Post-game Reactions

Jump Ball.

The last seven minutes of this game have to stand with Boston’s very best stretches of the season. The Celtics held the Knicks to 4 points, and none in the final 3:20 to win their 50th game of the season.

But the superb stretch of ‘we’re not that $*#&@ tired, we’re not that $*#&@ injured, we’re just about ready for the $*#&@ playoffs’ basketball was in progress earlier in the game.

You could feel the breakout coming.

The Celtics exited the first quarter down 25-22, and the first half 51-37, in part because Boston struggled to find anyone to guard Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudamire one-on-one, but mostly because (again) the Celtics couldn’t score.

But there were some positive signs. The offense was generating plenty of good looks, which is usually a harbinger of victory. The first-half Celtics missed a number of comfort-zone shots (KG got good position whenever he wanted it in this game) and had a few more turned away at the rim by an active Rony Turiaf (4 blocks).

In the third quarter, the Celtics ran relentlessly off defensive stops, which was only possible because Rajon Rondo, who you may remember from the first 60 games of the season, pushed tempo off nearly every miss. As much as Rondo’s flaws were on display the last few games — the passivity, the periodic bouts of defensive indifference, the failure to attack the rim, the indecision leading to lazy late-clock jumpers — his offensive genius was splattered all over the second half as he diced up the Knicks’ defense, outworked blue jerseys for offense rebounds, and finished creatively at the rim.

The rest of the Celtics joined him on the break, filling lanes for layups (Ray Allen) and serious dunks (Kevin Garnett), the latter of which you can and should watch again right now:

The Celtics finished with 18 fast break points on the night but that number doesn’t accurately describe how much pressure they applied to the New York defense, even when the Knicks did get back in transition (side note: that’s sort of the problem with fast break points as a stat. If Garnett ends up defended in the post by, say, Toney Douglas because the Knicks lost their men scrambling back in transition, and Garnett backs him down and scores, the Celtics get no credit for that on the fast break scorecard. But that mismatch was created by attacking in transition).


The last good thing that happened to the Knicks in this game was Rondo fouling Chauncey Billups as he drilled a three-pointer.

After that, it was wipeout city. The Celtics went from 9 points down to 10 points up by the final buzzer.

Paul Pierce joined Rondo in leading the offensive charge down the stretch.

The captain finally had it going tonight, despite foul trouble that limited him to, uh, 35 minutes. He shot 8-13 for 21 points, 13 of them in the final period. He drove to the basket for a couple free throws, nailed a big transition three to counteract that Billups four-pointer, and hit a 15-foot jumper over Landry Fields when Mike D’Antoni switched ‘Melo off Pierce so he wouldn’t pick up his sixth foul.

But it was the defense that really won the game.

Boston did three things down the stretch that competely shut down the Knicks.

1) They extended their ball pressure on the point guard out above the three-point line, often sending a second man (usually Garnett, who was all over the court) to trap Billups before he could get into a pick and roll or run a set as planned. The Celtics repeatedly forced the Knicks out of what they wanted to do early in the shot clock and left them scrambling to get a good look. It was this kind of pressure on Billups that created the loose ball you see Stoudamire and Garnett fighting over in the photo above.

2) The Celtics overloaded the strong side. Not a new tactic for the Celtics but an effective one against an elite wing scorer like Melo, who Pierce can check, but not entirely stop. Boston either forced Anthony to give the ball up on the wing or frustrated him into forcing up bad shots down the stretch. His only two crunchtime points came off free throws gleaned from an offensive rebound.

And Garnett did just a masterful job denying Stoudamire position, an entry pass into the post or a clean look the few times he did shoot. Thanks to KG’s exemplary work, Stoudamire didn’t score at all in the last seven minutes.

3) As the Knicks searched for offense within broken plays, the Celtics rotated like fiends to shut off second and third options. Have you ever seen a fiend rotate? It’s very impressive. The Celtics moved help defenders in and recovered out to challenge shooters with, as Doc Rivers might say, great energy. The Knicks beat the rotations a couple of times, but the Celtics’ closeouts came in time to force misses.

In summary, it was a thing of beauty to watch the Celtics evolve throughout the game.

Quarter one: they looked like they might stagger their way to another loss.

