To be honest, I had no idea until today that the Knicks hadn't won in Boston since November 24, 2006, when Steve Francis and Eddy Curry led them to a 24-point victory over the Wally Szczerbiak-led Celtics.
[I'll wait while you go wash your hands and face of that information.]
That certainly sounds right, though. The Knicks have had their nights against the Celtics-- including that one three-point bonanza late last season-- but all at Madison Square Garden. For quite some time, that frowzy cur Paul Pierce and his ever-changing but consistently despicable band of Celtics tormented us like a step-back-jumper-breathing dragon terrorizes a medieval village of, ya know...serfs...who are mediocre defenders. Both here and there, but especially there, the Celtics have dragged us through countless nauseating, haunting finishes. The Knicks go up big, they blow their lead, they make another late push, then the Celtics rip their and our hearts out of our chests and punt them into oblivion. Through several regular seasons and one miserable playoff series, they've tortured us in cruel and unusual ways.
So yeah, like rs504 commented, Thursday's win in Boston felt like slaying the dragon. Sure, taking a seven-game series from Boston or sticking them with a few buzzer-beaters (buzzer-BEATERS, Amar'e) would really be the dagger in the cloaca, but this'll do for now. I don't care if it's petty and desperate to feel such elation after vanquishing our foes on their home court for the first time since Borat was in theaters. I'm unashamed. It felt and continues to feel wonderful. I want to bottle this feeling and spritz it all over myself like a fragrance: Celtic Despair...by Pablo.
Zooming in from the sweet, sweet context to the game itself: What a weird game. Both the Knicks and Celtics shot like tepid gnu piss. Paul Pierce snapped out of his slump inside the arc (of course) and Rajon Rondo created plenty off the dribble, but the Celtics couldn't get shit to fall from outside, even when the Knicks baited them with the longest stretches of zone defense we've seen in a while.
For the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony alternated sharp, attacking stretches with unseemly, pull-up-heavy stretches, watching of the interspersed passes out of double teams feed missed open threes (Jason Kidd was 2-7 from downtown, J.R. Smith 1-6). The Celtics' pick-and-roll defense allowed for stretches of non-iso-Melo production: When they smothered Tyson Chandler's rim-rolls, Kidd and Iman Shumpert crept in for a few easy baskets. When they switched with Melo handling the ball, Melo just chewed up Jared Sullinger off the dribble. Amar'e Stoudemire provided a lovely offensive boost as well, particularly during a second quarter in which he led a mostly-bench lineup through an 11-1 run and a mostly-starters lineup through a 13-4 run. Amar'e spun and flailed his way into a bunch of drawn fouls and a basket or two, spiked in a wonderful baseline dunk, and-- best of all-- fought for seven rebounds and made more useful plays (two blocks, including one from behind on Sullinger) than detrimental ones in the middle of an unusually regular 3-2 zone. Foul trouble limited Amar'e's minutes to just twenty, but he played consistently effective ball for most of those minutes. That zone, at least against bad-shooting teams, is probably a keeper, especially when Woodson's got Amar'e and Prigioni and Steve Novak out there.
So, the Knicks had a few moments on offense, and they had just enough moments down the stretch to avoid disaster. Melo, J.R., and Pablo each hit jumpers early in the fourth to to build New York's lead to double-digits, but we knew full well that wouldn't last. The Celtics started to connect as the Knicks buried themselves under more and more isolations. A ten-point edge shriveled to two in what felt like seconds, and my eyelid started to twitch in anticipation of the forthcoming Pierce game-winner. Some different shit happened, though. After Rondo's jumper cut it to two, Amar'e tipped in J.R.'s missed three. After a timeout, the previously trigger-happy Melo began to pass out of help defense, and that panned out the second time around, when J.R. drained his first three of the evening off a Melo hockey assist. That put the Knicks up five, and Pierce fumbled away two of the Celtics' remaining three possessions, both times (I believe) thanks to J.R. getting all up in his personal space.
It's not a triumph over which anybody but us is excited, but beating the Celtics in Boston was terrific. Watching Pierce bone those crucial plays then wearily chew on his fuck-ups (see @cjzero's masterpiece above) made it even sweeter. Again, yes, I am a small, vindictive child. If you are a Celtics fan reading this, sorry. It's not necessarily you. You're probably a perfectly lovely human being. I just fucking loathe your team and want all the bad things in basketball to happen to them and only them. Just a few more little notes:
- Decent Shump game. He played a manageable 27 minutes, including stretches of the fourth. After a cold outing against Brooklyn, Shump drilled some jumpers-- a couple threes and a pull-up two-- given the room, which was so very nice to see. It's kinda tough to assess his or anyone's individual defense (at least after the first watching) with all the switching and zone we saw, but I did see him get burned by Pierce and Rondo a few times.
- James White ended up getting the start while Chris Copeland took a DNP-CD for some reason. White hit a three, got one of two diagonal drives from the left side to drop, and grabbed himself three rebounds and two assists in 13 minutes. I habitually forget he's out there, which is both a sign that he doesn't do much and a testament to the fact that he doesn't do much wrong, I guess.
- Kidd and Prigioni kinda switched roles tonight. Kidd's been getting steals, but he specifically got Prigioni steals, jumping a few passing lanes-- including one inbound!-- to create easy buckets. He was also the one to penetrate and score a few times when given the space. Pablo, on the other hand, hit two of three open threes, including one delightful standstill set shot early in the fourth.
- Good things:
- Steve Novak was on the floor for some of the Knicks' best offensive stretches, but did not directly contribute to said offensive stretches.
- J.R. Smith shot 3-16, and an uncomfortable number of those attempts were of the "bad shot even if it goes in" variety as opposed to the "good shot even if it misses variety".
- Ronnie Brewer and Kurt Thomas played the most hilarious of minutes. Brewer's 39 seconds were divided between the backwash of the second and third quarters. Coach made Ronnie stand up and get out of his warm-ups TWICE just for some nominal defensive help on final possessions. Kurt Thomas played two tiny segments the second quarter-- the longer of which came during the slim interim between Amar'e's stints-- and was a minus eight(!) in a combined 1:42. And you know what? Plus/minus is fickle, but I thought Kurt was directly responsible for most of that minus-eight. He lapsed on interior D a couple times and groggily tossed his one pick-and-roll look off back rim.
- The zone D was surprising (Gotta applaud Woodson for that, right?. Rarely does he make such a stark, successful adjustment.) and inscrutable/transient enough that I'm not gonna be able to fully figure out how, why, and how much it worked until I look it over again tomorrow.
- Yo, Kevin Garnett, Iman Shumpert's a friend of ours and he's coming off a knee injury that took him most of a year to repair. If you could kindly not knee him in his knees or grab him and violently wrench his body out of your way or trip him or do pretty much any of the plainly dirty things you do that routinely get ignored by refs, that'd be cool.
- Chandler just couldn't get the ball. Amar'e, for all his virtues, missed a few high-low extra pass opportunities. There was one quick stretch in the second half which Pablo forced a lob pass into Tyson (too forced, missed the tip-dunk), then Tyson flung in an impossible and-one after receiving a pick-and-roll feed too far from the rim.
Perhaps it wasn't the greatest of basketball games, but that was really the greatest basketball games. For the Knicks to win in Boston-- especially during such a rough patch, especially after that last game, and especially with the standings getting tight-- really means a lot. Thanks for finding a way to do that, Knicks.
Up next is a visit to the 76ers. Signs are pointing to a Raymond Felton return in that game. We'll talk about that and much more tomorrow. Sorry for the late recap. <3