As far as 25-40 and fighting for 8th place goes, the Knicks could not have come into Boston Wednesday night under better circumstances, riding a 4 game winning streak and facing a Rondo-less Celtics. My circumstances entering this game left more to be desired, as one thing led to another and I found myself going alone. Strange as that felt, it gave me ample opportunity to look around and observe the environment at TD Garden.
No Tyson Chandler or Amare meant that I saw Cole Aldrich announced in the starting lineup, with Jeremy Tyler spelling him off the bench. From the national anthem all through the Celtic introductions and opening tip, the TD Garden was mostly full and plenty noisy. Given what the on-court product has been, it was pretty impressive. When you’ve had enough success in the recent past, and trust your front office to make it work in the near future, I guess you can maintain an okay mood even in a dreadful year. Either that, or they’re all just clueless.
As for their treatment of the Knicks, the Celtics fans showed no ill-will that I could see toward anyone in blue, player or fan. In that regard, it was a vastly different scene from last year’s first round playoff matchup.
I was treated to three 3′s by Melo in the first five minutes of the game, and Tim Hardaway Jr. contributed a few more as soon as he entered later in the quarter. After one of Hardaway Jr’s, the older gentleman behind me sighed to his wife: “He’s just as good as his father”. It was a nice thought, with the perfect “wise old-timer” delivery, but in reality I would have kissed this man on the mouth if Junior was actually as good as his father right now. I’d be ecstatic, this man would be creeped out, and Ray Felton would be planted firmly on the bench. After yet another pretty jumper by Timmy Jr, I overheard the same guy say of him “he can flat out shoot”. That much, at least, was true this game, and it was fun to watch ( 7-11, 3-5 from 3, 22 points).
My seat in the balcony was directly behind the Knicks’ bench, and even though I knew STAT wouldn’t be playing, I was disappointed to see he hadn’t made the trip to Boston, because his suit game is always noteworthy.
The Knicks were up by 20 at various points in the 2nd quarter. Everything was falling, with Marc Berman of the NY Post tweeting that “everything that could go right, went right”. But the feisty crowd wasn’t ready to mail it in just yet, as Jeff Green jump shots and dunks by none other than Kris Humphries kept them energetic enough despite the score.
I wanted to continue watching on the Knicks’ offensive end of the court, so at the half I decided it was time for a seat change. It was a good crowd, but it was still a tanking team’s arena in March; there were seats to be had. I grabbed a beer that cost half what my ticket did, and found what felt like the same vantage point in a new section. Before I knew it, Timmy Jr was getting brought back down to earth by a Humphries rejection, the Knicks lead had shrunk to 12, and Woodson was calling a timeout much to the delight of the (TD) Garden faithful. Had I somehow disrupted the mojo? Is a Knicks shooting streak such a delicate thing that it could be altered by one fan’s relocation? As hot as they were in that first half, they were equally as cold for parts of the 3rd quarter.
While my new seat may have broken the Knicks’ rhythm, it had proven more friendly, as two college-age kids started chatting me up about Melo, Felton’s off-the-court issues, and the team at large. At one point, one of them asked me what quarter it was. I’m not sure they understood much of what I had to say, and they soon left “to get dinner, or something”, but it was good to talk with someone about what we were watching. They wished me a very earnest “good luck in the playoffs”, which was just funny, given what the Knicks are facing whether they grab the 8th seed or not.
The Celtics’ hopes were dashed in the 4th, thanks in part to Aldrich, who posted 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks. I had a great view of his two-handed, over the head save, and I knew then that we would be alright.
Melo (34 points on 11-25) and Timmy Jr were both able to find their respective strokes again, keeping the lead around 15 for most of the 4th. With 4 minutes left, Celtics fans were heading for the hills:
Carmelo came out of the game at the 2:48 mark in the 4th. I had made it that far, and with nowhere else really to be, I waited until the final buzzer before I stepped out into the rainy Boston evening and headed home. Knicks 116, Celtics 92. I wonder what the circumstances will be surrounding these two teams when they meet again next season?