Quarter four: they looked ready to win the title again.


  • You may have noticed the Troy Murphy and Carlos Arroyo cameos in the second quarter. They combined for only 5 total minutes before Rivers reverted to his essential-8, who would finish the game. Might be a habit forming here, as we discussed on the weekend.
  • The Celtics spent a lot of time on the floor tonight, both inadvertently and otherwise. The Knicks made it tough on the C’s, battering them around in the lane, and the Celtics threw themselves to the floor with abandon, in pursuit of loose balls or attempting to snag a rebound or finish a shot. An aside: you could probably prove a positive correlation between instances of floorburn and good basketball games.
  • Jeff Green’s post move always involves backing his man down and shooting a jump hook. I’d like to see him hung out to dry down on the block, so we could see what else he has in his arsenal.
  • The Knicks are probably less dangerous to the Celtics now than they were back in December when the two teams engaged in this game, a candidate for best of the regular season. Anthony’s a terrific scorer but he’s also an all-world ballstopper, which means he and D’Antoni (not to mention Stoudamire) are going to have their share of struggles as they fit these pieces together. This year’s Knicks and Heat teams continue to remind us how special that 2007-08 Celtics team truly was.
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Ryan DeGama

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  • jpbl1976

    Let's all keep our fingers crossed for easier victories after this one. While the playoffs-level ball the Celtics displayed in the 4th quarter was masterful, it'll take something out of the tank of the starters if they have to keep this up over the remainder of the regular season.

    My worry is that, because the C's lost so much of their margin for error with losses to teams they should have beaten (Jersey, Houston, the Clippers), it'll take so much more energy from them to get the 1-seed than it will be for Chicago, which has an easier stretch of games remaining. I mean, if Pierce hadn't been in a bit of foul trouble, he might have played 40 minutes!

    Given all that, I really hope the C's have an extra gear left come the playoffs — and also that Shaq comes back with enough games left so that he can shake-off the rust.

    Luckily for our guys it got just a tiny bit easier since Tim Duncan went out on injury and looks not to be back in time for the rematch with the Spurs at month-end.

    • kricky

      These are legit worries.

      Getting the #1 is going to be tough. I took a look at the schedule and the Cs have 8 games against playoff caliber teams vs the Bulls 6. Both Have 6 games left at home. Also the Bulls are a younger team so they won't have as much trouble on the SEGABABAs.

      It could all come down to the game on April 7 in Chicago. Circle your calendars boys!

  • the other Alex

    too bad I had to watch the game with the Knicks broadcasting, would've loved to hear Tommy rave about the awful refs. That call on Pierces 4th is one of the worst I've ever seen.

    • Jeremy

      That wasn't the only bad call tonight – I was seriously worried Tommy having a heart attack. Many bad calls against the C's/ for the Knickerbockers…

      • the other Alex

        yep, alotta phantomy foul stuff there. And geez do I hate when those Knicks complain. Amare is a little bit better than Wade but not much. Whining and bitching all the time. So Melo fits right in there.

    • Chris

      I watched the game in NYC as well. Don't you get the sense that Clyde has a sort of grudging respect for the Celtics? For a game with this intensity and "rivalry," I thought that Clyde was actually pretty even-handed. Tommy must have been apoplectic when PP picked up his 5th (phantom) foul, or when Ray came up covered in blood.

      Awesome game.

  • Jeremy

    that was "worried about Tommy having a heart attack"…

  • Dan

    The Celtics did a phenomenal job on D, but it needs to be mentioned how atrocious Carmelo was down the stretch. Part of this was Garnett shutting down Stoudemire, forcing Anthony to go iso (forcing is probably the wrong word, as he was more than happy to).

    It's really not a coincidence how much better the Nuggets have been since the trade, and how bad the Knicks have been. It's too soon to have a firm conclusion, but all the evidence is pointing to Melo being an average player when it comes to overall contribution.

  • the other Alex

    But what a great great game. Truth had the look after Melo fouled him for his 5th, when Rondo came over and wanted to help him out, there was a shot of Pierce being so incredibly pissed. And then just went hot. That looked like a really really good playoff performance there. Guys are coming together .. not to sound corny but there's that look the C's got, it's just, it's everything that's good about basketball. Playoffs here we go!

