BOSTON — The New York Knicks should have been the perfect opponent for a Celtics team coming off one it’s sloppiest showings of the season.
The Knicks, after all, came into Friday night with 4-20 record and a 10-game losing streak — the worst start to a season in the franchise’s nearly 60-year history.
It was New York that looked like the far superior team, however, leading for all but three minutes in an eventual 101-95 victory at TD Garden.
“In basketball, at this level or any level, the minute you feel sorry for yourself, it?s going to snowball on you,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after his team’s third straight loss. “You have to earn things, you have to go out and do them, and the next one is an opportunity, and we have to seize that.”
— The Celtics found themselves shorthanded before the game even began. Avery Bradley, arguably the team’s top defender, came down with a fever Thursday night and did not suit up against the Knicks. The C’s then lost another defensive standout, rookie Marcus Smart, before halftime. Smart played just four minutes before going down with what was later announced as a strained left Achilles. He did not return.
“I don?t know what a strained Achilles means from a long-term standpoint,” Stevens said, “but I know that (team physician Dr. Brian) McKeon said that he should be relatively quick healing. But he didn?t feel comfortable sending him back in tonight.?
— Taking away Bradley and Smart obviously hurt the Celtics from a defensive standpoint, but Boston did a relatively good job of containing Knicks top scorer Carmelo Anthony. Anthony, who was a game-time decision after dealing with knee soreness, did score a team-high 22 points but went just 9-for-20 from the floor and 0-for-4 from 3-point range.
“We prepared like he was going to play,” Celtics center Tyler Zeller said. “Somebody that talented, you’ve always got to prepare like he’s going to play. We did a fairly good job on him. He got about his average, but it was one of those things that he didn’t score 40, by any means.”
— Zeller was the Celtics’ most efficient scorer in the game, finishing with 19 points on 9-of-14 shooting. It was the fourth time in five games the big man scored in double figures and was further proof the relationship between him and point guard Rajon Rondo that seems to grow stronger each night.
— Rondo dished out 10 assists but otherwise was quiet on the offensive end. He took just three shots (tied for his season low) and finished with two points. Rondo now has scored two or fewer points in five of his last eight games.
— Jared Sullinger had his worst game of the season, failing to hit a field goal in six attempts, to finish with his first goose egg since January 2012.
“Sully?s a really good player who?s had a couple tough games in a row,” Stevens said. “I think the most important thing we can do is encourage him, but we certainly need him to be good.”
— Jeff Green continues to play the most consistent basketball of his career. Green led all scorers with 28 points, including 16 in the second half, and brought Boston to within six with just over a minute to play with an authoritative dunk on Samuel Dalembert.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images