Apparently, there is a script that this new Knicks squad led by Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony must adhere to when they play the Celtics in Boston. Take a double-digit first half lead, blow it in the third quarter and then lose in heart wrenching fashion in the fourth quarter.
The Knicks dropped a tough one to the Celtics last night by a score of 91-89. Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 26 points and six assists. Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler both had double doubles (STAT: 16 points and 11 rebounds; Chandler: 20 points and 11 rebounds). Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Kevin Garnett had 15 points and eight rebounds and Ray Allen contributed with 14 points and five rebounds.
The story of the first half was the same of Games 1 and 2 of last year’s playoffs in Boston, as the Knicks went into halftime with a the lead, this time a seven point lead. Both teams shot 46% from the floor in the first half, but the Knicks were aided by eight more free throw attempts and makes. They also scored 10 points off of seven Celtics turnovers, while the Knicks four first half turnovers yielded just two points.
The Knicks began the third quarter by scoring 12 of the first 18 points to take a 12-point lead. The Celtics would storm back, and by the end of the quarter, they would be down just three, 72-69. It was an ugly quarter, as both teams combined for 14 turnovers.
Now the fun starts. Fast forward to 4:45 remaining in the game. Scored tied at 79. Ray Allen takes a three pointer, which was contested by Iman Shumpert. As the ball is headed out of bounds, Landry Fields gets his hands on the ball only to have it poked out of bounds by Rajon Rondo. However, the refs called the ball out of bounds off of Fields, giving the Celtics another possession. Of course, Allen hits his next three point attempt, leading to a technical foul to Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni and giving the Celtics a four point lead.
A score on an offensive rebound from Tyson Chandler cut the Celtics’ lead to 83-81, but Pierce responded with a jumper, as the shot clock expired, that needed to be reviewed (not the last of the night) to give the C’s a 85-81 lead. Iman Shumpert responded by hitting a wide-open jumper off an Anthony assist to make it 85-83. Another Allen dagger from beyond the arc made it 88-83 before another Chandler basket in the lane made it 88-85. An Allen (yes him again) lay up made it 90-85 Celtics, before the Knicks would score four straight on a Chandler alley-oop from Shumpert and a Fields open court layup after stealing the ball from Pierce at mid-court to make it 90-89.
Pierce would miss a jumper with 1:06 remaining but the Knicks couldn’t answer as Anthony missed a layup attempt under heavy defense with 47 seconds. The Knicks would retain possession and after a timeout, Anthony found Shumpert wide open in the corner for a three-point attempt that he would miss. On the ensuing possession, Paul Pierce would hit a three pointer with the shot clock expiring after a fight for a loose ball with Shumpert and Fields. This time however, the shot came after the clock expired, giving the Knicks hope. With 16 seconds remaining, Carmelo Anthony tried to go ISO, but the Celtics threw the house at him, forcing him to kick out to Shumpert who found Fields in the corner for a three-point attempt. Even with the out stretched arms of Garnett, it was a good look for Fields, but he would miss everything. Pierce would be fouled and after making only one of two free throws, the Knicks were down 2 with 4.2 seconds left. The Knicks would take their final timeout, in order to bring the ball up the floor. On the ensuing play, Landry Fields couldn’t find an open Shumpert or Anthony, passing to Steve Novak (who hadn’t played a minute before this) in the corner for a highly contested three pointer. Air ball, game over.
So who’s to blame for this loss? The refs didn’t help the Knicks with that Fields out of bounds call with 5:14 left. It basically led to four points (Allen’s three pointer and D’Antoni’s technical foul) that should’ve never happened. Speaking of D’Antoni’s technical, his combined with Amar’e Stoudemire’s technical foul in the third quarter added up to be the Knicks’ final deficit.
While I understand the team’s frustration during this stretch of 10 losses in 12 games, it is imperative they don’t give up easy points. How about Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert for both missing open shots with less than a minute to play? What about Steve Novak, not passing back out when he still had three seconds left instead of throwing up a prayer?
One interesting thing did happen in tonight’s game. Mike D’Antoni went to Jeremy Lin in the first quarter as the first guard off the bench. Lin struggled upon entering, coughing up the ball to Avery Bradley and fouling Paul Pierce on a three-point attempt. However he would make up for it, forcing Sasha Pavlovic into a shooting foul before the end of the quarter (making both free throws) and setting up Amar’e Stoudemire on the first field goal of the second quarter. Meanwhile, Toney Douglas entered in the third quarter and was awful (0-3 from the floor, -9 on plus/minus scale).
If Mike Bibby isn’t going to play and Baron Davis isn’t healthy, then D’Antoni should play Lin, who, at this point, is the only true PG on the squad.
Also of note, before the game Chris Sheridan of sheridanhoops.com tweeted that the NY Daily News had reported D’Antoni would be fired if the Knicks lost to the Celtics, using the Super Bowl as a distraction to lessen the news. However, it was a gossip web site named The Daily that reported it (and since then the people at sheridanhoops.com have corrected that error in their post).
Up next, the last game of this back-to-back-to-back against the Nets at the Garden. If the Knicks lose tomorrow, all hell could break loose in NYC.