Well, that was very Knicks-Celtics. We've come to expect late-game terror from Boston, and today's game was no exception. Both teams played the same kind of ball they always do when facing each other: sloppy, physical, and wildly inconsistent with a gut-wrenching finish. Boston and New York traded big runs until the final few minutes, then traded big clutch plays until, as usual, Paul Pierce stepped up and drilled a devastating fade-away three to send the game into overtime.
This, like blackhova said, is a pain unique to Knicks-Celtics games. The two teams just keep finding ways to keep their games close, and the Celtics keep inventing ways to rip our hearts out and pee on them down the stretch.
Take the jump for some individual notes and details.
- Here's a thing that sucks: The Knicks won three of four quarters in regulation, but lost that other one so badly that it didn't matter. Each quarter, really, had a very different feel. In the first, the Knicks hit the first few baskets but fell behind soon after that, losing Jeremy Lin to two early fouls and struggling to stop the Celtics inside. Thanks to 8-8 free throw shooting and some fine play by the bench, though, they ended up on top at the end of the first. In the second quarter, Lin returned and quietly helped the Knicks build a double-digit lead. Thanks to a goddamn parade of turnovers in the final minutes of the half, the lead was just five at the break, but it was still a productive quarter. In the third, the Celtics promptly erased that lead and built a double-digit advantage of their own. New York's high-low switching and inability to contain Rajon Rondo allowed the Celtics to improve on what had been sub-par shooting, and New York couldn't get anything to fall on the other end. They cut it to eight by quarter's end, though, and kept chipping in the fourth. A mini-outburst from Lin leveled the game heading into the final two minutes. Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce exchanged huge buckets in those two minutes, but when it came time to hit a tough, off-balance shot with the game on the line, Pierce hit his (over great defense from Iman Shumpert) to tie it and Melo missed what would have been the game-winner. In overtime, New York just collapsed.
- But anyway...the Knicks won three of four quarters. Got kinda carried away up there.
- New York's major, major problem today was turning the ball over. Lin and Baron Davis both made a habit of getting over-excited and attempting difficult passes-- THE pass, instead of just a pass.That doesn't work against a Boston defense that's excellent at identifying and attacking the primary action in any play. Against Cleveland, Lin and Davis both did a terrific job of making set-up passes when they were available and being patient or swinging the ball when they weren't, but today it felt like they were both gunning for assists. Especially in the first half, that mentality held the Knicks back from a much bigger lead. As a team, New York had 22 turnovers (14 in the first half). They attempted nine fewer shots than the Celtics did, which negated the fact that they held the edge in free throws, three-pointers, and rebounds.
- New York's perimeter switching (like letting Melo and J.R. Smith/Iman Shumpert switch on Pierce, for instance) doesn't bother me in the slightest, but the 1-5 pick-and-roll switches that end with Lin getting posted up by Garnett seem less than desirable. That strategy has worked in the past when Tyson Chandler was at his absolute marauding best, but today, it got the Celtics some easy buckets.
- Lin, in general, had a pretty bad game with spurts of excellence. Lin's creation off the dribble was sloppy and inefficient and he didn't have a prayer against Rajon Rondo (who had an absurd triple-double), but Lin almost made up for it with some ridiculous plays. It felt like all the shots he hit were tough ones and, when the Celtics seemed to be pulling away in the fourth, he stole back his own turnover and sank a layup, then drilled a corner three to cut the deficit to one.
- Davis threw just as many awful passes as Lin did, but he had a lot more success in the pick-and-roll (some feeds so gorgeous that even Jared Jeffries couldn't mess them up) and hit some fairly silly three-pointers. Oh, and since it's been a topic recently, those two did not overlap at all. They traded off point guard duties. Lin played 32 minutes and Davis played 21.
- Landry Fields did a much, much better job than he has of staying with Ray Allen, but played himself off the floor by doing the sort of out-of-control off-the-dribble stuff we came to dread earlier in the season. He hit a three and made a couple nice passes, but I guess he just shared whatever "I NEED TO DO EVERYTHING AND MAKE ALL THE PLAYS" bug Lin and Davis had. Wait, did Jeremy, Baron, and Landry all share a bunch of PCP before the game?
- As a result, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith played the brunt of the shooting guard minutes. Smith was okay-- he took and missed some bad shots but played his usual smart, physical defense (including what I wish was a big, game-changing stop on one of Pierce's last attempts). Shump was more than okay in 31 minutes. He struggled like everybody did when defending Rondo, but did a solid job against the Celtic wings and forced turnovers and tough shots even when mismatched. Offensively, Shump had one of his best games as a Knick. He turned down jumpers and made some gorgeous finishes at the basket (a righty over-the-shoulder finish on the left side of the rim, a VISCOUS dunk over Kevin Garnett).
- Incidentally, Shumpert got a technical for shouting in Garnett's face after that dunk. Whether or not he deserved it is besides the point. Even though the Knicks lost a close game, I would not have changed a thing about that play, except for maybe encouraging Shump to bite Garnett's nose off.
