With Shaquille O'Neal, Delonte West and Glen Davis all injured, with Kevin Garnett ejected early, and with Jermaine O'Neal in foul trouble all night, the Celtics persevere. Paul Pierce hits a game-winning jump shot with eight seconds left, and despite trailing almost all night, the C's prevail in dramatic fashion.
It's a big night for Ray Allen, who steps up with 24 points to lead the way. And for the rookie Luke Harangody, who turns in an impressive double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds in 20 minutes. Overall, it's just an all-around great team win for a Celtics team forced to overcome adversity.
The C's are off Thursday before heading to Toronto on Friday night, where they'll put their 4-1 preseason record on the line against the Raptors.
Fourth quarter, 8.0 seconds, Celtics 103-101: Wow. With the game on the line, Paul Pierce comes through.
A Luke Harangody steal swings the tempo back in the Celtics' favor with 30 seconds left, and with four seconds on the shot clock, Pierce steps up and swishes a long two to give the Celtics the lead.
Unbelievable. The C's might really pull this one out.
Fourth quarter, 1:09, 101-101: The tables have turned. First Luke Harangody gets to the line and drains two; then Rajon Rondo turns his sixth steal of the game into a fast break. Nate Robinson gets to the basket, he gets fouled, and he drains two.
All night, it's been the Knicks getting to the line and draining free throws. But in crunch time, it's all Boston.
Fourth quarter, 1:44, Knicks 100-97: After an Anthony Randolph free throw, the Knicks' lead is back to three. Doc Rivers calls for a timeout.
He seems to have a plan. But he can't teach size. No one can.
Fourth quarter, 1:59, Knicks 99-97: Never doubt the willpower of Paul Pierce. The Celtics' captain finishes a three-point play to narrow the Knicks' lead back to two. The C's refuse to lose.
Fourth quarter, 2:55, Knicks 97-94: The fans at Madison Square Garden are chanting "We Want Shaq!" Not gonna happen. The Celtics you see are the Celtics you get.
Shaquille O'Neal is in street clothes, and Jermaine has fouled out. The C's are forced to go small, and that means the Harangody/Pierce front line will see some more run.
The C's will need to win this game with athleticism, not size. It's never been their strong suit, but maybe they can fake it for three minutes.
Fourth quarter, 4:16, 92-92: Nate Robinson's playing with heart against his former team. Watching him slam Anthony Randolph into the ground is impressive — the 5-foot-9 guard just delivered a playoff foul to the lanky 6-foot-11 forward.
Nate's energy might end up making the difference in this game.
Fourth quarter, 6:18, 90-90: Which is more impressive — that the Celtics just tied the game, or that Luke Harangody has recorded a double-double in just 15 minutes of play?
Ray Allen knocks down a 3 to tie it up, capping off an 8-0 run for the Celtics here in the fourth quarter. But the real story of this second half is Harangody, who's been forced to play center for a prolonged stretch, and has done it admirably.
Harangody's a Big Ten alum. He's shined on this Madison Square Garden before. Now he's doing it as a pro.
Fourth quarter, 7:19, Knicks 90-86: The Celtics refuse to die quietly. They're running up and down the floor frantically, trying to make things happen. The up-tempo Knicks might get beaten at their own game.
This fourth quarter is Rajon Rondo's time to shine. He's had a quiet preseason, but it would be huge if he could step up here and carry the Celtics back into the game.
Fourth quarter, 9:29, Knicks 87-82: If the Celtics are going to have a chance, they need Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo to play out of their minds. Everyone else looks asleep at the wheel.
The Knicks appear to be slowing the game down with a fourth-quarter lead, or at least trying to. They need Rondo to bring the required energy to propel them back into this game, and they need Pierce to step up and hit a couple of clutch jumpers.
It's going to be an uphill battle. The Celtics look undermanned and overmatched.
End of third quarter, Knicks 82-77: The story of the third quarter: In two words, Amare Stoudemire.
The Knicks' $100 million man gives the Knicks 16 points in a single corner, giving him 30 for the game. The Celtics' small front line of Luke Harangody, Paul Pierce and Marquis Daniels is helpless against Amare, and the Knicks are taking advantage.
The C's are only down five heading into the fourth, but their comeback chances don't look good. How are they going to get stops?
Third quarter, 2:41, Knicks 77-71: The key stat in this game: free throws. The Knicks have made 23 of their 31 attempts from the line tonight; the Celtics are a mere 8-of-10.
You can cry about the officiating all you want, but the reality is that these C's can't play good physical basketball without Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O'Neal on the floor. They're a totally different team — smaller, softer, not nearly as defensively sound.
Third quarter, 5:06, Knicks 73-67: When KG's away, Amare will play.