  • GowGow

    Fans last week: "OMG, we won't even make it to the 2nd Round!"

    Fans today: "Playoffs here we go!", "We're ready for the title!"

    • NHBluesMan

      i don't think any true fans were worried about getting beat in the first round, at least not those who remember last year where the Celtics only got 50 wins (a number they matched tonight) but then still got to the finals

    • the other Alex

      No way anyone who watched them morph into a completely different team last year would write them off. When they care they can beat anybody. And no way anyone who watches that team believes in a 7 or 8 seed beating them in a seven-game-playoff-series.

  • LStrike

    Melo has shown nothing on the Knicks so far.

  • Only negative of this game, with 5 minutes left in the fourth, score tied, Rondo jets off on a fast break (without ball) Ray gets the outlet and is going to lay it up but has guys on his tail, Rondo is standing under the basket clearly not looking to score, calling for the ball so he can get an assist.
    What the hell Rondo! I don't care about garbage time assists, but Ray barely made this layup anyway, why not score it yourself given the position instead of back under the rim to count yourself out! Ridiculous!
    Was good to see Rondo finally being aggressive on offense again though.

    • Rav

      Yea. I'm actually okay with him padding his assist totals on the fast break when it is 2-on-none and he passes to the other guy. But in situations when he has the ball and the other guy might get chasedown-blocked or the pass might get stolen, and in instances like the one you described where the guy with the ball is under pressure and Rondo has an easier scoring opportunity I'd hope Rondo would just score the bucket himself.

    • the other Alex


      I don't know about Rondo standing there clearly not looking to score, to me it looked like he wanted the ball as he took off and Ray just kept it.

  • torpid bunny

    Great win. Doc lit into the team halfway through the second quarter. Had them standing out on the court and even the starters looked a bit shocked. It seemed like they were turning up the pressure the rest of the game.

    I don't care what anyone says, to come back from 13 down at the half, on the road, against a playoff team, and pull away by 10 is absolutely a championship level performance.

  • Pamela McGregor

    This piece is right on. The Knicks actually looked better in the previous game when Pierce nailed the game in a cliff hanger. I am happy that someone is sending out the message. This is a team sport; one guy shooting the lights out will not win in a series. You trap Melo and Amare in the 4th quarter and essentially the game is lost. The pieces sent to Denver have proven to be greater than a whole melon (a play on Melo). The comebacks staged by the Lakers and Celtics are the sign of things to come. Listen up Heat and Bulls. Tom T. said the Bulls lost the game against the Pacers when they strayed from their defensive game. The Heat are suspects on defense; I think they still want LeBron to be what he was for the Cavaliers. The ups and downs of the Celtics are the recipe for success. Test the waters; test your bench and figure it out before the clock expires.

  • Rav

    Ryan, I'm pretty sure I've seen Green successfully execute at least one of each of the three following post moves: spin-move, up-and-under and turnaround fadeaway. So, even if he doesn't use them that much, he does have the specialty moves in his arsenal.

    His post game has been a (very) pleasant surprise. Prior to his coming here I thought he was just an athletic slasher and 3-point chucker. But he has post skills in the top 25% of the league, for sure.


    Ray hugged his Mom before he stepped on the court,
    Melo's stay in the game, with two fouls, cut short.
    Delonte and Rondo together with Pierce,
    Tonight hope Green and Baby are fierce.

    Q1 ends with the Knicks up by three
    Looks like a competitive game we'll see.
    At the beginning of Q2, from the end of Q1,
    The Knicks went on a 10-0 run.

    Davis got an elbow right in the face,
    No call, of course, not in this place.
    Kevin Bacon, DTrump and, as always, Spike Lee,
    A Wahlberg or a Damon I'd like to see.

    As great as the bench was the other day,
    Tonight not a shot will go their way.
    Knicks quicker to the ball, easy to score,
    Cs are turning the ball over at their end of the floor.

    Even with Billups and Stoudemire, Melo wants the ball,
    He'll continue to shoot no matter what the play call.
    So 17 points in the first half for him,
    Turiaf's chances of getting the ball are really slim.

