The Knicks had just lost a game in which they were up in the final two minutes of regulation, with a chance to end this first-round series. And yet, after the 97-90 overtime loss to the Celtics Sunday, they were hardly bemoaning the defeat. This is the NBA, after all, and they had already taken one game in Boston, to add to their home-court advantage.
So, despite losing out on the chance to gain a potentially crucial extra week of rest with a sweep, the Knicks were focused on one thing: a return to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 Wednesday.
“To be able to come in here and get one game, it would have been nice to close out today, but that’s a tough team, a competitive team in that locker room,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “They play hard, too. They’re battle-tested.
“We played all year to get home-court advantage, and if you get one on the road, that’s a major plus. We just have to go home and handle our business at home.”
It was the right message. But there had to be some disappointment behind the words. Carmelo Anthony, after all, had seemed almost gleeful in saying that he would be “super-duper happy, excited about that” when asked about the possibility of sweeping the team that swept the Knicks in the first round two years ago.
Fortunately for the Knicks, home awaits. They might not have swept, but they have a chance at ending the series in five games. Or, barring that, six. Or, heaven forbid, seven.
“We’re going back home,” said guard Raymond Felton, who went off in the third quarter, outscoring the Celtics by himself and bringing the Knicks back into what was looking like a blowout for the home team.
“That’s where we’re comfortable is back in our comfort zone, back in our building. We did our job when we came here. We got us a win.
“We would have liked to get both of these games, but we got one game. That was our goal.”
That is what they said coming in. That is what they did.
They couldn’t close it out. Home is their backup plan.
“There’s still a lot of basketball to play,” Felton said. “Those guys are a veteran team — well-coached — and they have a lot of pride. They didn’t want to get swept. We knew we were still going to be in a dogfight. But the fact that we came back from a 20-point deficit in that building shows a lot about our team.”
But does it put the pressure on the Knicks? That was what Celtics forward Jeff Green said after Game 4, that the pressure is on New York to win a game, to close out the series, to do what they weren’t able to do on Sunday.
“That’s his personal opinion,” Felton said. “We don’t feel no pressure. We just want to come out and play basketball and try and get a win. We’re going back home, so that’s where we’re more comfortable at.”
The Knicks, in fact, went 31-10 at Madison Square Garden in the regular season. The Celtics, meanwhile, went just 14-27 on the road.
“We have to be confident going back home,” Anthony said. “We look forward to bringing this game back home to the Garden on Wednesday. The Garden will be rocking on Wednesday. We’ll be prepared for that.”
Asked what the mind-set was heading back to New York, Tyson Chandler didn’t hesitate.
“Finish the job,” he said.
Added Kenyon Martin, “Win it. There’s nothing more to be said.”