Amare Stoudemire is running wild with no Kevin Garnett on the floor to stop him. He's got 26 points, aided in a big way by his 12-for-14 clip from the free-throw line. He's getting to the line every time he wants to, and the C's just don't have an answer.
This just goes to show you how vital KG is to the Celtics' defense.
Third quarter, 7:11, Knicks 71-65: Speaking of hot shooters, check out Luke Harangody.
Paul Pierce makes a nice play here, drawing the defense his way and passing up a 3 in favor of the more open Harangody. The rookie comes through, giving him eight points now on 3-of-3 shooting.
The C's offense is really clicking. Now if they could only contain Amare Stoudemire on the other end.
Third quarter, 8:30, Knicks 66-60: This third-quarter deficit would be a lot bigger if Ray Allen wasn't shooting so well. Jesus Shuttlesworth has been the Celtics' savior.
Ray has played 22 minutes, a game high, and he's got 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting. He's 3-for-3 from long range.
If a couple of those jumpers miss, the Knicks are up double digits.
Third quarter, 10:35, Knicks 61-53: Rajon Rondo snaps a 5-0 Knicks run with a driving layup. That doubles his point total tonight, from two to four. The Celtics will need a lot more out of him than that.
With their big man depth so hampered, the natural inclination for these C's is to settle for jump shots. They need Rondo to show the initiative to drive and get this offense moving.
Halftime, Knicks 56-51: The Celtics head to the locker room at halftime down five. It feels like a lot more.
A few timely jump shots by Ray Allen has kept things relatively close; Allen leads the Celtics at the break with 13 points on efficient 4-of-5 shooting. With Kevin Garnett ejected, Jermaine O'Neal in foul trouble and both Shaq and Big Baby injured, the C's will need a perimeter attack if they're going to have a chance.
Two Knicks starters are in double figures at the break: Amare Stoudemire with 14 points, and Danilo Gallinari with 11.
Second quarter, 2:58, Knicks 46-39: This is what we've come to: With KG ejected and Big Baby hurt, Stephane Lasme is the Celtics' first option at power forward.
To make matters worse, Jermaine O'Neal already has four fouls, and Shaq isn't playing because of his hip issue. The Celtics are basically four big men short in this one.
You can expect to see a whole lot of Lasme, Semih Erden and Luke Harangody in the second half. Doc Rivers doesn't have a choice.
Second quarter, 4:39, Knicks 42-34: If you wanted proof that not all of these Celtics are apathetic about preseason games, you just got it.
Jermaine O'Neal gets T'd up for mouthing off about a ticky-tack foul on Amare Stoudemire, and Kevin Garnett ends up getting thrown out of the game for voicing his displeasure.
Everyone's on a short leash in this one. The officials aren't taking any flak from anyone.
Second quarter, 6:29, Knicks 38-29: Speaking of guys torching their previous teams, check out who just drilled a jumper to put the Celtics down nine here in the second quarter. It's Bill Walker.
Walker, who was traded from Boston to New York for Robinson at the deadline last February, has reinvented himself as a solid bench swingman.
He's played nine minutes off the bench so far in this one, scoring five points on 2-of-4 shooting. Not too shabby.
Second quarter, 8:53, Knicks 34-29: Burning question: Just how eager is Nate Robinson to torch the Knicks, his old team? We'll soon find out.
Things didn't end well in the Big Apple between Nate and Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni. Time for Nate to show the Knicks how he really feels, with a few deadly jumpers.
Second quarter, 10:17, Knicks 34-27: The Knicks' shooters are just killing it tonight. A Roger Mason 3 here makes it a seven-point lead, their biggest of the game. And it's not as though the Celtics are executing poorly.
The Knicks are 6-for-10 from long range. Wilson Chandler has made a pair of trifectas; Mason, Danilo Gallinari, Toney Douglas and Bill Walker have each made one.
When they're all hot, the Knicks just have too many weapons. The Celtics can't stop everyone, no matter how hard they try.
End of first quarter, Knicks 26-25: The dust has settled on the most entertaining quarter of the Celtics' preseason to date. It ends on an impossibly long 3 attempt from Nate Robinson, which he misses to leave the Knicks up one.
Wilson Chanlder leads the way with eight points and three rebounds for the Knicks; Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen have six points each for the Celtics.
This has been a running, gunning, crazy game so far. Let's see if it keeps up.
First quarter, 2:28, Celtics 23-20: The Celtics have reclaimed the lead, and they've also begun to dig into their bench. Semih Erden and Stephane Lasme will be the C's bigs from here on.
