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Now, That’s A Game! Pierce Jumper Topples Knicks 118-116

 

ESPN Box ScoreKnickerBloggerPosting and Toasting

Wow.

An incredibly entertaining win for the C’s tonight in MSG that exceeded all the hype of the last few days. This one had a frenetic pace, mostly-atrocious defense, an intensity that built to a fever pitch in the final quarter and incredible offensive performances from:

  • Amare Stoudemire who had 39 points, 10 rebounds and but for a fraction of a second, would have also had the game winner;
  • Paul Pierce, who attacked all night and tallied a season-high 32 points to go with 10 boards and the actual game winner;
  • Raymond Felton, who shredded up the Celtics’ D to the tune of 26 points, 14 assists;
  • Danilo Gallinari who nearly took over in the second half with a couple of spectacular dunks and a ridiculous ‘and-one’ runner down the stretch;
  • Ray Allen, who hit a few huge shots down the stretch to keep Boston alive;
  • Wilson Chandler, who went for 18 and 12;
  • Kevin Garnett, who gave the C’s 36 hard fought minutes and a 20-13 line; and
  • Knicks fan and prolific game thread commenter phreesh, who kept things lively sparring with Celtics fans.

For those keeping track, that’s eleven wins in a row. In fact, save yet another injury to Rajon Rondo (sprained ankle) – this might be my favorite game of the year so far.

We’ll get into more details on all this stuff after the jump, which you can find right below this video of the game-winning shot:

This Game Was O-ffensive

A large part of tonight’s story is found in the relentless series of defensive failures on both ends of the floor. The Celtics did a poor job of defending the Knicks’ pick and rolls, came late on their help rotations when they came at all, allowed multiple good looks from the perimeter (53.1% New York shooting) and countless layups (the Knicks racked up 50 points in the paint). And for their part, the Knicks let the Celtics sweep through their perimeter defense (Allen and Pierce both drove the ball like they were five years younger), and finish multiple shots at the rim, often uncontested (52.3% shooting, and a monstrous 60 points in the paint).

But to look at it from another angle, this was a superbly entertaining game in no small part because of the unrelenting offensive pressure the Celtics and Knicks applied to the other’s defense. What basketball fan wouldn’t enjoy this game? Both teams moved the ball, made cuts for layups, hit their jumpers, pushed the ball in transition, snagged offensive rebounds, hit crazy shots off the dribble – basically all the things you could want from an offense.

That the bruised and battered Celtics could win a game of this nature (free wheeling, wide open, high scoring) says a lot about the makeup of the team. Great teams can play all styles. The 2010-11 Celtics are proving to be a great team.

(Also, if we include Rondo, who didn’t look healthy even before he rolled his ankle, the C’s won this game with an injured list that could make up four-fifths of a credible starting lineup: Rondo, Delonte West, Jermaine O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal).

Still, things didn’t start off well tonight. The Knicks took it to the Celtics right from the start. Stoudemire scored the first seven New York points of the game, punishing a hopelessly overmatched Semih Erden and Doc Rivers was forced to go to both Glen Davis and Garnett before the first quarter ended. Stoudamire still wound up with 23 points by the end of the first half on 10-13 shooting.

The Knicks carried a 58-51 lead into halftime. But it was the third quarter when things really got interesting. The game see-sawed back and forth. The Celtics tied up the score out of the half on a 7-0 run, and then quickly fell behind again by a margin of 79-67 thanks to Gallinari unveiling a few new items from his bag of tricks:

At that point, Rondo was pulled from the game, due to injury or ineffectiveness or a combination of both, and walked off barking at Garnett (a tiff soon mended, mind you) and Nate Robinson joined the starters to make a run (paying dividends, perhaps, from the burn he got with the first unit when Rondo was out earlier in the year).

But the C’s still trailed by 7 at the end of three.

And then came the fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter was a thing of joy. We might not see another quarter this fun until the playoffs.

For awhile, it seemed like neither team could miss.