    At the end of the half, Knicks a 14 point lead,
    Some stops and some baskets are what the Cs need.
    One thing in the audience I really like
    Flo, Ray's Mom, sitting next to Spike.

    Q3 when the Cs were in a miserable funk,
    KG ran the floor, made a monster dunk!
    Cs' attack mentality and some defense, too,
    More of this the Cs must do.

    Pierce and Melo, four fouls, in Q3 did sit
    But the Cs' offense would not quit.
    Ray's bleeding on the floor, he and Rondo did fall,
    Needless to say–there was no call.

    Cs' bigs want to come back, we see their resolve harden,
    Shaq's there tonight at Madison Square Garden.
    One thing that makes Doc and Cs' fans shout,
    The refs keep bailing Melo out.

    Q4 is intense, it's chippy out there,
    Heinsohn's Tommy Points are everywhere!
    Pierce is angry, KG just possessed,
    In crunch time, these Cs are just the best!

    Melo on the ground, now bleeding is he,
    Then we look at Ray and more blood we see.
    KG had a game, he had quite a line,
    24 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals–so fine!

    Flo's hugging Spike, kind of sweet at the end,
    The Cs won the game, she could be his friend.
    On a 24-4 run, the Cs won tonight,
    Pierce, KG led the way, showed incredible fight!

    With no threes tonight, it should still be said,
    Of Reggie Ray still is 37 ahead.

    March 21, 2011 10:42pm

  • phreesh

    The Celtics have had numerous lapses during the season where they let games get away or allowed big leads to evaporate, but all Celtics fans should be encouraged to see them lock down games when they needed to.

    As a Knick fan, I've seen the two Boston games and both times the Knicks played them hard (47 minutes last game, 41 minutes last night), but were outplayed when the game mattered. It is this mentality that makes the Celitcs a title threat. And is something that NO other team in the league, save the Lakers, possesses.

    That said, I really believe the Knicks could take the Celtics to seven if they meet in the playoffs. Especially with a few more weeks to integrate Melo into the team better. The ball movement was atrocious in those last few minutes.

    • Ryan DeGama

      I'm not sure Bos-NY would go seven games, but it'd be a great series.

      I do think this Melo/Amare thing is going to work. It'll just take some time to integrate the pieces. Ideally, this time next year, they've added a center who makes a real defensive impact and Melo's bought into D'Antoni's offense. You'd think Chauncey, with his championship pedigree, could help with that.

      • phreesh

        'Maybe' you're 'right'. And by 'maybe' I mean certainly. And by ''right' I mean wrong.

        Celtics/Knicks would go seven and the Knicks would probably win game seven by about 80*.

        *That is, if salary = quality of player. Knicks sure pay a lot of money to their players. They must be AWESOME.

  • CsFanInArkansas

    Speaking of championship mentality (^phreesh)…

    …Kobe Bryant, when asked about Bynum's "hard foul" on Beasley said that he was "proud of him" and that he "earned his stripes"…

    Do what?

    Since when is cheap-shotting a guy who plays for a worse-than-terrible ball club while he's in mid-air (not even trying to make it look like you're going for the ball) considered "earning your stripes" for the defending champs of the NBA??? What a joke. It was purely a punk move from one of the best young bigs in the league…but even more of a punk move by Kobe to commend it as some sort of right-of-passage for Bynum.

    They make themselves so easy to…dislike…

  • kricky

    A good win, but let's not forget the Knicks are really struggling right now and that they were coming of a SEGABABA. Could have something to do with their offense going cold in the last 3 minutes.

    We still have a lot of work ahead of us before this team is complete. But Lat nights win puts us back on the right track.

  • urbeltic

    1. Paul Pierce is the man. When the crowd is chanting that he sucks, the pressure is getting high, and the C's need to take over, PP puts his big black nuggets on the line – offensively AND defensively.

    2. I wish we had Coach Tibbs back for this stretch, because Green needs a lesson. The only thing he has going defensively is that he is tall and quick. He needs to get tied down while he sleeps and beaten by KG, Ray, and PP. The dude needs to get nasty. His foul on C.Billups offered a glimmer of hope, but he just aint playing tough.

  • Chris O

    Best line ever "Have you ever seen a fiend rotate? It’s very impressive."