For the first time since 2006, the New York Knicks have beaten the Boston Celtics in Boston.
The Knicks started James White at three, moving Melo to his most prosperous spot at the power forward, and having Kidd start with Iman Shumpert in the backcourt. Paul Pierce opened up in typical “Ha-ha, you’re the Knicks” fashion, only with extra incentive due to his All-Star snub, scoring the first four points in the ball game. The game opened up as what would seem to be an introduction to what was going to be an offensive bout, but both defenses picked it up as the quarter progressed. 5 minutes in, J.R. Smith checked in for Iman Shumpert, and had the epitome of an awful start to a basketball game. Smith was 0-4 during the quarter, with his only two points coming from a couple of free throws. The Knicks employed something we’ve rarely seen from them this season, the zone defense, once Amar’e checked into the game late in the quarter. When it was working to perfection it seemed like an ordinary 3-2 zone, but some mis-communications led to a butchered attempt at running it, more about this later. This defense did prove to be a surprise and an obstacle for the Celtics, as they shot only 38% from the field during the quarter. However due to the Knicks uncharacteristic 5 turnovers in the opening period, Boston opened up to a 24-20 lead.
The momentum shifted into the Knicks’ direction with a flurry of great plays by none other than Amar’e Stoudemire. A post move for an easy layup, a block on defense that led to a fast break reverse dunk, all courtesy of STAT and the Knicks’ zone defense. Carmelo Anthony subbed in along with the rest of the starters later on, and with them the zone defense was ridden of for now. The Celtics hopped out into an 11-0 run, cut short by Iman Shumpert’s back-to-back threes. J.R. Smith continued to struggle, shooting 1-5 from the field. Kurt Thomas subbed in for the first time late in the quarter, which would begin a huge 1 minute and 42 second night for him, featuring an empty stat line aside from a foul and 0-2 shooting. Thanks to a ton of free throws, the Knicks manage to have a 30 point effort in this quarter on 34% shooting from the field and a 1-for-6 output from Carmelo Anthony and head into halftime up 50-48.
The second half opened up with both team’s offenses more dry than my girlfriend’s… wallet. In fact the final tally come the end of the quarter was just 22-18, Knicks. Though New York did open up a small lead as the quarter was moving along, thanks to Carmelo Anthony finally picking up his slack after a 4-13 shooting display during the first half. He finally attacked the rim, got to the bucket after settling for far too many jumpshots earlier on. This gave the Knicks a four point lead, and Carmelo ran a high pick play with Tyson Chandler. The space gave Anthony a one-on-one with the Celtics’ Jared Sullinger, who wouldn’t be able to keep up with Anthony unless he was on a motorcycle. But, carmelo settled for a pull-up three (Anthony was 1-6 from downtown on the night) instead of heading to the rack to extend the lead. As the bench squad rolled in, so did the zone defense. Only this time, mis-communications were awfully prevalent, helping the Celtics stay in the game. Thanks to a terrific defensive quarter though, (or an abysmal offensive quarter by the Celts) the Knicks did manage to enter the closing quarter with a solid 72-66 lead.
Oh no. 12 minutes left, close game, and the Celtics have an extra motivated Paul Pierce. This can’t end well. OH BUT IT DID! The Knicks took hold of a 10 point lead with 8 minutes remaining in the fourth, a slim lead when playing those damn Celtics. It proved to be so as Boston cut the lead to just 4 points with just 4 minutes remaining in the ball game. The Knicks are holding on with their impeccable defense, but are failing to convert on the other end, shooting just 35% from the field during this period and not getting to the free throw line once. With the lead down to just 2, with a little over a minute remaining, Carmelo Anthony looks to give the Knicks some breathing room with a mis-match. Rajon Rondo is on him at the elbow, and Anthony muscles him closer and closer to the hoop off-the-ball to get the best post position as possible for the entry pass. Anthony is whistled for the offensive foul, and Boston can now tie the game or take the lead. Here’s where the unlikeliest of heroes begins his string of game-saving plays for New York. The Knicks get the ball back still up 2, and J.R. Smith nails an open three to extend the lead to five points with just over a minute left. A Celtics turnover, Melo airball, Rondo jumper and Kidd miss later the Celts have one shot to tie the game down 3, with the shot clock disabled. Rajon Rondo gets the hand-off from Kevin Garnett who swings it t- oh, please, don’t. Not Paul Pierce. Don’t do this to us again. The Knick-killer catches the ball, or so it seems, and fumbles it. J.R. Smith knocks it off of Pierce’s leg, out of bounds, Knicks basketball. New York doesn’t allow Boston to foul, ball game.
- Iman Shumpert played 27 minutes, his highest total since his return from an ACL tear that occured in last year’s Playoffs. His defensive ability is still very much a huge boost, though you can still see a small ammount of rust, especially when dealing with a good amount of off-ball screens, which is something Celtics head coach Doc Rivers loves to use. His offense looked improved, with 2-4 shooting from downtown and a floater in the first quarter that was not a part of his repertoire last season. Can’t wait to see what he does next.
- The zone. We’ve never seen it in long stretches this season, but it was used today. And it had kinks, and issues, but at times it worked marvelously. Why? Because it helped cover up the glaring defensive flaws in Steve Novak’s and Amar’e Stoudemire’s games. It will be interesting to see how often Mike Woodson uses it from here on out after the spurts of success it showed tonight.
- Ah, the good ol’ referees. When it was announced that Dick Bavetta and Joey Crawford would be officiating this ball game, Knicks fans and Celtics fans alike were up in arms. But, as it turned out, the game was very well officiated. Yes, it was very free-throw heavy (48 combined attempts) and physicality was kept to a minimum, but the calls were consistent. Sure, Kevin Garnett got away with 1,000 illegal screens but when doesn’t he? I applaud the refs, for delivering us a consistently officiated night.
- Final thought, the Knicks doubled Brandon Bass twice in the low-post if I remember correctly. Why? His offense has been atrocious this season.