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Celtics 97, Knicks 89: "Who was in the paint?"

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The Knicks kept pace with the Celtics during the first half thanks to incredible rebounding from Robin Lopez, but could not get stops in the fourth quarter in a loss.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks started out the aggressors with Afflalo leading the charge. He had three quick buckets out of the gate while the Celtics struggled mightily to score. At 7:27, with two whole points, an official called an offensive foul on Carmelo Anthony, who swung his arms to and fro while Jae Crowder attempted to kiss his lips. The referees reviewed the foul for several minutes, which caused Derek Fisher to draw a technical, and ultimately decided Anthony deserved a flagrant foul. It was a dubious call to say the least, but it did the trick for the Celtics who had a share of the lead 30 seconds later. Two minutes after that incident, Anthony picked up his second foul and was relegated to the bench while Kristaps Porzingis slid down to play center.

Porzingis responded by forcing Kelly Olynyk into foul trouble and draining some free throws. The Knicks ended the quarter with only a one -point lead due to a lack of offensive continuity, though they did seem to be playing with an edge. They opened the second quarter without Anthony, Porzingis, or Arron Afflalo, and their play suffered for it. The Celtics started the quarter on an 8-0 run, which only ended when they brought Anthony back around the nine minute mark. It was Sasha Vujacic, of all people, who really got the offense back on track. Though he really should not be playing at any point in any NBA game, Vujacic managed to can a couple of jumpers and kick in a couple of effort plays to set a tone and ignite a run within the Knicks to take back the lead. The teams traded baskets until halftime into which the Knicks took a 47-45 lead. The Celtics did not make any of their 13 three point attempts in the half and Robin Lopez stood out defensively as well.

The Knicks experienced some of the Isaiah Thomas one-two punch in the third quarter, and the officials had a chance to call another dubious flagrant foul, this time on Amir Johnson. This spurred a miniature Knicks comeback, which they managed to lose gradually through the end of the quarter, which ended 70-65. Kristaps Porzingis would have to make an impact in the fourth quarter if he hoped to do so at all.

The fourth begat the Marcus Smart experience, which coincided with the first double digit lead of the game for Boston. Another wave of competence for the Knicks around the eight minute mark helped to slice the lead to four around the 6:30 mark before finally succumbing to the Boston defense and somehow to the likes of Evan Turner and Tyler Zeller. Kristaps Porzingis stayed flat-assed on the bench through around 3:25 for what I'm sure is a perfectly good reason in Derek Fisher's head. One way or another, the Knicks could not keep up with the Celtics down the stretch and managed to score only 89 points on their home court.

That is one jarring statistic, and it's a perfect side dish for tonight's Knicks lost main course. The bright side is that the streak is now broken despite tonight's loss. The Knicks got eaten alive by offensive rebounds down the stretch, as well as their inability to get stops in the same way they could in the first half. Robin Lopez's insane offensive rebounding in the first half proved unsustainable, of course. If your team plays a game during which Sasha Vujacic performs better than most other players, your team has lost. Lazaro Smithington provided the quote, which doubles as an indictment on the Knicks' defense down the stretch as well as the officials. Hopefully the Knicks can rebound on Thursday against the Pistons. Kristaps Porzingis needs more minutes from Derek Fisher, but he also needs to earn them.