Final: Knicks 104, Celtics 101. The Celtics come out flat in the final possession — Rondo desperately prowls around the perimeter looking for someone to get an open look at a 3, and he ends up settling for Rasheed Wallace, way too deep and a little too late, anyway.
The Celtics fall at Madison Square Garden, their fourth loss in five games. Certainly not a good sign for a Celtics team jockeying for playoff position — the C's remain one game behind the Atlanta Hawks, who just wrapped up a loss of their own to the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Celtics are running out of time in the race for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Fourth quarter, 7.3 seconds, Knicks 104-101: The officials confer and rule Gallinari's shot a two, not a 3, so the Knicks' lead shrinks to one in the blink of an eye. But Chris Duhon comes up with a huge steal on the other end, and the Knicks get the ball back with a chance to pad their lead.
They do. David Lee gets into the paint and scores, and the Knicks go up three with seven seconds to play. The Celtics' backs are up against the wall.
Fourth quarter, 36.8, Knicks 103-101: Three words: Danilo. Gallinari. Wow.
The wiry Italian knocks down a gigantic clutch 3-pointer from the top of the key, and the Knicks are on top again. Gallinari now with 32 points on 10-of-15 shooting, carrying the Knicks on his back as they make a run at an upset victory at Madison Square Garden.
Doc Rivers has called a timeout. His Celtics need a quick bucket to even the score.
Fourth quarter, 1:02, Celtics 101-100: Pierce gets a questionable call to go his way as Chris Duhon gently taps his elbow on a fall-away jumper. He hits one of two, and the Celtics are back in front by a hair.
Fourth quarter, 1:46, 100-100: Gallinari at the line is money in the bank. He's 10-of-11 now, and the Knicks have once again evened the score. This one's going down to the wire.
Fourth quarter, 2:40, 98-98: Just like Rondo, Chris Duhon has been quiet all night but comes up with a clutch basket when his team needs it, tying the game at 98.
The Celtics' have their starting five back on the floor, likely for good. If they can win the battle inside and get a stop or two down the stretch, they can win an ugly one here at Madison Square Garden.
Fourth quarter, 3:44, Celtics 96-95: Here's an idea, Kevin: Don't get whistled for an illegal defense violation with four minutes left in a close game.
Gallinari is already killing the Celtics enough. No sense in helping him out with a cheap free throw. The C's have the lead, but Gallinari is still going strong and the Knicks refuse to go away.
Fourth quarter, 5:08, 94-94: Rajon Rondo has been quiet all night, but he gets a huge running layup here to tie the game, catching the Knicks sleeping defensively.
Rondo's point total for the night just doubled. That sentence shouldn't be written in the fourth quarter.
Fourth quarter, 6:41, Knicks 91-88: The Celtics tie the game, but they can't keep it tied for long. Huge, huge three for Sergio Rodriguez.
Pierce and KG are now set to re-enter the game for Boston. If either one of them has the energy to take it to the hole and score, the Celtics still have hope.
Fourth quarter, 9:13, Knicks 86-85: A couple of turnovers from Earl Barron, a couple of bad jumpers from the Knicks, and a 7-0 run from Tony Allen, Nate Robinson and Glen Davis. They're back.
The second unit has got the Celtics charging back into this game — now, if the starters can retake the floor and make one final push, the C's might emerge from this one with a victory. It hasn't always been pretty, but Boston will take any win it can get at this point.
End of third quarter, Knicks 86-78: The Celtics are making quick bursts back into this game, but they can't seem to sustain any kind of momentum.
Case in point: the final minute of this third quarter. The C's pull to within four at 82-78, going on a 5-0 run with a 3 from Michael Finley and a thunderous dunk from Glen Davis. But for some reason, they think that 5-0 spurt gives them an excuse not to play defense for the rest of the quarter, and that leads to a couple of easy Knicks buckets to once again bury Boston in an eight-point hole. They've got to play more consistently than this to have a chance.
Third quarter, 3:35, Knicks 80-71: Wow. Danilo Gallinari now has 17 points in the third quarter alone, and he's carried the Knicks to a nine-point lead as we near the close of the third quarter.
When did Gallinari turn into Carmelo Anthony? He's hitting fadeaways, running all over the floor, driving to the basket, drawing contact, getting to the line, doing it all offensively. Just an incredible offensive performance for the No. 6 overall pick from two summers ago — Gallinari now has 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
Third quarter, 6:14, Knicks 67-65: Every time Kevin Garnett settles for that lazy jump shot from two inches inside the 3-point line and it rims out, a little part of me dies inside.
At some point, Doc Rivers has to sit his guys down and light a fire under them, urging them to work hard for better looks at the basket. But Doc just looks apathetic right now, and so do his players. If they're going to get caught in a fast-paced, aggressive game like this with the Knicks, they had better figure out how to hit their shots. Otherwise, they're not winning this game.
