The Boston Celtics fought off a sweep at the hands of the New York Knicks on Sunday thanks in large part to reserve guard Jason Terry, who made two key contributions.
First, the 14-year veteran provided a chin so inviting that the Knicks' J.R. Smith just couldn't resist elbowing it during New York's Game 3 rout, resulting in a one-game suspension that took away an integral piece of the Knicks' offensive attack for Game 4. Next, Terry stepped up in a big moment (a rarity during his first season in Boston) to score nine of his 18 points in overtime to help push the Celtics to a 97-90 victory.
The ever-loquacious Terry's performance backed up what Knicks big man Kenyon Martin told Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News was quite a bit of pregame trash talk: "The guy was mouthing off before the game. He told me, 'You're not dancing at my funeral today.'"
With the scene shifting back to Madison Square Garden for Wednesday's Game 5, though, Martin told Lawrence he's very ready to put on his dancing shoes and step the whole night through, or whatever dance a dude with "Bad Ass Yellow Boy" tattooed on his chest prefers (perhaps the Rockaway?):
"We're ending it Wednesday," Martin said.
He even made it a point to tell teammates what to wear when the Knicks look to win this series in five, then get ready for the winner of Indiana-Atlanta. "Wear black," he said. "Funeral colors."
Sound like dancin' words to me. Also, a violation of the NBA's uniform policy, unless Martin has already received explicit approval from the league office to wear dark jerseys instead of the Knicks' home whites. But then, Kenyon's always been a bit of a rebel.
(Just kidding, you guys. Martin was talking about the clothes the Knicks would wear to the game, not what they'd wear during the game. And apparently, they actually did all wear black, which shows that they have a strong sense of symbolism but not a great sense of what's kind of dorky.)
Despite what sure seems like some freely offered, unrepentant bulletin-board material, Martin told the Daily News' Frank Isola that he doesn't “need any more motivation, but [that Terry] did add a little fuel to the fire.”
“I’m not going back and forth with him, know what I am saying? We are trying to close this series out. It is not about what he is saying; it is about us going out and playing basketball.”
Knicks fans hope the basketball the team plays on Wednesday bears a closer resemblance to what enabled them to take a commanding 3-0 lead in this best-of-seven series than what prevailed for the lion's share of Sunday's Game 4 — stagnant half-court offense dominated by isolation sets commandeered by an ineffective and inaccurate Carmelo Anthony.
The return of Smith to the lineup figures to restore flow, shape and spacing to the New York offense — provided, of course, that Martin and his 'mates (especially Anthony and Smith) really aren't too focused on what Terry and the rest of the Celtics are saying, since, as Howard Beck of the New York Times notes, the Knicks are never as vulnerable as when their top two scorers allow emotion to steer them off the steadier path coach Mike Woodson has charted this season. (Pretending not to know who Terry was on Tuesday suggests Smith might not quite be back on the straight and narrow just yet.)
For his part, Terry's dual tasks are to help force that detour (as he did by closely defending Smith and poking at the ball in Game 3) and to make the Knicks pay for straying by knocking down shots (which he's done pretty well over the past three games, shooting just under 52 percent from the floor and 44 percent from 3-point range). How well he's able to do the latter at MSG remains to be seen, but he continued to do his level best to work on the former before Thursday's contest when he chatted with Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald about Martin's sartorial comments:
“Yeah. That’s cool. I thought they wore that last game too,” Jason Terry said yesterday of the Martin comment. “For us it don’t change whether they wear white, pink, blue, black, green — it’s Game 7 for us. We know what mindset we have to be in. You lose, you’re going home. That’s what it is.” [...]
“You can’t worry about it. You can’t worry about the past — you can only worry about this next one,” Terry said. “This next one is on the road. It is what it is. I don’t know what the pressure is. The pressure’s on us. We don’t want to go home. I don’t want to go home.”
If Anthony can rein in his shot-happy impulses, Smith can avoid the temptation to turn the game into a one-on-one contest with Terry, and Raymond Felton continues to terrorize the Celtics' defense in the pick-and-roll game (especially when Celtics defensive mastermind Kevin Garnett sits), the Knicks could very well send them there and earn the right to dance on the 2012-13 Celtics' graves. If not, though, Terry and company could pull off a momentum-shifting upset that sends the series back to what would promise to be a raucous TD Garden for Game 6, stirring the ghosts of the 2004 Red Sox and opening the door for chaos to reign.