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.
-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.
Maybe they should take a bow?