NEW YORK — The Knicks wore all-black suits Wednesday to Madison Square Garden. They believed they were attending a funeral.
They were dead wrong.
The Celtics are very much alive and kicking after their 92-86 Game 5 win in the first-round playoff series that trimmed the Knicks’ lead in the best-of-seven series to 3-2.
“Well you’re only buried if the casket is closed, so to speak,” Jason Terry said. “But us getting that win opened the door just a little bit. Winning tonight opened it a little bit more. And if we can even this thing up then it’s anybody’s series.”
The series shifts to Boston, where Game 6 will be played Friday night at TD Garden, where the fans are sure to be fired up.
“The crowd is going to be amazing,” guard Avery Bradley said.
“I already know it. Real emotional. I can’t wait. We can’t wait. We can’t wait to go back home and play and take it to Game 7.’’
The Celtics are halfway to history: With two wins, they would become the first team to overcome a 3-0 series deficit in the NBA playoffs.
“We are not chasing them,” said Knicks center Tyson Chandler. “We are up 3 games to 2. We have to finish the job.”
The Knicks, who had a chance to sweep the Celtics, have failed twice to finish the job.
“We just keep trying to find a way,” said the Celtics’ Paul Pierce, who had 16 points. “We just keep finding out more and more about this team, more about the guys that we put out there, just their will not to let the season end right away.”
The Knicks opened the game with an 11-0 lead and it seemed like the Celtics were already six feet under.
“We called a timeout and I kept telling them, ‘We are fine, we are good, keep hanging in there,” coach Doc Rivers said.
The Celtics more than hung in. They fought back, playing by far their most complete game of the series – with nary a bad quarter along the way – as they build a lead as large as 15.
“Well that just shows you how resilient we are,” said Terry, who had his second straight strong game off the bench, pouring in 17 points as he hit 5-of-9 from 3-point range.
“Down 11-0, could have been easy, again, to say, ‘All right, fellas, we made a great effort but it just wasn’t good enough.’ ”
The Knicks, who haven’t won a playoff series in 13 years, still had a shot of ending Boston’s season late in the game.
J.R. Smith, playing after being suspended the last game for elbowing Terry in the face, hit a 3-pointer with 1:05 left that brought the Knicks within 5.
But then Kevin Garnett capped off a brilliant performance by sticking a jumper with 48 seconds left.
The Celtics center, who turns 37 this month, finished with 16 points and 18 rebounds in 39 minutes.
But he doesn’t believe the series has turned. “No. We’re still down,” Garnett said. “This is all-out. Our mentality has to be all-out. It can’t be anything other than that.”
If the Celtics play like they did Wednesday night, the rest of the series will be a battle, especially after the on-court altercation following the game that involved several players from both teams.
“I told you from Game 1 that this wasn’t going to be easy or a walk in the park,” said Carmelo Anthony, who had another terrible game, shooting 8-for-24 from the floor with 22 points.
“Those guys were going to fight. They threw a couple of punches and now it is time for us to do the same.”
Brandon Bass again frustrated Anthony and also pitched in with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Bass helped the Celtics dig out of that early hole by scoring 9 of their first 11 points.
“We are not making shots,” Anthony said. “I don’t think Boston is doing anything that they haven’t been doing. Our shots aren’t going in right now.”
Anthony also appeared to hurt his left shoulder late in the game when he got tangled up with Garnett.
“He yanked my shoulder a little bit,” Anthony said. “I am fine.”
And Smith, who said the series would have been over and he would have spent the day golfing had he played in the last game, was also terrible. He missed his first 10 field-goal attempts and finished 3-for-14 with 14 points.
Raymond Felton had a strong game with 21 points, but scored just 4 in the fourth.
The Celtics got a balanced scoring effort, the likes of which they haven’t had in some time.
Jeff Green had a team-high 18 points, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers from the left corner late in the game to give the Celtics a 12-point lead. Knicks fans started to bolt after that.
Terry’s 3-pointers were all clutch, each seeming to stifle a Knicks run.
The key, Rivers said, is that Boston finally took advantage of the Knicks’ trapping defense by finding open players when the traps came.
“This was the first game we had complete trust,” he said. “We let the ball find the open guy and we were really good.”
The Celtics shot 45.7 percent from the floor (32 for 70) but made 11 of 22 from 3-point range. “We are not a bad 3-point shooting team,” Rivers said, adding that they were due for a night when the shots fell from long range.
And so the Celtics return to their familiar parquet, but Pierce said they can’t be overly excited.
“We’ve just got to maintain a certain calm,” he said, “keep taking it one game at a time and just keep climbing the mountain.”
The confident – and still alive Celtics – are two wins from the peak, and from history.