Final, Knicks 100-85: Jeff Green posted his first double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds, plus six assists, but he seldom made a major impact in a game the Knicks took control of late in the first half.
Carmelo Anthony had 29 points, eight rebounds and three steals, while J.R. Smith put up a game-high 32 points and added seven boards to boot. The Celtics were dominated on the offensive glass 15-7 and in second-chance points 29-6 as they dropped their fifth straight. New York’s lead in the Atlantic Division grew to 7 1/2 games.
The Celtics now have some time to lick their wounds. Oh wait, no they don’t. They are back at it Wednesday, without Kevin Garnett and potentially without Courtney Lee. Paul Pierce will also be dog tired after playing 36 minutes here.
Fourth quarter, 2:40, Knicks 98-83: Shavlik Randolph, finally in the game while Pierce takes a seat, nabbed an offensive rebound. It was a shock the referees did not call for a video review to make sure it actually happened.
The Celtics have just seven offensive rebounds in the game and only three in the second half. They are getting decimated in second-chance points 27-4, with Anthony leading all players with six offensive boards. Martin and Smith also have four apiece.
Fourth quarter, 5:19, Knicks 93-76: While the deficit grows, Pierce is still out there and shows no signs of coming out soon. He has now logged more than 32 minutes and a road game awaits Wednesday, but Pierce’s night appears to be far from through. Meanwhile, New York’s lead is up to 17 points, its largest lead of the game.
Fourth quarter, 8:48, Knicks 88-73: Welcome to your regularly scheduled comeback fueled by guys who were not on the team at the beginning of the season.
Williams, who teamed with Crawford to put a scare into Memphis last weekend, has the Celtics’ first four points of the fourth quarter and is headed to the line for two foul shots after getting fouled by Smith on a drive. Maybe this is part of Rivers’ new game plan.
End of third quarter, Knicks 84-69: Green has made strides this season with his defense, and Pierce can still lock down an elite scorer like Anthony every now and then. But both look utterly helpless without Garnett anchoring the back of the defense.
Garnett does more than just defend the rim and push pick-and-roll ballhandlers away from the paint. He also lets his teammates know what is coming as far as screens, offensive player movement, etc. Him not being there is having an effect on guys like Green and Pierce, who look uncertain that a blind screen will not chop them down as they try to guard Anthony.
At the end of 36 minutes, Anthony and Smith have taken 44 shots together. Terry gave the Celtics signs of life with a three with 6.1 seconds left in the quarter, but Smith answered with a 30-footer to silence the crowd.
Third quarter, 3:44, Knicks 74-62: The fans do not like it, but this has been a remarkably evenly officiated game. Anthony and Bradley are both getting tossed around a bit, and the Celtics fans did not like the offensive foul Crawford committed when he barreled into a stationary Kidd, but Mike Callahan’s crew has done a solid job.
Third quarter, 6:50, Knicks 67-60: The Celtics are as close as they have been since the first half, but for the most part they are just exchanging baskets with the Knicks. New York will take that all night.
The Celtics finally put together consecutive scores, if not necessarily baskets, when a pair of Green free throws preceded an open-court dunk by Pierce. Martin was then called for a dubious goaltend on a Green layup attempt, and the Celtics are back within three possessions. Still, they need to clamp down defensively before they make any further progress.
And when they do defend, they need to clean up on the defensive glass. The Knicks have a 19-4 edge in second-chance points. The Celtics are shooting 54 percent from the field and still trailing, so that should tell you something.
Halftime, Knicks 58-44: Has anyone ever argued that the Celtics are better off without Garnett? Because if they have, they have no idea what they are talking about.
In a battle of small forwards and not-quite-true point guards, the Knicks are beating the Celtics inside and out. They have 10 more points in the paint, and although they have only one more 3-pointer, they have forced the Celtics to miss eight of their 11 attempts from deep. The Celtics are trying to match shots, and that is something they cannot do given their lack of depth.
Smith leads everybody with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting, while Anthony has 18 points on 7-for-16 shooting. Smith also has six boards, but no assists because, come on, this is J.R. Smith we are talking about.
Crawford leads the Celtics with 11 points. Pierce and Green are 5-for-14 combined from the field. That duo has to get going offensively for Boston to make a push in the second half.
Second quarter, 5:40, Knicks 44-35: Rivers called a smart timeout just now. The timing was good because this game is starting to get away from the Celtics a little bit. The Knicks are on a 9-0 run, and even when the Celtics force the Knicks to miss shots, they are not finishing the possession. Smith already has two tip-ins of his own misses.
Those lapses have to be discouraging for the Celtics, who are the better team in terms of moving the ball. The Celtics have 11 assists on their 14 field goals, while the Knicks have just four assists on their 17 makes. At the same time, the Knicks only have one turnover because the ball is almost never out of someone’s hands. The good comes with the bad, I guess.
Second quarter, 8:45, Knicks 33-31: Jason Terry is having a very Jason Terry game.
Prior to the game, Rivers joked about how rare it is for a player to prefer coming off the bench. That is Terry. Despite Lee’s absence, Rivers went with Crawford in the starting lineup in part because the veteran out of Arizona likes coming off the pine.