Every charge drawn (Robinson), thunderous dunk made (Stoudemire x 3) and missed (Davis), shot rejected (Stoudemire), crazy spinning layup finished (Felton), rebound secured (Garnett), putback powered home (Garnett x 2) and three-pointer drained (Allen x 3) built the intensity. The last two minutes alone had three or four major reversals.

Just remarkable drama.

And remember Brian’s piece on Doc Rivers’ greatest hits? Well, Doc added another one tonight, with significant help from #34, who soaked in some well-deserved adulation/hate speech from the MSG crowd after he nailed down the victory and Amare’s desperation three hung on his fingers a moment too long.

Final Notes

-It’s a quick turnaround for the C’s who host the Hawks tonight. Rondo seems a good bet to sit this one out (despite his claim he’ll be playing) and Boston will have to stay focused to avoid a letdown after the big nationally televised win. We’ll check in with all of this as the day goes on.

-Don’t let the C’s injury woes or the Knicks’ defensive woes make you overlook New York’s spirited performance tonight. They gave the C’s all they could handle, playing with an intensity and passion missing so long in MSG. Whether or not D’Antoni and Walsh can mold this group into one that challenges the Eastern Conference contenders is unclear, but life is finally interesting again for New York fans.

Their Knicks are playing well.

Really well.

Maybe they should take a bow?

  • complexity

    # Knicks fan and prolific game thread commenter phreesh, who kept things lively sparring with Celtics fans.

    That's what attracted me to Celticshub.com, you actually pay attention to your commentators and are invested in the outcome like the average fan.

    Amazing game. If the Celtics win tomorrow, I think we need to evaluate a lot more about how great this team could be.

    • I_Love_Green

      Agreed. I think there needs to be a commenter's HOF for this site. Redsarmy has it, why not us?

  • I_Love_Green

    Best game of the year by far. Paul was clutch, Ray was clutch, KG was a beast in the 4th, and Rondo shouldn't have come back. He was defintely limping after he came back.

  • Jon Mullen

    fantastic game… who would have thought one of the bigger wins of the season would have Semih starting at center. anyone see nate flip over pierce during the celebration?

    • Celtics fan!

      that's the funniest thing nate fell over. He tried to repeat the thing he did to jump over KG's back. Nice win. Go Celtics!

    • JCP

      I wonder where Semih imagined he would be last year at this time. I bet he didn't think he'd be starting (even one game) for the 2011-2012 champs.

      • JCP

        Whoops… I meant 2010-2011 :)

    • NHBluesMan

      Hysterical, but Nate needs to stop doing that. He'll either hurt the guy he's jumping onto, or he could hurt himself. When i first saw the replay i laughed and then though 'what an idiot, what if he came down on his wrist funny and sprained or broke it?' he needs to be smarter than that

  • Robert

    Holy crap, was Nate ok after that spill?!

    • complexity

      Of course he was. I could take a spill like that.

      • Robert

        Phew. I didn't see the game. From that video it looked like a similar type of fall that Rose hurt his wrist on.

  • edanaharony

    What a game what a fitting finish to the game!!! Edan Aharony. This was a heavyweight match with the fighters exchanging blows all the way to the end and even past the closing bell. WOW. A good NY team is so good for the league. I can only hope Melo will be traded to the Knicks. Edan Aharony.

    • Ajax

      Just curious, why do you state your name at the end of each sentence?

  • I_Love_Green

    Oh and I know Rondo tweaked his ankle, but I'm dissapointed in his defense tonight. It just wasn't there tonight. Although in his defense, the help defense on the pick and roll was non existant for the most part tonight, which allowed Felton to get open.

    • Morpheus

      Yeah no way Felton goes off like that against a healthy Rondo…….NOT EVER.

      That was by far the best game of the year…… so far.

      The Truth was unconscious

      • Ajax

        Well he did go off. And the Cs still won. Should say something about the team's resilience.

  • ego roots

    LOL @ Nate. Looking more and more like Donkey with them antics of his…

  • JP-

    What an incredible game! Glad that Amar'e held onto that ball for .5 seconds though lol

  • JP-

    Also, I love the Peirce bow at the end, and Amar'e is basically unstoppable right now, its rediculous. He and Felton are looking good together, and I'm not sure how adding Melo to the Knicks would help them right now. This is Amar'e's team and I think adding a player like Melo would really hurt the chemistry.

