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Celtics 119, Knicks 114: ‘When did Marcus Smart turn into Ray Allen?’

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The Celtics are jerks.

NBA: Boston Celtics at New York Knicks Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

If anybody understands the horrible drudgery of watching bad defense, it’s Knicks fans. This franchise hasn’t been consistently competent on that end since the Clinton administration. Bad defense is what...we...do.

Yet somehow Sunday’s loss seemed to feature some particularly egregious D. Maybe it’s the fact that we fans had hoped to kick off the Christmas Day slate by showing the basketball world that the Knicks are a force to be reckoned with. Maybe it was the opponent — those ragamuffin Boston Celtics, who play the game the right way and all that other bullshit. Whatever the case, the Knicks’ defense crapped all over the bed and the Christmas presents this afternoon. The Celtics took command of the game in the second quarter following a barrage of uncontested three-pointers. New York struggled to keep the game close, but got a big boost at...gasp...the free-throw line (24-27).

And then Kristaps Porzingis happened. The Unicorn started blocking shots, swiping passes and getting buckets until suddenly a 11-point deficit was down to 2. A sweet give-and-go between Carmelo Anthony and Joakim Noah tied the game with a minute left, and the whole freakin’ universe — the universe that loves the Celtics and hates the Knicks —corrected itself. Marcus Smart — he of the 27.2 3P% coming into Sunday — hit a go-ahead three. As P&T’er HighFlyers28 noted, dude magically transforms into an all-time three-balling legend when he plays the Knicks. Melo missed an open look at the top of the key on the next possession, but Noah tipped the ball back out, and Melo promptly dribbled into the corner and got stripped by Avery Bradley. Fudge. Christmas fudge.

Notes:

— “Sharing is caring,” as the man Clyde always says. The Knicks didn’t exactly follow that advice on Christmas afternoon as they finished with only 11 assists. And their passing woes went beyond superficial stats like assists:

The Celtics specialize in pressuring the ball, so it’s no surprise that New York finished with 17 turnovers. That isn’t the worst thing in the world, as long as you’re making bushels of sweet passes. Conversely, the 2012-13 Knicks proved that you don’t have to pass the ball a lot as long as you don’t turn the ball over. But crap, dudes, you can’t fail to pass AND turn the ball over a bunch. That’s just crazy!

— Shouldn’t the Knicks win games when Melo (29 points), Kristaps (22 points) and Derrick Rose (25 points) all score 20-plus? It would be nice, wouldn’t it?

— Rose kept the Knicks ahead in the first quarter with a barrage of nice buckets and was damned efficient from the field overall (10-19). He also came up big when the team needed it, scoring 9 points in the fourth. His passing, however, was indicative of New York’s overall ball-movement problems (3 assists, 3 turnovers). Lance Stephenson has some thoughts on all this...

— Facing off against the Celtics’ non-stop barrage of snatch-and-grabbers is usually a war of attrition for Kristaps. Sunday was a little different, even though he kept coughing up the ball (5 turnovers). He didn’t do much in the first half, but kept somewhat steady pressure on Boston’s D with the jumper before taking the fuck over in the fourth (9 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks). Hopefully this signals a turnaround in the way he plays this team of goblins.

— Melo came into Sunday averaging 34.3 points per game on Christmas Day. He came close to matching that thanks to a strong second half (22 points). But, man, that last turnover was bruuuuuuutal. Melo keeps hitting clutch shots in game where he’s played like crap and screwing up late in games where he’s playing well. That is kind of a weird pattern, to be honest.

— Did Joakim Noah play well? He had 12 rebounds and hit 3 of his 4 field-goal attempts, which was a nice change of pace for him. Certainly the Knicks played better with him on the court in the second half. So, yes, I suppose he played well. It’s hard to tell with him sometimes this season. Also, my brain is a bit addled from eating so much ham.

— You know who didn’t play well? The entire bench, with the exception of Justin Holiday. Only Holiday, Kyle O’Quinn and Brandon Jennings played more than 10 minutes, and Jennings was bullied consistently by beefier Celtics guards. O’Quinn played a vintage 2014-15 KOQ game, heavy on the turnovers (4 in 13 minutes) with a dash of technical foul (1 in the second half). Willy Hernangomez struggled in a brief first-half cameo and wasn’t heard from again. That kinda makes me sad — kid should get a chance to overcome his struggles.

— Marcus Smart looks like a 200-pound turd sprinkled with Funyuns.

Oh well. The Knicks are still over .500. Christmas is a day for counting one’s blessings, after all. Let’s win the next one.