So far, Terry has all seven points for Boston in the quarter, helping the Celtics briefly take a one-point lead before J.R. Smith responded with a old-fashioned three-point play. Terry also has shot two airballs, though, giving the Celtics four in the game, but an unofficial count.
End of first quarter, Knicks 28-24: What started as an inept display of something or other — it certainly was not “basketball” — morphed into a surprisingly entertaining first 12 minutes.
With 12 lead changes, four ties and nine fastbreak points, the Celtics and Knicks gave a sparse crowd reason to cheer. The fans did not always comply, though. For an intra-division matchup between two classic rivals, this crowd needs a shot of adrenaline. About a quarter of the stands appears to be filled with blue and orange, and there are multiple Earl Monroe and Walt Frazier jerseys. Even the Knicks fans seem subdued, though.
First quarter, 2:47, Celtics 18-17: Perhaps we spoke to soon. Since their cold start, these guys are on an absolute scoring spree. In a one-minute stretch, starting with a Martin dunk and a Green tip-in of his own miss, these teams scored 13 points. They are 13-for-23 from the field since beginning 0-for-8, and Anthony is already 4-for-8 from the floor. (He has taken half as many shots — 14 — as the Celtics have taken as a team.)
First quarter, 5:38, Knicks 9-8: Okie dokie. This sure has been fun.
The teams combined to miss their first eight shots before Anthony hit a layup and Pierce answered with a 3-pointer. Even with a relative offensive explosion since then, these guys are still 7-for-20 from the field with three turnovers. Bass executed the age-old move of tipping the ball out of bounds while trying to grab a rebound, and Bradley drove the lane and somehow tossed the ball off the side of the backboard.
On the bright side, the Perkins School for the Blind chorus sang the national anthem before the game. That was pretty cool.
6:32 p.m.: Celtics coach Doc Rivers and Knicks coach Mike Woodson had opposite takes on the importance of winning the Atlantic Division, in which the Knicks hold a comfortable lead for first place. Rivers said the division never really mattered to him, even when a division crown was a pipe dream in Orlando and certain years in Boston.
Woodson disagreed, sort of. He agreed with Rivers that what happens in the playoffs ultimately matters more, but said that the division is not a bad goal in the meantime.
“At the end of the day, we’re in this for one thing and that’s to win an NBA title,” Woodson said. “Winning the division puts you in a position to host the first round, and if you get that second spot, you can host the second round, so there’s a lot at stake.”
Chandler officially is out and will be replaced by Martin in the starting lineup. Rivers informed reporters that Jordan Crawford will start in place of Lee, who tested his ankle a few hours before the game but did not feel it was ready.
5:53 p.m.: It now appears that Courtney Lee will be a no-go. The guard was shooting around on the Garden court around 4:30 p.m., but he says he will not suit up tonight for the Celtics.
Courtney Lee was on the Garden floor taking shots about 2 1/2 hours before tip off, but he says he's not playing tonight.—
Ben Watanabe (@BenjeeBallgame) March 26, 2013
4:28 p.m.: While Garnett sits, whether Chandler plays could have a huge impact on this game’s proceedings. Chandler is one of the few centers in the NBA, along with Dwight Howard, Roy Hibbert, Larry Sanders and Andrew Bogut (when healthy), who are in the conversation with Garnett as the league’s best defensive big men. Because of that, his impact is obvious.
Chandler brings something to the table that not all of those others guys do, however. Other than Howard, none of them are as dangerous a finisher out of the pick and roll as Chandler, and his presence completely changes the dynamic of the Knicks’ offense. If he plays while Garnett, one of the best pick-and-roll defenders ever, takes a seat, the Celtics could be in trouble.
Even if Chandler is out, the Knicks have a solid fallback in Kenyon Martin. The veteran center/forward has looked extremely sharp since joining New York on Feb. 23. The 35-year-old Cincinnati product reportedly had a lot of teams interested in his services, including the Celtics, but his price tag may have been a bit too high until the Knicks lured him in on a 10-day contract. The Knicks have since signed Martin through the end of the season.
On the Celtics’ side, Lee is out on the parquet about 2 1/2 hours before gametime taking shots, so it appears he will play after missing one game with a sprained ankle.
The projected starters are below, although the Celtics’ lineup is very tentative.
8 a.m. ET: If anybody can commiserate with the Celtics about their injury woes, it is the Knicks.
The Knicks’ preseason plan to build with aging veterans has led to the predictable result, with injuries threatening to derail an otherwise strong season on 8th Avenue. They are missing four of their top front-line players, including former Celtics big man Rasheed Wallace, who is probably done for the year. Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire and Kurt Thomas also are battling knee or foot injuries. So do not expect any sympathy when the Celtics note the absence of Kevin Garnett with inflammation in his left ankle.
The Celtics (36-33) have a long road ahead of them if they hope to catch the Knicks (42-26) in the Atlantic Division standings. That goal is a bit of pipe dream now, anyway, considering the way Celtics coach Doc Rivers is going to need to rest his thin troops to keep them healthy as the playoffs approach.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7 p.m.