  • Jamie

    Rondo definitely needs to sit tonight. I know he's going to tell Doc he can play but Doc needs to step in and say no. He's got 3 injuries he's working on now (ankle, hamstring, foot) and on a back to back he really needs to sit. They can beat Atlanta without him. Bibby is not a big threat offensively and has no foot speed.

    I figured Amare would get his cause he's on fire right now but in the past the Celtics isolated a guy like that by shutting down his "helpers" like Gallinari and Chandler. That is how they beat Cleveland last year in the playoffs…Lebron got his but nobody else did. Tonight they didn't but you cant' count on holding teams to 70 points either every night.

  • http://www.anaheimamigos.com Anaheim Amigos

    Jamie, I agree. Rondo needs to sit. Now. Even though he’s 24 or 25, he is legitimately hurt with three injuries. He didn’t run at all in the 2nd half because he couldn’t move. Felton went right around him. Fortunately, after tonight, the schedule spaces out and the C’s need to find some nights off for him.

    Also, the C’s won’t have enough bodies to run 5-on-5 this month, so let me announce that I’m available (except, of course, that I suck).

  • http://www.anaheimamigos.com Anaheim Amigos

    Glen Davis is one tough mambojambo. But it’s time to stop pretending that this didn’t happen: http://bit.ly/fn3Klp.

    He may have been gassed, but there was about a two minute stretch or so where he looked lost. Not “I don’t know the playbook” lost, but “I’ve never played basketball in my life” lost. I hope the C’s get him checked out soon.

  • CG12

    Rondo was visibly slow all night last night. He needs to rest, and maybe for a decent stretch. The team has shown that Nate can fill in for Rondo with little or no drop in the quality of play. Rondo repeatedly passed up shots right at the rim in favor of making a turnover by trying to force the ball back to his teammates. Nate's D on Felton was much, much better. Combine Rondo's love of the poke-steal with the loss of his superhuman quickness and you get a guy who can't stop his man and needs to be helped way too much by his teammates.

    I have been a Semih fan, but he was way out of his league last night. He needs to strike a balance between helping on the pick and roll and making sure he doesn't leave his man completely unguarded. He also needs to finish with more authority. I don't think he has made a challenged shot all year.

    The Knicks were very impressive last night. Definitely looking like a D'Antoni team. But you still have to get stops to win against the best. The Cs did that when it counted and the Knicks didn't.

  • JCP

    As far as adding this to the post about Doc River's greatest hits. I remember thinking last night how interesting it is that Doc almost NEVER does what the commentators predict will happen. Last night he did… which had me worried for a second. That final shot was much more Paul than Doc…

    I will however say that the WHOLE FOURTH QUARTER should be added to Doc's greatest hits. He was making adjustments so fast on the fly that it was rare to have a group of 5 on the floor for very long. It wasn't one play tonight, it was sustained sensitivity to what each player could handle and what each matchup would cause.

  • TedL

    I guess I'm the one grumpy gus on the bus. I hated the way the Cs played defense last night. I reassure myself that a lot of the trouble arose because Rondo was limping, and so Felton could get free on the pick and roll. But after Felton got free, the rotations weren't there. I wanted to see players coming in to block Amare and Felton's path to the basket, even if that meant a pass to the wing for a 3-point try. Probably I expect too much – the Knicks were flat executing last night, and the Cs weren't 100 percent. But that was a troubling defensive performance.

    • Jamie

      Well when Erden was in there they were definitely having defensive issues. He looked lost on what they wanted to do on pick and roll D, he was not much use as a help defender. He still needs a lot of work on the defensive end of the floor but with the injuries he has to play some minutes for us right now.

      • CG12

        Erden has lots of room to improve, which I think is good news. There is good reason to think that that improvement can and will happen. He seems to get the general idea of what they are trying to do, he just doesn't do it all that well. His rotations and help D will get better with more reps, increased familiarity, and a better grasp of English. He is a big, mobile guy, which you can always use on defense.

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