Game over, Celtics win 109-98: Let's please give Jeff Green some real games to play. The dude looks too sharp to waste any more time with these exhibitions. The man is NBA-ready.
Green drained three of five 3-point attempts en route to 25 points, along with seven rebounds, in 38 outstanding minutes. He was even better in the second half than Chris Copeland, a Knicks roster hopeful who finished with 34 points but scored only 11 of those in the second half.
Jason Terry also looked sharp with 22 points on 4-for-6 shooting from downtown, but we all expected that from the 35-year-old sharpshooter. No one in their right mind expected Green to look this good, this soon.
Fourth quarter, 4:46, Celtics 103-89: For a moment, it looked like Green would beat Copeland to 30 points. The aforementioned Knicks big man/stud was stuck on 28 points for a while until he went to the line and hit two free throws, but Green made him sweat a little. Green poured in five points to bring his total to 23 for the game, and he was 9-for-16 from the field.
Thanks to Green putting the game out of reach, the kids could run and play. Kurz-to-Downs-to-Joseph for an alley-oop dunk punctuated a run for the Celtics that extended their lead to 14 points.
Fourth quarter, 5:27, Celtics 94-87: Rondo looked ready to check back in, but following an easy fastbreak dunk by Lee and a timeout by New York, the Celtics point guard kept his shooting shirt on. The Celtics might not even need his services to finish off the shorthanded Knicks, who imploded offensively in the early part of the fourth quarter.
Fourth quarter, 9:43, Celtics 90-85: Just like that, the Celtics took the lead. Green and Terry stayed on the floor, although Rondo took a seat for what may be the rest of the night. Green and Joseph each capitalized on mismatches to help Boston score 10 of the first 12 points of the fourth quarter.
If Barbosa wants to crack this backcourt rotation, he has his work cut out for him. Terry and Lee looked sharp, and Green looked competent in his time handling the ball.
End of third quarter, Knicks 83-80: Is the regular season here yet?
Green, Terry and Rondo were clearly in game shape, but they did not seem fully invested in this game for most of the first three quarters. It was difficult to blame them. Eight preseason games simply are too many for veterans who have been through the dog and pony show many times before.
Still, those three managed to drum up enough adrenaline to continue to cut into New York's lead in the third. quarter. After falling behind by 13 points in the first quarter, the Celtics outscored the Knicks 65-55 over the second and third quarters and were within one possession heading into the final quarter.
How hard Doc Rivers will push his guys for this win remains to be seen. Green and Rondo both had played more than 30 minutes. Terry had played only 23 minutes, but he shot 4-for-6 from downtown so he clearly does not need any more work. Perhaps Rivers should give Fab Melo a chance to get experience guarding MVP-to-be Copeland, who had 28 points.
Third quarter, 5:41, Knicks 68-63: Green has a tendency to sneak up on people, both literally and figuratively. He quietly worked his way up to 16 points for the game, including seven in the third quarter, with a collection of sneakily athletic moves around the hoop and a smooth shooting stroke.
His most highlight-worthy moment came when he stalked Thompson on the break for what should have been an easy basket. Green held back until Thompson went up with both hands to dunk, then timed his jump perfectly to stuff Thompson at the rim. A foul was called, but we will call it what it was and say it looked like a clean block.
Halftime, Knicks 52-47: Chris Copeland needed less than 15 minutes to match his output from four-plus quarters in the Knicks' last meeting with the Celtics. He scored his 21st point with more than three minutes left in the first half, finishing with 23 points in 18 minutes on the floor.
Nobody in a white or blue jersey was anywhere near as effective as Copeland. If this guy does not make the Knicks' roster, it will be a travesty.
Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green each had nine points in the first half for the Celtics, and Rondo added six assists, but with four turnovers. Jason Terry led Celtics scorers with 10 points.
Second quarter, 5:26, Knicks 43-31: Copeland finally missed a shot, firing a brick off the glass as he absorbed contact from Sullinger. That was Copeland's first miss in seven tries, as the former Buffalo did everything to prove he deserves a job with the Knicks. Downs was almost as hot, though, following up his step-through with a nifty behind-the-back move into a layup on the break. The Gonzaga alum has a little more than a game and a half to prove he deserves that final roster spot.