Third quarter, 9:02, Knicks 61-58: Another quarter is underway, and another batch of lazy possessions ending in bad jump shots seems to be the agenda for the Celtics.
The one bright spot in this quarter so far has been Ray Allen, whose two highlights so far have been a speedy drive to the basket for a layup and a nasty block of a running jumper by Toney Douglas. If only the other four Celtics had the same energy as the old man Ray …
Halftime, Knicks 53-52: Seriously though — when are the Celtics going to say "Just kidding!" and admit they were just toying with the Knicks for the first half of this game?
Earl Barron, of all people, has 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting to go along with eight rebounds. David Lee has eight points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals. The Celtics, aside from Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, are looking completely dead. It's almost like after beating the Cavs on their home floor, they forgot they had to show up to the next one.
Maybe things will change in the second half. If not, this is one embarrassing game for a Celtics team that's only a week and a half away from delving into playoff basketball. Scary.
Second quarter, 3:10, Knicks 44-42: Points in the paint so far in this game: Celtics 22, Knicks 12. That statistic might look awesome, but if you're watching this game, you might wonder why it's not even better.
Why is KG settling for long 2's from 19 feet out rather than getting inside and dunking on Earl Barron? Why is Paul Pierce heaving up jumpers rather than driving past Danilo Gallinari and his awful defensive footwork? Why have the Celtics jacked up 10 3-pointers even though no one besides Ray Allen seems to have any clue how to hit one?
You watch the Celtics trail the Knicks for much of this first half, and these are the questions that boggle the mind. Surely, they can do better than this.
Second quarter, 6:37, Knicks 37-36: Thanks to a couple of solid plays inside by their twin big men, KG and Rasheed, the Celtics get a chance to reclaim the lead midway through the second quarter.
But Sheed misses a pair of free throws, and the C's are still nipping at the Knicks' heels. It shouldn't be this difficult for the Celtics to hang with the Knicks, but poor execution offensively and a handful of missed free throws (they're now 3-of-7 from the line) have done them in so far. Still waiting for something to snap and the Celtics to hammer out a 12-0 run.
Second quarter, 9:20, Knicks 32-31: The Celtics are seeing a lot of encouraging things from their second unit. They're called stops.
The Boston bench is good for an 8-0 run early in the second quarter, capped off by a deep 3 from Rasheed Wallace, and this one is starting to look like a game again. Defensively, the Celtics are forcing the Knicks into taking a few ill-advised contested jump shots, and unlike in the first quarter, they're not falling. An encouraging sign for Boston, no doubt.
End of first quarter, Knicks 27-21: The Celtics have gotten a rude awakening from the Knicks in the first quarter, falling behind six at the break as Toney Douglas hits a buzzer-beater to pad the NY lead.
Here's a first-quarter stat for you: Bill Walker has five points already, and J.R. Giddens has two. For Nate Robinson, zero. He's hardly even touched the ball. Complete non-factor. Who do you think is winning that trade, Danny Ainge?
First quarter, 3:04, Knicks 20-15: Kevin Garnett's numbers in the first nine minutes of this game: 4-for-7 from the floor, eight points.
The rest of the Celtics' roster: 3-for-9, eight more. It took the rest of the team a solid six or seven minutes to fully wake up — now that the C's have five conscious men on the floor, maybe they've got a shot at getting back in this game. Maybe.
First quarter, 6:18, Knicks 10-8: Wait a minute, whose idea was it to let the Knicks go on a 7-0 run? These are the Knicks, remember?
KG is carrying the Celtics offensively in this game, but he sure could use a little help from his friends. The C's are getting lit up by Bill Walker, a guy who was warming their bench two months ago, and Barron, who was unemployed before this weekend. More than a little surprising, I'd say.
First quarter, 9:17, Celtics 4-0: Against a starting front line of Earl Barron, just signed to a 10-day contract, and David Lee, who's not exactly known for his defense, the Celtics' plan should be to pound the ball down low. There's no need against a team like the Knicks to be settling for jump shots. The C's are slowly starting to figure that out, although it took them a few possessions to shake off the cobwebs and build up the energy to work it inside. Nice dunk from Kevin Garnett to make it 4-0 Boston early.
8:00 a.m.: If the Celtics can beat the Cavaliers, the NBA's best team practically all season long, then they can beat anyone. Right?
Coming off their 117-113 win over Cleveland at the TD Garden on Sunday, the Celtics will have to prove they can keep it going.
The C's, who snapped a three-game losing streak with the Easter victory, now begin a quick two-game road swing that will take them to New York and then north of the border to Toronto. They first pay a visit to a Knicks team that they've already beaten three times this season. On Tuesday night, they'll be out for a fourth.
The Celtics are determined to avoid the post-holiday letdown. They did away with the Cavs in dramatic fashion, and now they've just got to keep winning.