On a night that New York Knicks’ star Carmelo Anthony shot an unsightly 11-28 from the field, it was a pass from ‘Melo that was the defining moment of New York’s 89-86 road victory against the stumbling Boston Celtics.
With the Knicks clinging onto a two-point lead with 70 seconds remaining in the game, Anthony received the ball at the elbow and jostled for position with Jeff Green. Anthony, notorious for his late game heroics, commanded a double team as Rajon Rondo (who dazzled with a triple double) left his defensive assignment to harass Anthony. In years past, Anthony may have heaved up an ill-advised shot, but tonight he decisively fired a pass to Jason Kidd who quickly fed an open J.R. Smith for his first three-point bucket of the night to extend their two point lead to five. The Celtics were not able to recuperate after the blow.
Despite a poor shooting night from Carmelo, he made the right play when the game was on the line; something he didn’t do in the last meeting between the two teams 17 days prior, when he fell flat with a 6-26 shooting performance. Much of that poor performance can be attributed to the breakfast cereal related trash talking of Kevin Garnett, who clearly got under the skin of Anthony and caused a reversion the poor-shot-selection-‘Melo of season’s past. While his numbers weren’t much prettier last night, he was greatly aided by the play of the Knicks’ second unit, which looked to be one of the most dangerous in all of the NBA.
Anthony (+3) was only Knicks starter with a positive plus/minus in the contest (Chandler posted a 0). However, the bench, led by a rejuvenated Amar’e Stoudemire (+11) played excellent basketball.
Steve Novak (+10) didn’t even score a point yet received enough attention as a three-point threat to open up the Knicks’ offense.
Pablo Prigioni (+8) played with purpose in his 16 minutes of play. Twice the Celtics elected to leave Prigioni open behind the arc, and twice he spurned them by drilling the open shot. Those were his lone six points on the night, but his four assists were also crucial, including a fast break bounce pass to STAT who went around rookie Jared Sullinger for an emphatic slam.
Perhaps the most significant take away from last nights game is this: the Knicks in no way played their best basketball last night (38% shooting), yet still walked away with a road win against a very desperate Celtics squad. The win snapped an 11-game road-losing streak when visiting the Celtics. In fact, the last time they Knicks won at the TD Garden, Eddie Curry and David Lee were New York’s star players.
Both teams needed a win badly. The Knicks were 2-4 over their last six games, and the Celtics had dropped their last four following a six game win streak. With the victory, the Knicks can ride the momentum garnered from the divisional win, coupled with the impending return of Raymond Felton (pinky), into the all-star break. Only two out of the Knicks’ next eight opponents currently boast a winning record, and both of those games—Atlanta and Milwaukee—will be played at MSG.
If the ‘Bockers can take care of their easy schedule, than there’s a serious prospect that they might finish the first half of the NBA season sitting in the throne atop the Eastern Conference—the one usually reserved for King James and company.