Second quarter, 8:14, Knicks 38-21: No sooner did we compliment Joseph and dismiss Downs than both offered evidence to the contrary.
The game may have moved a little too fast for Joseph, who fired a 3-point attempt long and then overshot a fastbreak halfcourt pass off the backboard. On the next play, Downs split the defense with a step-through move that left two Knicks defenders in the dust.
This is what young players can do. They titillate one moment and irritate the next.
End of first quarter, Knicks 28-15: Copeland continued to clean up against Boston's second unit, finishing the first quarter with seven points and perfect from both the field and the free throw line.
Kris Joseph got some early time with Micah Downs and Rob Kurz, and the disparity between this year's second round pick and those two longshots to make the roster is wide. Joseph looks like he belongs, or at least that he thinks he belongs. Downs and Kurz seem uncertain, if eager.
First quarter, 2:59, Knicks 19-11: Chris Copeland deserves a spot on New York's roster, even if it violates the team's unspoken policy against employing any big man who is not either A) nursing a debilitating injury or B) 17 bajillion years old.
Copeland, a 6-foot-8 alumnus of Colorado followed by stints overseas and in the D-League, has been impressive this preseason. He showed off his versatility by going to the hoop for a layup over Collins, then hitting a 3-pointer a few possessions later.
Copeland scored 21 points in the Knicks' overtime win over the C's in Hartford last week, so the Knicks could keep him around to stick it to their division rivals, if for no other reason.
First quarter, 6:09, Knicks 12-9: This is Rajon Rondo's chance to develop some comfort and timing with a few new teammates. All four of his fellow starters were not with the team last season but may be called upon to play heavy minutes this season, heightening the point guard's need to gain chemistry with them.
Sullinger and Green seemed fairly comfortable with the Celtics point guard, but Collins had another pass from Rondo bounce off his hands. This has been a persistent problem for the veteran big man, who has never been looked to as a scorer. Since Rondo tries to keep everyone involved, Collins will need to be ready for a few last-second passes.
6:39 p.m.: One good (or bad) bit of news for the Albany faithful is that they will not get to see Stoudemire's jewels.
Stoudemire has christened the post moves he developed this summer under the tutelage of Hakeem Olajuwon as his "jewels," and he has promised reporters that they would get to see his, er, jewels soon. But the recuperating forward will sit out the second night of a back-to-back, and Stoudemire hopes that Knicks fans will have plenty of chances to see his jewels many times this season.
The starting lineups, minus Stoudemire's jewels, appear below.
6:24 p.m.: Those fans with tickets to Sunday's preseason finale at the TD Garden got what may be good news as the Celtics prepared to face the Knicks on Saturday. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will sit out Saturday's game in Albany, increasing the odds that both stars will suit up for Sunday's home game.
With two games on back-to-back days, the 35-year-old Pierce and 36-year-old Garnett figured to get one day off. After Sunday, the Celtics have eight days without a game before their regular-season opener in Miami, so they should have all (healthy) hands on deck for their last chance to get in game shape before the real games begin. (In addition, Leandro Barbosa could make his Boston debut on Sunday.)
Brandon Bass (knee) and Darko Milicic (hand) will also miss Saturday's game as a precaution. Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace and J.R. Smith are unlikely to play, and Knicks coach Mike Woodson told reporters that Amar'e Stoudemire, who made his preseason debut on Friday, will not play.
10 a.m. ET: The end of the exhibition schedule is achingly close for the Celtics now. In nine days they will be introduced in Miami for the open of their regular season.
Before the C's can hit South Beach, though, they have a few more preseason dates to get through. One of those is sunny Albany, N.Y., which they visit Saturday to take on the Knicks.
The last meeting between these teams needed more than the usual 48 minutes to be resolved, with the Knicks outlasting Boston in Hartford, Conn.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m.
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