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Celtics 96, Knicks 86: "The Knicks have made me a stark raving madman."

Well said, Anthony Bonner's Subpoena. I feel a little twitchy right now. All around these internets, basketball fans are pointing and laughing at the Knicks and we Knick fans are pointing fingers every which way. It's nothing short of maddening. I just spent ten minutes complaining to my girlfriend about the game, but it turned out I was actually shouting at a lamp. I've gone mad.

It's amazing (oh, and maddening) how these Knicks manage to lose games in the same fashion as the Knicks of the late '00s. Even with completely different personnel, when this team's playing badly, they do it a certain way. There's no subtlety. Like the Isiah Knicks, these guys play up or down to the level of their opponents and either fail to overcome big deficits (see Sunday's loss for one of many examples) or blow big leads like they did tonight.

Speaking of which, let's very briefly spill some out for that big lead the Knicks built. Things were going quite nicely in that first half. The sun even shone a bit in the fourth quarter. To be fair, some of New York's success could be attributed to the Celtics puttering around through most of the game's first 40 minutes or so. The Knicks did their part to build that lead, though. Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony each got loose in isolation, Ronny Turiaf generated momentum at both ends, and the team as a whole made us smile with inspired play on all fronts. Playoff atmosphere and whatnot.

And then...Chinua Achebe, y'all. The fourth quarter came and the Knicks collapsed. Suddenly, Amar'e and Melo couldn't create for themselves and the rest of the Knicks sort of just stood there and were all like "why can't you guys create for yourselves?". Meanwhile, Paul Pierce and the Celtics awoke, stretched their legs, and calmly clambered out of a nine-point hole in just a few minutes. All New York's hard work went to waste, and in the end, they lost by double digits. And that's why I'm spooning with a lamp right now.

Take the jump for just a few more notes.

- I don't have much more to say about Amar'e and Melo. Early on, both actually played intermittently competent defense (Amar'e sticking Nenad Krstic and Kevin Garnett, Melo chasing Paul Pierce) and each scored excellently in isolation. Toward the end, Melo took and missed awful shots and Amar'e didn't really get meaningful touches. Chauncey Billups was pretty much the only Knick to step up in the fourth, and he, too, failed to execute on some critical possessions. If you're into blaming, spread it equally on all three of those guys, and maybe on Mike D'Antoni for not convincing them to do better basketball things. Or just do what I do and blame yourself.

- This game's bizarre, grisly subplot was an unusual quantity of spilled blood. First, Troy Murphy's rather prominent nose got a rather prominent gash on its torso. Later, Ray Allen took one of Jared Jeffries's well-honed elbows to the forehead and wobbled to the locker room with a whole crimson river system spanning his face. Near the game's end, Melo and Rajon Rondo went for the same loose ball and Melo came down with blood streaming out of his eye (funny that it was against the Celtics). Both Allen and Anthony needed stitches. I have never seen such a sanguine basketball game.

- Oh, and Ray Allen's mom was in attendance (sitting next to Spike Lee, a.k.a. the man who once thought it was a good idea to pay Ray to talk for two hours). When Ray hit the floor and got to bleeding, she looked understandably upset and somewhat eager to run out on the floor. Walt Frazier's response to this was "the umbilical cord is never severed", which is perhaps the only moment in my entire life at which I resented Clyde's lyricism.

- Hey, nicely done, Ronny Turiaf. Ronny got the start and had a huge impact, especially in the first half. On defense, he scrambled like a madman and made several huge recovery blocks and steals. On offense, he slipped brilliantly through cracks, turning slick passes inside from everyone from Landry Fields to Roger Mason to Shawne Williams to Melo into easy buckets, often with contact. He was as responsible for that early lead as anybody. Interestingly enough, after the Knicks fell behind by two with under 5 minutes remaining in the fourth, D'Antoni pulled Turiaf in favor of Extra E and sat him for the rest of the night.

- By the way, Turiaf and Roger Mason (who hit a couple splendid threes when things were going well) were the only Knicks to crack 50% from the field. The team as a whole shot 41% from the field.

- Jared Jeffries shot a three-pointer off the side of the backboard. Somewhere in the temperate forests of Northern Appalachia, a mother doe peacefully nuzzled her fawn peacefully and well out of harm's way.

- Mike Breen accidentally said "salad cap" instead of "salary cap" at one point, which sent me deep into a fantasy in which teams paid their players by shoveling portions out of a giant bowl of mixed greens (of a fixed size to be determined by the collective bargaining agreement, of course).

- Remember those little snaps your mom would put on your jacket so you could attach your mittens and avoid misplacing them when you weren't wearing them? No? Just me? I wasn't very sharp. Anyway, I'd like for Amar'e to be mom-snapped to whoever he's defending. I know I've beaten this to death in the last week, but his propensity to float toward the ballhandler on screens without actually hedging or providing any pressure is pretty much equivalent to taking a seat on the bench and letting the opposition go five-on-four. If you're going to switch, say so. If you're going to double, DOUBLE. Better yet, just defend the guy you're supposed to defend.

- The C's got a bit of a head start on their fourth quarter comeback in the final seconds of the third, when a Toney Douglas turnover followed by a Jared Jeffries clear path foul followed by an inexplicably uncontested Glen Davis layup knocked the lead from nine down to six.

- Public Service Announcement: Paul Pierce, like LeBron James, delights in playing the villain. Those "Paul Pierce sucks" chants would be cool if they didn't nourish the bastard. I don't feel qualified to make Harry Potter metaphors, but...dementor?

I don't have much else at the moment. New York's solid play in the first half was simultaneously encouraging and damning (in the "where was this in Milwaukee or Indiana or Cleveland or fucking everywhere where the team sucks" sense). The fourth quarter collapse was an exasperating throwback to the Knicks of recent years. And that's where I'm at right now: Exasperated, with the tastes of encouragement and damnation still mingle-lingering in my mouth (which is like the taste of orange juice after brushing your teeth). Things will eventually improve, but man oh man, is it hard to be a Knick fan right now.