Hopefully the Knicks learned something about championship pride and the etiquette of closing-out playoff series’ from the NBA’s all-time title-holders.
People will blast the Knicks for letting the aging Celtics creep back into their first-round matchup after leading 3-0. Boston fans will criticize the “elbow” and the Knicks’ admittedly classless-arrogance and premature black-suit celebration prior to Game 5.
In the end, the temperamental, and undisciplined NY Knicks team accomplished all that matters by getting the Game 6 win. This happened despite the Celtics embarking on a comeback for the ages, by dwindling a 26- point lead to four with the help of an historic 20-0 second-half run.
In the process of their 88-80 win, they learned about how Mike Woodson reacts under fire.
At first glance, Woodson looks like a Fortune 500 CEO standing on that Knicks sideline. He hovers over the game, arms crossed, with that vicious scowl that people think just scares the Knicks into winning.
He is respected and considered a “players coach,” but his prime-time skills were under fire as Doc Rivers made all the right moves and the Celtics stormed back to cut the series lead to 3-2—and then appeared to be headed for a stunner on Friday.
When the Knicks are winning, Woodson’s public presence seems to blend in with the success of the team, almost like a patchwork quilt. He never gets too much credit or abuse for the team’s fortunes.
The Knicks were at a potentially devastating crossroads, dictated more by the team’s mental stability than their physical abilities. The fact that media pundits were discussing a possible Knicks collapse was damaging enough to Woodson’s rep.
He had to come up from behind that beard and do something to stop the Celtic’s run, because the wheels were falling off the Knicks’ taxi cab quicker than you could say the word “choke artist.
He could have left the Knicks ass-out and hoped for the best at home in Game 7, but instead, Woodson got proactive like winning coaches do, calling a crucial time out with 5:44 left in an attempt to stop a Knicks avalanche. One that was going a 100-mph, spiraling to unfathomable defeat.
Woodson didn’t get cute with the offense as so many media critics suggested he do before the game. He put the ball in Melo’s hands and went good ole’ Knicks “iso.”
Melo wasn’t lights-out, but his dagger- trey with 1:43 left put the Knicks back up by nine.
In addition to not panicking and sticking with his bread and butter, Woodson also saw something he didn’t like in his defensive matchups and benched his wily veterans Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin—who have figured so prominently in previous late-game Knicks victories—for that final five minutes.
Friday was Money Mike’s time to step up and deliver and he came through when needed most.
He didn’t allow one of the biggest potential disgraces in sports history to transpire on his watch. He would’ve been the answer to a ratchet NBA trivia question. And how could he ever survive and walk the city streets with such a loss?
Woodson won’t have to deal with that nightmare, thanks to a Knicks team effort, led by the crucial scoring (15 points) and lock-down D of Iman Shumpert. Shump & Co. held Paul Pierce to a brutal 4-for-18 shooting night, making just one of nine 3-point attempts. The second-year guard’s regained mobility and athleticism will be huge to the Knicks in a semifinals matchup with the Indian Pacers. Good thing Woodson doesn’t have to game plan for Reggie Miller.