“We have to be humble,” J.R. Smith said after Game 5.
Too bad he did not remember that before it.
Just a few short days earlier, Smith did his best King Kong impersonation by declaring that the series would have been over after Game 4 had he not been suspended for it. He claimed he did not know who Jason Terry—the man he struck in the chin with his elbow—was.
Rest assured, he knows now. After Game 5, Terry wore his signature smirk, wide and bright.
He talked, smiled. Talked. Sat with his feet in ice, and talked some more.
“It’s all about being resilient,” Terry said. “Do you want to pack up your things and go home? Or do you want to play another day?”
We now have our answer.
Ten minutes later. Terry was still talking.
“You’re only buried if the casket is closed,” Terry said.
“But us getting that [Game 4] win opened the door just a little bit, winning tonight [in Game 5] opened it a little more, and if we even this thing up, then it’s anybody’s series. We just gotta come out every possession, every quarter and really try to win, and that’s been our focus.”
Imagine. Even as his team looked death in the face—an 0-3 series deficit—Doc Rivers was discussing trying to win each and every quarter with his team.
Meanwhile, Kenyon Martin was busy asking his teammates to arrive to the Garden decked out in all black.
According to Martin, Game 5 was supposed to be the Celtics funeral. Yet, afterward—their 3-2 lead notwithstanding—it feels like the Knicks are the team that needs to dig themselves out of a hole.
How ridiculous Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton looked—dressed in all black—as they made their way to the podium some 45 minutes after the Celtics had ensured that any trip of theirs to the second round would require one more trek to Boston.
The Knicks made the mistake of thinking these Celtics would roll over and die and would make it easy for them. To put it mildly, they were mistaken.
And you know what?
The entire experience will serve as a valuable lesson.
If the Knicks have even a remnant of a champion’s DNA, they will respond.
If Carmelo Anthony is capable of leading his team—the way Paul Pierce did on Wednesday night—he will snap out of the miserable 18-for-59 funk in which he currently finds himself.
And if J.R. Smith is even half the playoff performer Terry has been over the course of his career, it is he who will laugh last and shoot his Knicks into the second round on the opposition’s floor—just like Terry did in Game 5.
This has been a season of discovery in New York City. And Game 6 will be another challenge.
One thing is for sure. The last thing Knicks fans want to see is Paul Pierce at Madison Square Garden for a Game 7.
With his legacy on the line, I am sure Carmelo Anthony shares those sentiments. The mere thought of his team being the first in NBA history to lose a series are leading 3-0?
It is scary.
But so is a 54-win team that has just been humbled.
Moke Hamilton is a Senior NBA Columnist for SheridanHoops. Follow him on Twitter: @MokeHamilton