The two have clearly developed solid chemistry already. Lasme's first possession of the game, he picks, rolls and looks for his shot; when he's tied up, he selflessly gives it up to Erden for the open lay-in.
Apparently they know the word "ubuntu" in both Gabon and Turkey.
First quarter, 3:41, Knicks 20-18: These Knicks sure are trigger-happy, and so far it's working. They've made three of their six 3-point attempts.
Danilo Gallinari has probably never seen a jump shot he didn't like.
Then again, part of it is the Celtics — Paul Pierce doesn't look like he could be bothered to get out on the perimeter and contest the 3 tonight. The Knicks are just taking what the C's defense gives them.
First quarter, 5:51, Celtics 15-14: Say what you will about these reconstructed Knicks, but they sure are entertaining.
With Gallinari knocking down jumpers, Mozgov attacking the rim like crazy and Felton streaking all over the floor causing havoc like Rajon Rondo, these New Yorkers are fun to watch.
They're not playing much defense, though, and the jump-shooting of KG and Ray Allen has spaced the floor and made things easy for the Celtics offensively. This is the kind of game you can see the C's winning 120-110.
First quarter, 8:39, 7-7: Well, they always said basketball was a game of runs. No truer than right now.
The Celtics open the game on a 7-0 run, but the Knicks answer with seven quick points of their own. You might see a lot of Knicks games this season like this one — they can't stop anyone, but they can generate instant offense. Between Amare, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and the rookie Timofey Mozgov, they've got a lot of shooters.
Time for the C's to settle down and reestablish their tempo.
First quarter, 10:09, Celtics 7-0: This is already ugly.
The Celtics have a huge advantage early, dominating the tempo of the game and scoring at will on the Knicks. Meanwhile, Amare and company can get anything going on the other hand. They're settling for jumpers, and missing.
Not a good start for the Knicks in their home opener.
First quarter, 11:35, Celtics 2-0: Early advantage: Boston. Kevin Garnett breaks free from Amare Stoudemire, gets to the elbow, and knocks down a smooth jumper. The C's have their first lead.
7 p.m.: The injuries just keep piling up.
As many feared, Shaquille O'Neal will indeed be missing in action; the Celtics' center is still struggling with a hip problem and won't go against Knicks rookie Timofey Mozgov. But that's not all — Delonte West has been sent back to Boston in search of medical attention for his recurring back spasms, and now Glen Davis has some soreness in his knee as well. Big Baby won't be able to play big minutes.
Nothing major, but the C's have a lot of little injuries creeping up here and there. Definitely something to be mindful of.
6 p.m.: It's worth noting that because the injury bug has bitten these Celtics over the past couple weeks, we haven't yet seen Jermaine O'Neal in action with the Celtics' starting five. That might soon change.
O'Neal is a great fit with the defense-first philosophy that Kevin Garnett preaches in the C's starting unit. It'll be good to see if he and KG can slow down Amare Stoudemire in a tough road game.
The lineup of O'Neal, KG, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo is one we'll likely see a lot of this season, until Kendrick Perkins returns in 2011. It's time to get a taste.
5 p.m.: Tonight is the Knicks' Madison Square Garden opener. The Knicks will definitely be motivated to prove themselves to the diehard basketball fans in the Big Apple — this city spent all summer hoping for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and they got Amare Stoudemire and Ray Felton instead. The new Knicks had better prove their worth.
It would be nice if both teams gave their starters big minutes tonight. America needs a healthy Boston-New York rivalry in the NBA, and tonight will be the C's first chance to put their best foot forward against the new-look Knicks.
Everyone's rested and ready to go after last night. No excuse not to go all-out.
4 p.m.: If the Celtics don't give it everything they've got tonight, they do have one excuse — three of them are a little distracted by birthday celebrations.
Oct. 13 is a special day in the Celtics' locker room — Doc Rivers turns 49 years old today, and two of his players also celebrate their birthdays. Paul Pierce turns 33, and Jermaine O'Neal is 32.
If the C's move a little slow out there tonight, maybe it's the extra weight from all the birthday cakes.
8 a.m.: The Celtics may have suffered their first exhibition loss in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, but they've got bigger worries than a preseason record that's slipped to 3-1.
This is about their health and their game shape, with start of the regular season now less than two weeks away. The C's have just four preseason games remaining before they tip off on Oct. 26 against the Miami Heat, and they're working quickly to get their guys healthy and ready.
The Celtics are banged up, but their preseason marathon of five games in seven days continues with a Wednesday night tilt against the New York Knicks. The C's will soon get their first look at Amare Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and a new-look Big Apple behemoth that hopes to contend for an East playoff spot this season.
But more importantly, they'll get another look at themselves. They're running out of time to fine-tune for what lies ahead.