Today's media column, on Sean Grande's upcoming gig as a fill-in voice on Red Sox radio broadcasts, can be found here. Of course, there's also another team he's associated with -- he's been the excellent radio voice of the Celtics for 12 years. So of course we asked him for his thoughts on the Celtics-Knicks series in advance of Friday's much-anticipated Game 6.
1. The Knicks won the first three. The Celtics won the last two, and the New York tabloids smell blood. Overall thoughts on the series heading into Game 6 and the status of the particular teams?
Grande: "I really think the series, from the beginning to now, has always been about the Knicks. The time over the past few years when the Celtics were the primary story has sort of come and gone like a lot of things. We're learning about the Knicks. We know the Celtics are playoff-tested. You know, Game 5 wasn't flawless. Compare it to Game 5 at Miami last year. That was one of the great performances of the era. The Celtics turned the ball over in the second half too much [Wednesday] night. You had some guys play well, but they hardest thing to do in professional sports is to close out another team. Even harder is when you have to close out a team that has guys like the Celtics have on it. That's why this continues to be a test. From a storytelling standpoint, last year in Game 6 we had a game for the ages, a league-changing, legacy-changing performance. Now, this weekend, it's guess what, Carmelo, you're up."
2. LeBron evolved into someone who dominates the game almost at will, and in various different ways. Carmelo is a scorer, and when he's off, the Knicks suffer. But he's an extraordinary talent. Is he capable of rising to the occasion in Game 6 the way LeBron did last year? Or is that too much to ask of him?
Grande: "It's not dissimilar, the series that he's having, to the series that LeBron had in '08. If you look at the numbers, everyone remembers Game 7 from LeBron. He was shooting in the 30s in the first six games of that series. I think we've seen that when Melo moves the ball, he's an MVP candidate and the Knicks are a really, really dangerous team. When he stops trusting his teammates, it's different. It's interesting, because in the games over the weekend in Boston, he was trusting his teammates, and they weren't making shots and it wasn't working. And what happens in that situation is two things: You stop trusting. And I think people confuse selfishness with, I am my team's best player. I have to do this. Selfish is the wrong word. It's, 'I've got to take this burden on myself.' You know, everyone is expecting me to do this. Great players are stubborn. Rondo is the best example of that. You stop Carmelo a couple of times, and he thinks, ''ve got to work harder. I've got to try harder to make this happen.' To him, It doesn't matter how many you miss. The next one is going in. I think it's been a really fascinating year for Carmelo. His moment is at hand now. I can'tt even imagine what MSG would be like on Sunday if they have to come back. The stress is going to be unbelievable. And there's a great irony. The greatest pressure game in this era, I'll ask you. What's the greatest pressure game the Celtics have played in the last six years?
3. I tend to think of the more recent stuff first, but it's probably either Game 6 of the Finals in 2007-08, Game 7 against the Lakers two years later, or are you thinking of something more subtle. The Hawks series?
Grande: "That's it. II go back to Game 7 in '08 against Atlanta. Because if the Celtics lose, Doc's fired, Kevin Garnett's legacy is forever tarnished, so much changes if they lose that seventh game. Even though they ended up winning easily and were the far better team, the consequences of losing were extraordinary."
Grande: "Absolutely. Everyone was laughing at me because I bring up Phil Jackson to the Knicks. 'Mike Woodson is a coach of the year candidate, how can you say that?' In this scenario, if Mike Woodson doesn't win this series, you'd better believe there's going to be conversation about it. Losing to an inferior team, talent-wise, after being up 3-0. You don't think there will be stories in the New York post on Monday about Phil Jackson if the Knicks lose the next two games?"
5. Not at all. I'm surprised it's not in the New York tabs already. But here's my question: Is the why-not-us stuff legit? Is it possible for the Celtics to actually make this happen? What did you expect in Game 5, and how do you see Game 6 unfolding?
Grande: "I thought it would be the same closing thing we've seen the last few years. The Celtics would have that 8-. 10-, 12-point lead and not have the energy to hold it. That's something we've seen the last three seasons. I think the Knicks probably go up [tonight], but can they withstand the run? It's interesting, because last year in Game 6, you had one of the great crowd moments in Celtics history in the sixth game in getting hammered. Now you have a chance to repay the crowd for that night and their loyalty during this crazy season by giving them that Game 6 win you couldn't get last year. It's just going to be crazy, go-nuts atmosphere in there [Friday] night."
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.