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Knicks 90, Celtics 76: "So much joy!"


Jared Wickerham

Oh yes. Ohohohohoho yes. I worried that a visit to Boston might turn the momentum of this series at least slightly back in the Celtics' direction. No m'am. It's off the rails.

Playing in front of a hostile crowd, the Knicks dominated as thoroughly as they have so far. They finally looked like themselves from the opening tip, forcing turnovers and dousing the Celtics in open threes off crisp ball movement. It actually began with Boston earning far too many open inside looks and offensive rebounds, but right from the very first possession, those tired, forlorn Celtics faltered on easy attempts. Instead of sinking to match the ineptitude as they had early in Games 1 and 2, the Knicks distanced themselves. Pablo Prigioni and Iman Shumpert combined for a few open threes off early doubles on Carmelo Anthony to give the Knicks a first-quarter edge.

New York blew it open in the second-- a welcome departure from the previous two games. First, a second unit featuring two point guards (Prigioni and Jason Kidd) instead of the usual two feeble tall people (just Steve Novak this time, rather than both him and Chris Copeland) forced a run of turnovers and scrapped to compensate for any size disadvantage, pushing the lead up to double digits. Melo returned and blew the thing open, tormenting Boston fronts and doubles with smart kick-outs, then preposterously swift turn-around jumpers, then graceful feats of premeditated off-ball trickery.

The Knicks held a 16-point lead at halftime and didn't let it fade in the second half. Every little Celtic run got stiff-armed by a ruthless Melo jumper, a barreling Raymond Felton drive, or a supremely trollish three from J.R. Smith or Steve Novak. The only real drama after halftime was J.R. succumbing to the universal temptation to elbow Jason Terry right in the barbels, earning himself an ejection in the process. We'll see what comes of that.

A special shout-out to the guards in this one: Felton played his finest game of the series-- a high bar to hurdle, especially for a penguin-- by probing relentlessly every second he was out there. He wheeled over picks and bounced away from them with aplomb, using the step gained therein to either attract help and kick or scurry all the way to the rim. Pablo Prigioni found his points early, cranking out a couple pull-up threes when the Celtics dared duck under picks. And Jason Kidd provided the usual, scoring nary a point but creating many by feinting Boston defenders onto their heels to create open shots for others. Those three plus Iman Shumpert exasperated the Celtics at the other end, pouncing on every miscue. They negated nearly every mismatch by plowing those bigger guys out of the paint, intercepting weak passes, and clawing at exposed dribbles. The Celtics, as they've been doing, played sleepy, careless basketball, and the Knick guards punished them for it at every turn.

That's really it, recap-wise. I'll save my notes for some deeper thoughts tomorrow. For now, I'll take the rest of the night to enjoy this. It's been a long, long time coming. The Celtics have dealt us so much pain over the last few years-- consistently and at times elaborately so-- and at last, the Knicks are on the precipice of slaying the dragon. It's been a year-long thing, really. Everything since that unpleasant first meeting has been a step toward the relief to come. We're right on the precipice and it feels oooooutstanding. I know full well that this team is but the warty, toothless carcass of the team that used to torture is, but that doesn't cut the satisfaction one bit. I don't personally feel any ill will toward Boston fans-- they're just like us, only on a different slope-- but I loathe these Celtics with every organ in my body and relish their demise in a way that makes me question my own character. Paul Pierce pawing at his bleary eyes, Kevin Garnett flailing in savage despair, Quentin Richardson gleefully whiling away garbage time as thousands of captive spectators climb over each other to flee the scene-- it all makes me feel very warm indeed. Like Chuck Burly in the thread, it's all joy over here.

The Celtics may snatch a game before this series officially ends, or maybe they'll just roll over. I'm fine either way. This is done. Some tiny, cowardly wrinkle of my brain is trying to point out that Boston playing possum for three games only to storm back and wrest away the series in historic fashion would be their ultimate atrocity, but...nope. It's done. Though it is but the first and least of several, the Knicks are about to surmount an obstacle, and it will be a singular, immensely gratifying summit. We get to laugh now.