Final, Celtics 114-73: Life just keeps getting harder for those who want the Celtics to tank.
Led by workmanlike performances by Jared Sullinger, Jordan Crawford and Brandon Bass, the Celtics (10-12) trounced the last-place Knicks (5-14) and tightened their stranglehold on first place in the Atlantic Division. The Celtics led by as many as 43 points and didn’t allow the Knicks to crack the 70-point barrier until the final two minutes.
Crawford led all scorers with 23 points, followed by Sullinger with 21. Bass chipped in 16 points and eight rebounds along with stellar defense on Carmelo Anthony, who shot just 5-for-15 from the field en route to 19 points. Avery Bradley enjoyed the first double-double of his career with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Celtics kick off their reunion week Tuesday in Brooklyn against Kevin Garnett and the Nets.
Fourth quarter, 6:12, Celtics 103-64: Just how bad can it get for the Knicks? They’ve emptied the bench and they haven’t looked any more embarrassing than when their regulars were in. MarShon Brooks will come in for Boston, which is a sign of just how out of hand this game has gotten.
It’s just a waiting game to the finish now as the Celtics are about to be halfway to a New York City sweep. If only the Nets will go down this easy on Tuesday.
Fourth quarter, 10:40, Celtics 96-56: It’s stat-padding time.
With a 40-point lead in hand, the Celtics can clear the bench and make sure everybody gets theirs. Courtney Lee, who hasn’t played much or effectively in the last two games, was the beneficiary of New York’s disinterested defense when he slashed to the hole for a layup to give Boston its biggest lead of the game.
This might be the time to give Bass a break. He’s been a machine out there, and he made two tough defensive plays to contest Knicks shots on the same play. The man has 14 points and seven boards and has done enough to earn his keep this afternoon.
End of third quarter, Celtics 92-56: While Sullinger and Bass have been softening the Knicks up down low, Bradley has posted another solid outing. Bradley now has his first career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Crawford has been so strong, so consistently, it’s hardly even noticeable anymore. Crawford has a game-high 23 points after going off in the third quarter and helping Boston lead by as many as 38 points.
Third quarter, 2:42, Celtics 85-50: Things are starting to get testy. J.R. Smith wrestled Bradley to the ground on a rebound attempt and Stoudemire gave Bradley a little shove in the back, but there was no foul called. Bass stepped in but didn’t add to the tension then. He waited a few minutes.
A few possessions later, Bass bullied Anthony into the lane and missed a hook shot, but recovered to grab the offensive rebound and threw the ball down over three Knicks defenders. Then Bass let them know about it and drew a technical foul for taunting.
Usually, technicals are bad, but the Celtics have to like that on a day like this. Bass and the Celtics are the aggressors, and there’s no harm in letting the Knicks know about it.
Third quarter, 5:46, Celtics 74-42: This is getting almost too easy for Sullinger. Bargnani was laughably bad trying to defend the Celtics’ center/forward and had to be yanked, but Stoudemire has only been marginally better. Sullinger now has 19 points of 8-for-10 shooting and the Celtics have led by as many as 34 points.
Halftime, Celtics 58-31: The Knicks aren’t playing defense and the Celtics aren’t being allowed to. And still the Celtics lead by 27.
The Knicks have looked like a mess, shooting just 25 percent from the field despite a load of favorable calls to end the first half. Apparently they were made immune to the hand-check rule and got some creative calls on their own end, but it hasn’t made much of a difference.
Jeff Green leads all scorers with 14 points, while Jared Sullinger and Jordan Crawford join him in double figures with 12 and 11, respectively. Brandon Bass has eight points, six rebounds and one blocked shot to make sure it’s not just an all-Js party for Boston. The Celtics also outrebounded the Knicks 28-14.
Carmelo Anthony has 11 incredibly inefficient points on 2-for-8 shooting with two turnovers. Amare Stoudemire has actually been New York’s best player with 11 points, so at least the Knicks can hang their knickerbockers on that.
Second quarter, 4:26, Celtics 46-27: Both teams have more or less gone into a holding pattern, which is OK with the Celtics. Even if they mostly exchange baskets with New York the rest of the way, they’ll cruise out with something like a 20-point win.
