Let’s just be quite frank about them. We always want to beat Boston. New York in anything wants to beat Boston and when we do, it’s a great feeling. – Carmelo Anthony
There are few things sweeter for a Knicks fan than smacking around the Boston Celtics. Both teams have dealt with severe injuries in recent weeks, but it’s been the Knicks that have weathered the storm to nurse a 4-game winning streak heading into tonight. On the other hand, the Celtics were on a 4-game losing streak. With both teams missing their notable defensive bigs in Tyson Chandler and Kevin Garnett, this one was decided by who could dominate the hustle plays.
SLOOOOW START: Being that it took over 2 minutes before anyone scored, this game looked like it could be an ugly one when it came to offensive execution. On the Knicks side, the ball movement was dead with lots of useless perimeter dribbling and Carmelo Anthony isolations. Matters really didn’t start clicking until JR Smith came in. Like the other games on this winning streak, Smith kicked off his night by getting to the rim at will for acrobatic layups. His 10 points off the bench offset Jordan Crawford abusing Jason Kidd in the post for the Knicks to hold a 28-24 lead after 12 minutes.
KNICKS RIDE JR’S HOT HAND: With Melo sitting, the offense had to work solely through JR. With Boston’s solid perimeter defense, Smith wisely kept the outside jumpers to a minimum and kept attacking the basket. At one stretch, he scored 11 straight points to power the Knicks back in front after the Celtics had taken a 33-31 lead behind 7 straight points from Jason Terry.
When the run extended to 14-0, the Celtics attempted to get physical on defense. In years past, this was when they slowly broke the Knicks down and climbed back in it.
The ball movement picked up and all of sudden Steve Novak was duping Paul Pierec on pump fakes and nailing threes. Pablo Prigioni was wreaking havoc defensively with steals and Melo was shoving the physicality back down Boston’s throat, most notably with a bully ball 3-point play inside (and a war yell added for good measure). By halftime, the Celtics were staring at a 58-44 deficit.
PUSHED BACK IN THE THIRD: The Celtics made a nice 16-9 run to get to within seven (67-60) due to the Knicks forgetting about penetration and settling for jumpshots. That all changed when JR came in around the six-minute mark. He righted the ship by going right back to Boston’s big weakness (lack of shotblocking) with a shot-clock beating short jumper over Brandon Bass. Now Melo’s post-ups were resulting in better perimeter shots (like a timely Jason Kidd trey to extend the lead to 74-62). Kidd had a lot of crucial cleanup plays in the final 3-4 minutes (rebounds, steals, drawing charges) to keep the Knicks in control.
And if the Celtics needed any reminder this wasn’t their night, the below JR heave from way downtown reminded them.[youtube http://youtu.be/W14ZBDvG_vE]
A FOREGONE CONCLUSION: There was never any real drama in the fourth except how many shots was Melo going to chuck up. Melo went a horrid 10-30 to get his 29 points. To be fair, a few of them were due to not getting calls inside and getting his own rebounds (six on the offensive glass) for second chance scores. Bottom line is the Knicks don’t win tonight without his scoring output, but better efficiency is needed.
PRIGIONI, KIDD AND K-MART: This trio didn’t have big numbers, but they were highly effective in making sure the Celtics got no momentum throughout the game. Prigioni in particular chose most of his four fouls wisely (stopping fast breaks), had two steals and five assists. Aside from the previously mentioned cleanup plays he made, Kidd even put it on the floor and got a nice driving layup over Avery Bradley. Martin had his quietest stat line of the win streak with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 1 block, but he protected the paint (causing a few blown layups) and set hard screens to get guys open. K-Mart’s toughness is a big reason the rest of the Knicks were emboldened to push back the Celtic attempts to push them around.
There would be no Knick-killing heroics from Paul Pierce tonight, as he had 16 quiet points. Four of Celtic starters got into double figures, but there was no flow to their offense — everything was disjointed and Boston never had a serious chance to get back in this after the middle of the third. After going winless in Boston for years, it’s an excellent sign to see the Knicks win two straight there as this is a potential playoff matchup. And the final icing on the cake is that this win is the worst loss the Celtics have had at home since 2010.
The Knicks will be right back at it Wednesday night when they face the Memphis Grizzlies, a squad that beat New York up and handed them their first defeat this season. Let’s see how much Martin’s presence makes a difference.[youtube http://youtu.be/UR9al3_svKc]