That's a little more like it. 24 hours removed from a fairly revolting showing against the Bucks, the Knicks actually played some quality hoop against the wily Celtics. Neither team defended particularly well until the fourth quarter, when the Celtics, even without premier Knick-killer Paul Pierce, made some massive clutch plays and won just like they should.
Take the jump for my hard-hitting, no-holds-barred, can't-miss analysis and some contest winners.
- The big story for us was Nate Robinson's debut game against his former team. Nate got plenty of love from his teammates, received a hearty ovation from the Boston crowd, and played a pretty mediocre game against his old friends. He hit a few shots, but also had two blocked (one by Sergio Rodriguez of all people, one by David Lee of ALL people) and was a little off with his passing. It's pretty much what you'd expect from a guy playing competitive basketball with a new team for the first time since before the All-Star break. I really believe Nate will flourish in Boston, but we managed to avoid the tabloid fodder this time, at least in that respect.
- The big story for the Boston faithful was the return of Eddie House. House checked in to a prolonged standing ovation, including a video tribute on the big screen. He, too, didn't fare too well against his former comrades. House managed only 2-7 shooting, including some big misses down the stretch, but did find other ways to contribute. He notched 5 boards, 5 nice assists, and a couple shrewd defensive plays against familiar players. Eddie's beard was also at its absolute freshest tonight, having clearly gone through a rigorous touch-up at some point during the day. That thing is so tight sometimes that it looks fake.
- Sergio Rodriguez and Tracy McGrady did an infinitely better job of handling the ball in this one. McGrady had a great thing going with David Lee, making some slick bounce passes to find Dave on the pick-and-roll. He finished with 8 assists in total. Sergio recorded 6 dimes of his own, and did a brilliant job of looking for his own offense when he saw an opening. There were a number of swift drives to the rim, and the Spanish lilliputian even made it happen from downtown (3-4). The three-ball is not really Rodriguez's game, but if he's open (which he was), he looks to be pretty confident.
- I wonder if the word "lilliputian" translates directly to Spanish?
- On defense, Mike D'Antoni opted to sic Rodriguez on Ray Allen. Sergio's not a poor defender, but his skillset (quick hands, jumping passing lanes) doesn't exactly map well onto a match-up who's a couple inches taller and can't be allowed an inch of shooting room. Shuttlesworth shot 9-14 for 24 points.
- Danilo Gallinari, meanwhile, spent stretches guarding Rajon Rondo. Gallo defended the little pest appropriately (gave him three steps), but Rondo still got loose for 15, 16, and 4. Such is life.
- Gallo also sat for pretty much the entire fourth quarter (might have been the whole thing, now that I think about it), probably since he seems to have been inoculated with whatever virus sapped Chris Duhon of his offensive punch. I actually saw Danilo get within an inch of the rim and kick the ball out to the perimeter. That's the first sign. It might be too late to quarantine.
- I will give Gallinari credit for posting up his smaller defender on a number of occasion, even though the other Knicks had plenty of trouble finding him. It's what he does once he's got the ball that's disappointed me lately.
- Wilson Chandler, for his part, more or less awoke from his post-deadline stupor. Wil shot a few too many jumpers, but managed several splendid drives to the rim, including a fairly badass and-one over Kevin Garnett, which reminds me of this.
- Bill Walker got to spin! His first play as a Knick was spitting his gum into his hand while MSG was showing a close-up of his face (at this rate, Walker will have shit on a professional basketball court by 2012). His second play, though, was a viscous tomahawk dunk on a diagonal drive. He also canned a three and caught a splendid alley-oop from Rodriguez later on. Other than that, Walker's night was pretty nondescript, save for a bunch of fouls.
- Also, Mike Breen made a unilateral decision to call the new Knick "Billy" Walker. Hmm. (No, I didn't know who that was. I just did a quick google search, figuring there'd be somebody with that name. Don't read into the previous Lynyrd Skynyrd reference too much.)
- Rajon Rondo had a pretty monstrous dunk of his own in the second quarter, which prompted the rare, majestic tri-rhyme from Clyde: "Running and gunning and stunning!".
- The Celtics probably could have made this a blowout by posting up Kevin Garnett or Kendrick Perkins (or Rasheed Wallace, I guess...if he ever set foot in the paint) on every possession, particularly considering how well their big men pass. There was some of that, but I'm talking about literally every trip. That goes for pretty much every team with a competent big guy or two from here on out (and for every game up to this point, really, but more so now).
- David Lee at least managed to make it a mismatch on both ends, drawing Perkins out of his comfort zone and hitting his midrange jumpers pretty efficiently. Lee finished with 28 (13-22) and 15, which has become such a regular occurrence that I've forgotten how excellent those numbers are.
- For trivia purposes someday: Tonight's game was officiated by just two referees because the third, Courtney Kirkland, had some sort of stomach ailment and had to retreat to the locker room just before tip-off. I won't speculate on the details of that ordeal. Well, I won't do it in writing, anyway.
- There is now a 101 Dalmatians musical. In the commercial, an actual dog walks from the stage into the crowd and gets pet by a kid in the front row. If you won't buy me tickets to Walking With Dinosaurs, the least you can do is hook me up with some dalmatians.
- Clyde mentioned that every Knick was carrying his own weight on offense, to which Breen replied "speaking of weight...Glen Davis". I did not see that one coming. Well, I did...just not from Mike Breen.
- I'm in a class that requires that I interact with rats quite a bit, and a common rat behavior is the freeze response, where they go completely stiff and bug out when frightened. This is my closest analogy to a Kendrick Perkins pump fake.
- Tracy McGrady drove by Kevin Garnett for a layup in the fourth quarter. Here's the video highlight.
- McGrady, like Nate Robinson before him, has a thing for shooting when there aren't rebounders in place. Eddie House, meanwhile, sometimes shoots when he doesn't even have the ball.
- You might've noticed a slightly unusual headline to the recap. It was time to spice up the headlines a little, so I figured I'd start a thing where I pull a comment from the accompanying game thread that I feel summarizes the game pretty nicely. Our first comment-headline friend is fuhry.
- And finally, the nightly head-scratching over the Knicks' late-game play-calling and execution. Down 3 with 31 seconds left, Tracy McGrady inbounded the ball, quickly got it back, then ran a high pick-and-roll with David Lee. Instead of feeding Lee, he immediately pulled up for an out-of-rhythm three, which predictably clanged off the rim. Marc Berman, being Marc Berman, got McGrady's reflection on that play:
"Even when I took that shot, I wasn't that confident making it.''
I won't even get into the Knicks fouling after 15 seconds had elapsed in the ensuing Celtics possession, but I will mention Ray Allen's late-game rejection of a Wilson Chandler lay-up, because it was really impressive.
And now, what you were probably waiting for, and probably scrolled past all that other nonsense for: tonight's contest winners. Here they are:
If your name is on that list, you've won a pair of tickets to the 2/27 game against the Grizzlies. Check the email account associated with your P&T username in the near future.
Congrats to the winners and semi-congrats to the Knicks for actually showing up, if only for 46 minutes or so. Baby steps. Next game's Friday against the Wiz.