Bass and Sullinger have continued their bruising play down low. Sullinger has a game-high 12 after taking Bargnani, who is at least three inches taller, into the post and getting fouled while attempting a hook shot. Bass’ eight points and six rebounds might seem pedestrian to anyone who hasn’t actually watched his excellent work at both ends.
Second quarter, 5:41, Celtics 43-34: It’s been this kind of day for the Knicks. They forced the Celtics into a haphazard possession and deflected the ball out of bounds with 0.2 seconds on the shot clock. Normally, a team has no chance to score in that amount of time. But the Celtics tossed the ball in to Jared Sullinger, who tipped the ball in off the backboard.
Second quarter, 8:53, Celtics 39-17: Maybe Amare Stoudemire and Metta World Peace can give the Knicks in a boost, in an AARP sort of way.
Stoudemire, who entered the game by receiving a technical foul for hitting Bass on the head on his very first possession, has scored four points in four minutes of action. That’s a better per-minute scoring average than the Knicks managed in the first quarter, so that’s something.
Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace, who teamed up to help stop the bleeding when the Nuggets surged back from a big deficit on Friday, are in the game looking to keep New York down. It looks like the Knicks might do a good enough job of keeping themselves down.
End of first quarter, Celtics 34-11: Thanks to Pablo Prigioni, the Knicks avoided the indignity of finishing the first quarter with single-digit points. Prigioni’s three gave them 10 points with 31 seconds left int he quarter, to the delight of the crowd.
Well, maybe not that. The Madison Square Garden crowd seems as listless as the team does, which may or may not be related.
As you might expect, the Celtics are blistering hot and the Knicks were not early on. Boston shot 54 percent from the field, 5-for-7 from three and a perfect 5-for-5 from the foul line. The Knicks shot 22 percent. Yikes.
Bass has been the star of the game thus far. He has eight points and three boards, and his activity and post work on offense against Anthony has opened up his teammates. On defense, he has bottled up Anthony, who has six points but hasn’t looked comfortable against the bigger, stronger Bass.
First quarter, 3:54, Celtics 23-3: Anthony’s had all sorts of trouble with Bass defending him, just as he did in these teams’ playoff meeting last spring. It took until the 5:45 mark of the first quarter for Anthony (and the Knicks) to finally get on the scoreboard — and even then it only happened because Anthony was able to lose Bass on a switch.
First quarter, 8:45, Celtics 10-0: The Knicks started an extremely small lineup and the Celtics, who seldom have a size advantage up front, are loving the opportunity to bully around some smaller guys.
Brandon Bass and Jeff Green have taken their defenders straight to the post, leading to a trip to the foul line for Bass and 3-pointers for Green and Avery Bradley against collapsed defenses. The Knicks must not have gotten their wake-up calls this morning, because they still look half asleep.
11:40 a.m.: Nix that projected starting lineup. It appears Tim Hardaway Jr. will start as part of a three-guard lineup, with Anthony sliding to power forward.
11:04 a.m.: Carmelo Anthony is trying a new tack after beginning the season on a scoring spree. Since that approach didn’t translate into wins for the Knicks, ‘Melo has turned to his inner John Stockton.
Anthony took just 10 shots in Friday’s win over the Magic, the Knicks’ second consecutive victory. He may try to same strategy against the Celtics, or he might be playing possum for a 40-point performance.
The projected starters are below.
8 a.m. ET: Carmelo Anthony reportedly wants Rajon Rondo to become a Knick. In that case, Anthony will be able to show the Celtics point guard up close just what he could be a part of in New York.
If it seems a little odd that anybody on the Knicks (5-13) would think anybody on the Celtics (9-12) would want to hop four spots down in the Atlantic Division to a team whose future is even less muddled, well, you’re not alone. But a report last week indicated Anthony thinks he can sell Rondo on pushing for a trade to New York or signing with the Knicks as a free agent after next season.
Good luck with that, ‘Melo.
One thing that’s certain is that Rondo will not be playing for anybody Sunday as he continues to recover from surgery to repair a torn ACL. The Knicks, owners of a rare two-game win streak, aim to keep their momentum with a win over the Celtics, who have won five of their last seven games.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at noon ET.
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