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A small victory in defeat

Posted by Adam Kaufman  May 3, 2013 11:30 PM

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The Celtics had no business winning Game 6 against the Knicks, yet, when the contest ended, it somehow felt like it had slipped away.

I started watching the game just after 8 o'clock, having set the DVR to record it because my wife and I were having dinner. I told friends not to text and I stayed away from social media.

No spoilers ... until, it seemed, the game itself.

Within what felt like moments, the C's trailed 21-5. Minutes later, Paul Pierce was 1-for-8 from the field. I texted my buddy Landman - the most passionate Celtics fan I know - a flurry of furious messages.

After some silence he, watching the game in real-time, wrote back, "Sorry I'm not here to respond to your texts because I killed myself." Ignoring that he was being a bit melodramatic, I replied sarcastically, "Oh, good. It must get better then."

Down nearly 20, the Celtics went on an 8-0 run. One of the great things about watching basketball is that your team is rarely out because there's always a run. This one, though still early, appeared to be "the run." Too little, too late. The offensive balance we all marveled at in Game 5 - five players with at least 16 points - didn't exist in this game. The balance, sadly, existed in a lack of performance.

The Celtics had 27 points at the half and I thought to myself there's no way Pierce or Kevin Garnett walk away. They trailed by only a dozen at the break but were in the midst of a franchise playoff embarrassment.

Cue another barrage of fed up text messages to Landman.

"Don't be too negative," he said. "This could be it. End of KG, Pierce, the era."

"And if they want what's best for the C's," he continued, "they'll retire."

I wasn't ready to go there, to have that debate or even attempt to envision Celtics fandom without those two old, broken-down, strong-willed men in my life.

It was the third quarter for me but, in actuality, 9:33 p.m. The Celtics trailed 63-47 on my screen and were turning the ball over with hair-pulling regularity.

"They're so careless with the ball tonight," I texted.

His reply, a curious "Um, keep watching."

Six minutes later I wrote, "Down 20 after 3."

"Ya," he said.

Another five minutes went by.

"Tommy's giving the eulogy with 10 to play," I exclaimed. "They're down 26!"

Again, "Ya."

The texting stopped. It was 9:44 p.m. Little did I know, the Celtics trailed the Knicks by just six points with 2:54 to go.

With Boston down 75-49 and 9:21 remaining, Avery Bradley drained a 23-foot jumper. Over a minute later, Jeff Green's 3-pointer cut the deficit to 19. At 15, chants of "Let's Go Celtics!" could be heard echoing throughout the Garden. Pierce's acrobatic layup and subsequent 3-point play with 6:55 left made it a 9-point game.

The Celtics had gone on a 20-0 run in just 3:38 and trailed by a mere six points and what seemed like all the time in the world to play. The lead dwindled to four. No one in the building had sat down in ages. If you're a believer in destiny, this felt like it.

Then, in the blink of an eye, golf enthusiast J.R. Smith gave New York a 12-point advantage with 81 seconds remaining. Just like that, it was over.

With 27.3 seconds left, Pierce was relieved by Terrence Williams. At 18.1 to go, Garnett left in favor of Jordan Crawford.

The Celtics lost 88-80, their season over in a six-game first-round playoff loss to the Knicks, and perhaps an era after six years of Boston legend Paul Pierce playing alongside another future Hall of Famer in Kevin Garnett. Two remarkable competitors linked forever by a championship and for so many other reasons, and two humble men who are certain to have their numbers 34 and 5, respectively, hanging one day in the rafters with all those banners.

Pierce still has one season on his contract with the Celts, a year the team could certainly opt to buyout if that's what is deemed best for the organization. Garnett has another two seasons on his deal, though he's been surrounded once again by rumors of retirement. Neither man has any interest in wearing another uniform, but they also don't want to play at this stage without one another in Boston, so it's a wonder what will happen next. The nostalgic fan in me wants them both back, while the clear-thinking fan might be ready to rebuild. We'll save that discussion for another time.

When the Celtics trailed by 20 at the end of three quarters, the body was cold. Down 26, it was buried. The black-wearing Knicks had all but completed their kill.

Then Doc Rivers' team woke up, as it has so many times before. History - a shot at overcoming a 3-0 series deficit for the first time in NBA history - was once again in its grasp. In the end, the Knicks were anything but clutch, unless you're noting their clutching to a lead they no longer deserved.

The 2012-13 season's over, and now maybe a chapter in Celtics lore. It was a game and ultimately a series they had no business winning, but they were all business until the gang from New York pulled the plug.

Follow me on Twitter at @AdamMKaufman
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About this blog

Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.

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