- Smith had a pretty great dunk as well. He's good at those.
- Carmelo Anthony's jumpers didn't fall (including one or two where he was just trying to draw the foul, which I despise), but he did a terrific job of slashing, getting attempts at the rim, drawing contact, and following his own shots when he missed or got blocked. It'll be forgotten because he missed the game-winner, but Melo made huuuuge plays down the stretch. In the final two minutes, he scored back-to-back-to-back buckets on an easy finish from an inbound pass, a twisting dribble-drive finish off a Lin kick, and an impossible hanging jumper over Pierce. The first shot cut the deficit to one, and the next two gave the Knicks one-point leads. I so, so badly wish that he could've stuck that buzzer-beater at the end of regulation. Or I would've taken Pierce missing that game-tying three instead of rattling it in. Either would have worked.
- Oh, it's worth mentioning that the Knicks could have fouled down three but didn't. They never do. I don't really have an opinion about that. New York defended that possession well, Shump recovered from getting bumped to the ground by Garnett, and Pierce had to hit a tough shot with a hand in his face. But he did hit it, just like he always does. Oh, how I loathe the guy.
- Amar'e Stoudemire's defense on Brandon Bass was poor. His scoring looked sharp at times-- a jumper or two and some tough finishes inside-- and sometimes as discouraging as it has been recently. He failed to finish some really easy looks because he didn't leave the ground quickly enough or explosively enough. 13 rebounds, though, and a couple nice blocks (one of which was an uncalled goaltend). It wasn't a terrible game, but also not particularly encouraging if you're worried about the guy.
- Tyson Chandler did what he could defensively. For instance, Rondo's stats are ridiculous, but look at that shooting line. Chandler's presence bugged a lot of shots at the rim. Offensively, though, Chandler was not his usual self. He now has a massive, padded glove-brace thing on his left wrist, and it seemed to play a part in his dropping a few easy catches, missing out on a couple rebounds, and screwing some stuff up at the basket. Still, he had six offensive rebounds, including several crucial tip-ins.
- By the way, I can't help but think of this when I see that glove on Chandler's hand. They might as well fit it with some zappers, right?
- Steve Novak hit his threes-- four of seven-- but played a very hit-or-miss game on defense. Sometimes, you see him shuffle his feet and do a pretty solid job against a guy like Brandon Bass. Other times, a shot goes up and you realize that Steve's the only Knick under the basket against Chris Wilcox and you, Steve, and Chris all know well in advance that the play's going to end with a Wilcox putback. (Update: Forgot to mention Steve's clutch-ass free throws to put the Knicks up three with under a minute left. They were clutch-ass.)
- Jared Jeffries finished those passes from Davis, drew a charge, made a few nice defensive rotations, and snaggled two steals. Jared Jeffries things.
- Mike Tirico mumbles ABC promos the same way you or I would recite a grocery list. "...and she's a mom but she has a secret she used to be an operative for the CIA... blah blah blah weeknights on ABC".
- Whatever weird extraterrestrial noises made their way into the ABC broadcast of the Oscars were alive and well during the game, because apparently ABC needs more things to make its basketball broadcasts incredibly irritating.
- Fun moment: Lin drew a foul in the second quarter by getting smacked in the face, then jammed his fingers up his nose to check to see if there was any blood. Amar'e then came over to give him high fives, but Lin was a bit hesitant because of the whole nose thing, but eventually acquiesced because Amar'e was both persistent and oblivious.
- Davis and Lin each have their merits, but one thing Davis is better at is responding to ball pressure. Avery Bradley is notorious for getting under the skin of opposing point guards, but Davis has such a tight handle that he could just spin and weave right past him.
- Very bad minute in overtime: Rondo makes a layup. Lin gets his shot blocked, rebounds it, then calls a timeout from the floor. On the ensuing inbound play, Melo gets his shot blocked and misses the follow. The Celtics race the other way in find Ray Allen for a corner three. Lin misses a layup and Amar'e blows the tip dunk so hard that it starts the fast break, and Rondo finds Allen for a layup the other way. Seven-point run to put the Celtics up five in just one minute.
- The refereeing was awful in both directions. If you still get bent out of shape about that stuff, then I'm surprised you've made it this long as a basketball fan.
- The Knicks and Celtics play one more time on April 17th. It's probably going to matter for playoff positioning and I already feel like throwing up just thinking about it. The Celtics are goblins.
And that's all I've got. Like every match-up between these two teams, this was a game of runs and, eventually, improbable clutch plays. New York's runs weren't big enough and they made one clutch play too few down the stretch. Turnovers and poor defensive rotations plagued them the whole way, and after a hot start, they didn't shoot well enough in the long run to make up for their errors. It really, really hurt in a way that only losses to the Celtics can hurt. But the Knicks can't dwell on it-- they've got back-to-back games in Dallas and San Antonio coming up very shortly.