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Celtics' objective against Knicks: Make it to Friday
Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers during the second quarter of game three of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs against the New York Knicks at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
Before they take the court in New York tonight, the Celts must make another decision. Do they want to make their own plans for Friday night, or would they rather the NBA tell them where to go?
The crew at TD Garden is holding the date open for them, and the Celtics' first step toward filling it with a Game 6 is to come to the conclusion that they badly want their season to continue.
Of course, even then it may not matter.
The Knicks are still the more talented team, a fact proven rather conclusively while they've built a 3-1 lead. If the Celtics do not fly to New York today with a damn-the-odds belief in themselves and an insane desire to become the first NBA team to overcome a 3-0 deficit, then the charter will be little more than wasted fossil fuel. They cannot, however, focus that far ahead. Today's choice is simple. Would you rather have Friday or summer?
The Celtics have already performed the face-saving task of avoiding the sweep. Now it's about something more basic, something gleaned in the playground at an early age.
This is about keeping the court. If the Celts win, they get to stay - albeit with a move back to their parquet park. If the Celts lose, they have to wait until next season to run it back.
"We're never going to give up," Avery Bradley said after Sunday's overtime win. "We still feel like we have a chance to win this series."
It can be accepted as an article of faith that the Knicks will come out aggressively and with confidence. Carmelo Anthony will fire away from the opening tip. The elbows that J.R. Smith throws at the Celtics' chin will come in the form of long jump shots.
If they land, it will be interesting to see how the Bostonians react. If the Knicks take the early lead, it will test the Celtics' will and desire.
We will know then if this is in them.
"Now we have to go into a hostile environment, and they're going to be trying to get it over with," Jason Terry said. "They don't want to come back here, but we do."