We've seen the Knicks lose that exact game quite a few times, including several against the Celtics last season. The frighteningly efficient start, second half doldrums, and fourth quarter comeback became all too familiar last year, and they almost always ended in heart-rending defeat. So, like Znell in the game thread, my pulse was racing through most of this one and took quite a while to subside. That prolonged Boston possession with the Knicks up two and seconds left on the clock was the worst. Even though Paul Pierce was sidelined, it seemed inevitable that a Ray Allen buzzer-beating three, a Kevin Garnett elbow jumper to send it into overtime, or some other cruel twist of fate would ruin our Christmases/sixth nights of Hannukah/Kwanzaa Eves.
But no! Marquis Daniels missed a three, Garnett rimmed out a second opportunity, and the buzzer sounded with the Knicks two points ahead. When we finally returned to breathin' and pumpin' blood like normal, healthy people, we had a win and a 1-0 team to reflect upon. Take the jump for some reflecting.
- Carmelo Anthony had himself a basketball game. There were a number of possessions in which Melo brought the ball up and created for himself and others off the dribble, but for the most part, he worked from his office on the right elbow. Matched up against the likes of Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic, Melo would catch with his back to the rim and either pull up or drift to the right corner to drill the jumper over whichever mediocre Celtic was humping his leg. That option comprised most of the Knicks' post-first quarter offense while Anthony was on the floor, including almost every successful fourth quarter possession. It worked pretty nicely, as Melo finished 10-17 from the field and scored 37 points. There was a certain bounce to Melo's game, and extended into his off-ball endeavors. He didn't play particularly brilliant defense, (nor was he really asked to, except as a helper) but snaggled a couple steals, challenged some shots, and and ripped down eight rowdy rebounds with, to my eye, a noticeable vivacity. Maybe I imagined that. Either way, Carmelo Anthony had himself a GAME.
- Oh yeah, a quick synopsis: The Knicks opened the afternoon passing like madmen (over-passing, at times) and hitting from every range at a remarkable clip. They led by as much as 17. In the second quarter, the Celtics increased their ball pressure, the Knicks struggled to adapt, and Rajon Rondo and Brandon Bass converted all kinds of bunnies to shift the momentum a bit. In the third quarter, everything I mentioned in the previous sentence happened like ninetyfold. There was a 22-2 run somewhere in there. It was unseemly. In the fourth, the Knicks started getting calls, Melo got hot, and the Celtics' double-digit lead gradually disintegrated. I liked the beginning and end parts. Not so much the middle parts.
- Fuckin' Rondo, man. That sneaky little weevil skittered to the rim over and over and over again, either because he cherry-picked and beat all the Knicks down court, or because Toney Douglas is a ghost or something. Really, it was like a traumatic flashback to last year's series where Douglas would either go over screens and get caught or go under screens and just...disappear. I cannot comprehend how Rondo kept getting to the rim. All I know is I wish he played in a different division.
- (It probably had something to do with Toney's foul trouble, but still...)
- Douglas, though. Not a great first outing. Toney had his moments of point guardliness, but either telegraphed or swallowed most of his assist opportunities. When the Celtics brought heavy pressure, Douglas pretty much curled up like an armadillo and let defenders slap him into submission. Predictably, Douglas only looked comfortable when creating his own shot, which he did more than any other Knick. Toney's 19 field goal attempts led the whole team, and he didn't supplement his shot poppin' with much drawn contact, attempting just two free throws. There were some heady drives and accurate jumpers in there, but they were counterbalanced by far too many short-armed pull-ups. Nineteen shots is too many shots for Toney Douglas, especially if he's only going to convert eight of them.
- The same probably goes for Iman Shumpert's thirteen attempts, but it sure felt like more of Shump's takes were quality opportunities that just rimmed out because of some rookie jitters. Either way, we won't be seeing Iman again for a few weeks, which really, really sucks, but doesn't suck nearly as much as I thought it would suck when I saw him grabbing at his knee.
- That Budweiser commercial is already annoying, but I do love that there was a real-life moment when Redfoo, Sky Blu, Luke Wilson, Emmanuelle Chiriqui, and Mark Cuban were all in the same room together.
- Those are the two fuzzy guys from LMFAO, in case you didn't know. Luke Wilson and Mark Cuban, that is.
- If we rewrote today's shot chart, Amar'e Stoudemire would probably be the recipient of whatever attempts we subtracted from Douglas and Shumpert. He had 21 points on just 11 shots, underscoring the Knicks' collective need to figure out how to get him the ball even when he's on the weak side and/or acting as a decoy for the Melo/Chandler pick and roll.
- Amar'e didn't play all that much defense, (he was one of several responsible for letting Brandon Bass cook soup from mid-range and gobble up every offensive rebound, which was most reminiscent of last season) but, as he's wont to do, made up for it with a big block on Bass in the final minutes.
- Amar'e shot 2-2 from downtown. Melo shot 4-7. The Knicks shot 9-20. The Celtics shot 2-5.
- Also to blame for Bass and friends' o-bounding was Tyson Chandler, who pulled down just three boards and seemed content to just be tall instead of boxing folks out. To be fair, he also had six blocks and a number of other useful shot contests, so the action sometimes pulled him away from the boards. In hindsight, I'd be interested to see what would happen if Chandler stayed home a bit more on defense and didn't try to help as much. I'd probably just be complaining that he didn't help enough, so nevermind.
- The total rebounding numbers were 41-31 in favor of the Celtics, which is pretty unacceptable.
- Josh Harrellson, who is likely about to get a lot more minutes with Jeffries, had neither his sea legs or his sea hands in this one. He bulldozed some space and (according to the box score) blocked a shot, but didn't do much else but drop passes.
- Landry Fields didn't do much of note on offense besides dribble the ball wayyyy too often. On defense, he did a decent job of tailing Ray Allen in the early going, but started lagging behind after the first quarter. Bill Walker didn't do much better on either end.
- Renaldo Balkman had one really nice cut and finish and, well...that's it. I just really wanted to include him in this recap. He'll probably be seeing more minutes with Jeffries out.
- Before succumbing to a calf injury, (which will keep him out for at least a week) Jared Jeffries pulled the Malik Rose Memorial Chair-Pull of the night on Kevin Garnett, who traveled. Expertly done.
- Here's one play I loved. Nothing fancy here. Just terrible defense by Bass, a nice cut by Chandler, and snappy recognition by Melo. This was a pretty big play, too:
- Kyra Sedgwick, in a "The Closer" commercial: "THESE PEOPLE ARE MY FRANDS!!!11" This guy's looking forward to games on MSG.
- To my eye, Mike Woodson's pressing defense worked nicely for stretches in the first quarter, but faltered when it wasn't executed forcefully enough and/or the Celtics adjusted to it later on.
- I missed this, but after the game, Kevin Garnett and Bill Walker had words, and Garnett decided that grabbing Walker's throat would be a good thing for him to do. I disagree, but that's just me.
So, that's pretty much all I've got for now. I've got the game taped and may watch it again before Wednesday, but...well, I probably won't. 'Twas a successful, if not entirely pleasant start to the season, with plenty to cherish and plenty more to improve. Things will only get tougher now without Shump (who, for all his misses, looked genuinely ready to be a leader in the second unit, I thought) and Jeffries. Oh, and THE west coast road trip is coming up next! Who's ready for back-to-back 10:30 EST tips this week!?