1.26.2010

Celtics Mug Knicks, Take 3-2 Series Lead

Celtics 121, Knicks 99
Game 5 1984 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Celtics Lead Series 3-2


Like Harry Truman, skinny ties and short hair, the old-fashioned home- court advantage is back in style.

What other conclusion can be drawn when the Celtics lose twice in New York, then beat the Knicks at home with a display of first-half dominance unseen since the Taiwan Little Leaguers annually beat the United States by scores of 21-0?

The Celtics returned from Manhattan's Rock Garden to Causeway street's Victory Garden with a brawl-marred, 121-99 dismemberment of the Knicks last night. Boston leads this Eastern Conference semifinal series, 3-2, with Game 6 slated for tomorrow night in New York. Stay tuned.

"I'm not saying anything about shovels tonight," said Kevin McHale, who rebounded from a New York funk with 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting. "Last time I said anything about shovels, they pulled a Bela Lugosi and came flying out of the grave . . . Every time I open my big mouth, we lose. Those guys are a hell of a team."

Comments of another color flew through the air during a third-period incident that started when Danny Ainge fouled Darrell Walker. It wasn't Sam Jones-and-a-chair vs. Wilt Chamberlain stuff, but it was enough to stoke the coals for a few more days.

Unfortunately, despite Boston's Hall of Fame first half and New York's gallant third-quarter comeback, Game 5 will be remembered as the night that verbal warfare erupted into a midcourt free-for-all.

The ugliness started when the Knicks were roaring back from a 27-point third-quarter deficit (76-49). With 50 seconds left in the third period, Ainge hit Walker with a couple of forearms to the neck. Ainge later claimed he was trying to prevent Walker from shooting, but the Knicks' rookie didn't see it that way. Walker came back swinging.

Both benches emptied. Everyone from Hubie Brown to Greg Kite was rolling around midcourt, before police and team personnel broke it up. Ainge and Walker were the main event, but Bernard King wanted M.L Carr, and Len Elmore spent a lot of time jawing with Dennis Johnson.

After Ainge and Walker were ejected, the Knicks continued their remarkable but futile comeback for a few more minutes.

King's 13-point third period had enabled New York to outscore the Celtics, 29-8, in the final nine minutes of the quarter.

The Knicks cut Boston's lead to eight (88-80) early in the fourth, before Larry Bird (26 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds), Gerald Henderson (15 points, 8 assists) and Cedric Maxwell (16 points) put it away, while King (30 points) continued to drive the Knicks.

Fisticuffs notwithstanding, the first two quarters were the real story. As was the case in Games 1 and 2, the Knicks showed little evidence that they belonged on the same court with the Celtics. If Eastern Airline extended its shuttle schedule another hour, Brown's humbled heroes could have flown home at intermission.

Boston nuked the Knicks in the first 24 minutes, hitting 27 of 42 shots (64.5 percent), while holding King to nine points on 3-for-8 shooting. In a stretch covering the last three minutes of the first quarter, and the first six of the second, the Celtics outscored the Knicks, 30-11, to take a 49-26 lead with 6:17 left in the first half.

"We were on an emotional high," explained Maxwell. "There was the prospect of us losing in Boston, and we had two days to think about it. We didn't want that to happen."

McHale's analysis of Periods 1 and 2: "We played great. There's no other way to say it. We did what we wanted to do."

The Garden and the crowd were electric from the moment the teams came out for warmups. After a stirring national anthem by Boston's answer to Grover Washington Jr. - Bo and Bill Winnaker - the Celtics hit 21 of their first 29 shots (72 percent). Bird (6 for 8) and McHale (8-8) missed only two shots in the first two periods.

Noting that the team with the early lead prevailed in each of the first four games, Celtics fans had to feel comforted when the green team ran off a 13-3

surge at the end of the first quarter to take a 32-20 lead after one. Boston shot 65 percent (13-20) in the first 12 minutes, compared to New York's 38 percent (8-21).

Boston's defense forced the Knicks into 12 first-half turnovers. The Celtics got great production from sub guards Quinn Buckner and Ainge.

Ainge gave the Celtics a lift at the start of the second quarter, picking Bill Cartwright clean for a sneakaway layup. Thirty seconds into the period, a disgusted Brown called time.

After Williams and Buckner threatened to go at, Buckner came up with a loose ball and fed McHale with a perfect hang pass for a fast-breaking Buckner. Then Maxwell stole from Walker near midcourt and set up McHale for a thundering fast-break slam to make it 38-20. The Garden exploded, and the Knicks called for another timeout.

A Buckner bomb from the top of the key stretched it to 20. When Buckner hit one of two free throws after a Truck Robinson travel, it was 45-24.

There was more. The Knicks continued to stagger under Celtics' pressure, and when Ainge buried a jumper from the right corner, it was 49-26, and the Knicks called time again.

It was 66-45 at the half. A reverse layup by Dennis Johnson (14 points and a sore right shoulder) made it 76-49 early in the third period, before the fight and the Knicks' comeback.

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