BOSTON (AP) — The reeling Boston Celtics needed a spark of optimism and a surge of offense to keep their season going.
Jason Terry provided both.
The energetic guard who had struggled in the first three games cheered his teammates up when the Knicks were rallying, then scored the Celtics’ last nine points in a 97-90 overtime win Sunday over the New York Knicks that avoided a four-game sweep.
“He’s just one of those guys you want around your team, whether he’s playing or not,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “He brings sunshine.”
And when he’s playing well, he’s hitting jumpers, even in the most critical situations.
“As long as there’s time on the clock, as long as there is another game, it’s an opportunity to do something special,” Terry said.
That opportunity was slipping away when the Knicks overcame a 59-39 deficit early in the third quarter and took an 84-82 lead on Raymond Felton’s jumper with 1:18 left in regulation. But Kevin Garnett hit a 16-footer jumper to tie the game 11 seconds later.
In overtime, Terry gave the Celtics the lead for good, 91-88, with a 3-pointer with 1:32 remaining.
Now he has another opportunity in New York in Game 5 on Wednesday night as the Celtics work toward becoming the first team in NBA history to win a series after trailing 3-0.
“We have to come out with the exact same aggression,” Jeff Green said. “We just have to play every possession, every defensive possession, like it’s our last.”
But the Knicks still have a big advantage as they try for their first playoff series win in 13 years. All they need is one win out of a possible three games.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well today at all and we still put ourselves in a position to win,” said Carmelo Anthony, who led all scorers with 36 points but missed 25 of his 35 shots. “We’re going back home with a lot of confidence.”
Especially with J.R. Smith returning.
The NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year was suspended for Sunday’s game after hitting Terry with his elbow in New York’s 90-76 win on Friday night. He scored 49 points in the first three games.
“We didn’t make the plays coming down the home stretch. They did,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “J.R. is a big piece of what we do, but he wasn’t here … so I’m not using that as an excuse.”
Terry was angry after being hit in the face by Smith, but something more important motivated him.
“It wasn’t really the elbow,” he said. “It was more (like) this is it. I mean, the season’s over. You can leave it all out here tonight and go home for a long summer or you can live to play another day.”
He conceded that his nose “still hurts right now. As long as I feel that, I guess I’ll be thinking about it.”
Paul Pierce led Boston with 29 points, Green added 26 and Terry had 18.
Felton scored 27 for New York two days after their Game 3 win in Boston.
“We did our job when we came here. We got us a win,” he said. “That was our goal.”
The Knicks made just 28.9 percent of their shots in falling behind 54-35 at halftime. But they tied it at 74 with 7:16 left in the fourth quarter on a layup by Iman Shumpert.
“We’re a veteran ballclub so we don’t panic,” Jason Kidd said. “We had a great opportunity and we just couldn’t close the door.”
Garnett expected that.
“Good teams are going to make those runs,” he said. “It’s deflating, but we kept fighting. We found a way to get over the hump.”
After Terry put Boston ahead 91-88 in overtime, Anthony made a fadeaway shot with 1:17 remaining. Then Terry sank a 15-footer that made it 93-90 with 50 seconds remaining.
Anthony followed with an off-target 3-pointer with 21 seconds to go and Terry was fouled by Steve Novak. He made both free throws then added a layup to close out the game. It came just in time for a player who failed to score in Game 1 for the first time in 88 playoff games.
“I had every intention of trying to make an impact on the game,” Terry said. “If I wasn’t making shots, I wanted to get a steal, get a rebound, any little thing to keep it going. Again, I’m going to coach AAU, but I don’t want to do that right now.”
The Celtics showed renewed energy early after being held below 80 points in each of the first three games. They were more aggressive and more physical than they had been.
“We knew they were going to come out like that,” Anthony said. “They were fighting for dear life.”
With leaders such as Pierce and Garnett, the Celtics have “tremendous” pride, Terry said. “Getting swept is something that no man that’s been in this league that long wants to do. It’s disheartening.
“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.”
NOTES: Garnett finished with 13 points, 17 rebounds and six assists. … The Knicks went 7 for 30 on 3-point shots. … Boston had just three offensive rebounds while the Knicks grabbed 16. … The Celtics have been swept six times in the 112 playoff series in their history. … The Knicks were 19-2 in their previous 21 games. The Celtics were 5-14 in their previous 19. … For the Celtics, Garnett, Green and Brandon Bass each had four fouls five minutes into the third quarter. Bass committed his fifth with 5:10 left in the period and fouled out with 4:27 to go in the game. … Anthony committed his fourth with 4:08 remaining in the third.