The New York Knicks gave all of their fans a nice Christmas present by defeating the Boston Celtics in thrilling fashion, 106-104, as Carmelo Anthony led the way.
During a matinee game against their rivals from the north, the Knicks started out strong, ending the first quarter with a 34-23 lead. Renaldo Balkman, and rookies Josh Harrelson and Iman Shumpert, came off the bench and gave valuable minutes, while the starters were resting. New York was able to successfully limit the impact of Rajon Rondo in the first quarter, who is one of the top three point-guards in basketball, especially when he is making his jumpers.
Rondo, who finished the game with 31 points and 13 assists, displayed his talent and the Knicks had trouble containing him in the second quarter. Brandon Bass, who was an underrated addition for the Celtics, was very efficient from the field, shooting 9-13 on his way to 20 points and 11 rebounds, played well in the second quarter, but he was not enough to overcome the loss of Paul Pierce.
The Celtics dominated the third stanza (outscoring the Knicks by 18), which resulted in this game showing many parallels to previous match-ups, where the Knicks started strong, but faded late. However, the Knicks would gain momentum once again, in the fourth quarter, as Anthony was able to score 17 points, while playing with four fouls.
Pierce is usually the Celtics’ closer, having dominated the Knicks repeatedly in the fourth quarter throughout his career. But since he was not playing, ‘Melo was able to be instrumental in the victory in front of the home fans. If he can continue to shoot above .500 from the field (or come very close to that number), like he did against the Celtics, when he shot 10-17, the Knicks’ chances for wins will be greatly increased.
Anthony was able to score in a variety of ways, as he nailed four three-pointers, made 13 free-throws and executed his mid-range game to near perfection. Late in the game, with about one-minute left in regulation, he missed one out of two free-throws, but luckily that was not costly as he sunk two more with 16 seconds left that would be the difference in the contest.
In addition to his excellent scoring, Anthony was also able to pull down eight boards. However, he was an effective point-forward in the last preseason game and without a true, bona-fide point guard on the roster, since Baron Davis is injured, he will need to improve his assist-to-turnover ratio. His three assists to five turnovers are his only numbers that could be changed.
Other than Anthony, five players stood out in the victory for Spike Lee’s favorite team.
Iman Shumpert was once again solid, impressing with his hustle and fearless attitude. He could have passed a little more since he was 3-13 from the field, but it was his first NBA game, so I expected him to be excited. Shumpert made all of his free throws on his way to 11 points, four boards and one assist. Unfortunately, Shumpert’s day ended early, after an incident with Celtics’ forward Chris Wilcox, which resulted in a strained MCL. Shumpert is expected to be out for 2-4 weeks.
If he is able to stay healthy after returning from this injury, which will hopefully be closer to two weeks than four, it seems like he definitely will finish in the top five of the Rookie of the Year voting.
Amar’e Stoudemire, who was the first star player to choose the Knicks during their current resurgence to the top of the Eastern Conference, finished with 21 points, six rebounds and two assists. This is what the Knicks will usually be able to count on from “STAT” this season, who should be able to exploit most power forwards with his quickness since Tyson Chandler is now the center. Although we know Stoudemire can score, I hope he will step up his defensive intensity in future games, because in this game, his defense was lacking.
Tyson Chandler will be critical in helping the Knicks become a decent, to potentially above average defensive team, and his arrival thankfully has moved Stoudemire back to the four, since he should not have to guard centers. The Knicks will be able to count on Chandler pulling down more than the three boards he recorded against the Celtics, as he averaged 9.4 last season with Dallas, but he imposed his will with six blocked shots.
Landry Fields, who is in his second year out of Stanford, can usually be relied upon to produce stats across the board, did so again Sunday afternoon, as he scored seven points, pulled down three boards and dished out three assists. He is a useful player for his versatility, but if he wants to remain in the starting lineup he will need to be a little more of a scoring threat to keep the defense honest.
The final member of the starting lineup, Toney Douglas, proved that he can be a capable point guard until Davis takes over. He scored 19 points to go along with his four assists and three steals. As long as he continues to shoot in the 40 percent range, pass for four to five assists, and turn the ball over two times or less, he will be doing his job.
The Orange and Blue opened their season with a win and that is all you could ask for. Celtics fans are probably saying that Paul Pierce was not playing, so the Knicks should have obviously won, but in years past the Knicks would have likely lost this game at the end.
Hopefully they will be able to continue this momentum during the three-game west coast trip, which begins with a game on Wednesday against former Knicks point guard Mark Jackson and the Golden State Warriors.