BOSTON — Jeff Green turned out to be right.
After his team dropped Game 3 of its first round playoff series with the New York Knicks in Boston Friday night to go down 3-0, the Celtics forward said, “They haven’t won it yet.”
Now, there has been a Game 4 and the Knicks still haven’t won it yet.
No NBA team has ever come back from 3-0 to win a series, but the Celtics took the first step Sunday, blowing a 20-point third-quarter lead but coming away with a 97-90 overtime victory that sends the series back to New York for Wednesday’s Game 5.
“We wanted to survive,” Kevin Garnett said after Jason Terry scored nine straight points in overtime to end seventh-seeded Boston’s six-game losing streak against the second-seeded Knicks. “This is the position we put ourselves in. To continue to play we’ve got to continue to win. That’s what it’s all about.”
Terry, who had been quiet in the series, erupted in the OT and Paul Pierce scored 29 points and Green 26 in the game as the Celtics, taking advantage of the Knicks missing a suspended J.R. Smith, avoided what would have been the seventh sweep in their 112 playoff series.
“At the end of the day this is it … it’s going to be a long summer so every game is crucial every possession,” Terry said. “This is the first time that we really came out with fire in our eyes; and I guess that’s because it’s elimination … every game from here on out is Game 7 for us.”
Terry came through in his 91st career playoff game. In other words, he’d been there before.
“He was great. That’s what he does,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said after Terry doubled his game point total in the OT. “He’s made so many big shots in his career.”
Terry broke an 88-88 tie with a 3-pointer off a fast break with 1:32 left in the extra five minutes and then continued on to put the game away and keep the series afloat.
It was Terry who took an elbow from Smith, the league’s Sixth Man of the Year, in Game 3, leaving New York without a guy who had averaged 16.3 points per game on the year, and then Terry who did the OT damage.
Carmelo Anthony, suffering through a miserable shooting game that saw him go 10-for-35 from the floor, 0-for-7 from 3-point range, still managed 36 points (16-for-20 from the line with some big misses) while Raymond Felton, who led the comeback, had 11 points in a 14-3 run late in the third quarter.
Anthony was at least leaned on every time down the floor, and Brandon Bass fouled out as one who guarded him. “They were trying to be a lot more physical today,” Anthony said.
“I thought we had it,” said center Tyson Chandler, who had 11 rebounds. “We had every look that we wanted to, got big stops, we didn’t execute … I mean we executed we just didn’t knock down shots.”
Down 20 with 9:25 left in the third quarter, the Knicks roared back and actually led by two late in regulation.
Using a four-guard offense with Anthony on the bench with four fouls, the Knicks tied the game with 7:18 left, with Felton and Iman Shumpert (12 points, 12 rebounds) leading the way.
Garnett added 13 points and 17 rebounds and Pierce had eight rebounds and six assists; Boston winning despite getting only three offensive rebounds, compared to the Knicks’ 16, as New York ran up a 54-40 rebound advantage.
But Garnett, Pierce and Terry, and all their experience, led the way.
Terry, asked about the veteran leadership in the Celtics locker room, said, “Tremendous; when your leaders are KG, Pierce and myself we have too much pride. Getting swept is something that no man that’s been in this league that long wants to do; it’s disheartening. And so tonight again Game 7 type of intensity; the crowd felt it and now we have to go into a hostile environment, and they’re going to be trying to get it over with.
“They don’t want to come back here but we do.”
Without Smith, the Knicks got only seven points from the bench.
“Honestly, as far as J.R. goes, we miss him, I missed him out there,” Anthony said. “But J.R. being out there doesn’t change the way I shoot the basketball. Those are the shots I’ve been taking all series. They weren’t falling tonight.
“My mother always said, ‘There’ll be days like this.’ We’ll take it for what it’s worth, put this one behind us and get ready for Wednesday.”
“I’m not using (Smith’s absence) as an excuse,” said coach Mike Woodson. “We had enough tonight … we just have to go home and handle our business at home.”
NOTES: The Knicks have won 19 of their last 22 games, while the Celtics won for only the sixth time in their last 20. … New York had won the last six games between the two rivals. … Coming into this season, 103 NBA teams had 3-0 playoff, all prevailing. Only the 1951 Knicks, the 1994 Nuggets and 2003 Trail Blazers rallied to force a Game 7. … Seen in the hallway before the game: Bruins forward Tyler Seguin, who had arrived early for the game at night. After the game, Ottawa Senators players, dressing across the hall from the Knicks, peered into the New York locker room, almost like fans. … Hours before the game, a fire alarm forced the evacuation (fans had yet to arrive) of TD Garden, but there was no problem inside. … A this day in history note: on April 28, 1958, future Knicks championship coach Red Holzman was added to Fuzzy Levane staff in New York. … Spotted in the crowd: former Celtics great K.C. Jones. … Woodson had a first-half technical foul. … Game 6, if necessary, is Friday night in Boston.