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Analysis: Celtics end Knicks' historic week on sour note

By Rob Peterson,
Posted Feb 7 2009 1:25AM

NEW YORK -- Earlier this week, the New York Knicks were the victims of two of the best individual performances in Madison Square Garden history. On Friday, they lost to a team that played as one.

One night after losing to the hated rival Los Angeles Lakers at home in overtime, the Boston Celtics went 14-for-18 from the field en route to 38 fourth-quarter points and stormed past the Knicks 110-100 (Recap | Box Score). Boston's win capped one of the more extraordinary weeks in recent memory for this historic arena.

On Monday, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant scored an MSG-record 61 points in little over 36 minutes. On Wednesday, the Cavaliers' LeBron James nearly had a triple-double with 52 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists. On Friday, Boston's Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined to score 63 points, grab 18 boards and dish 11 assists.

Most of their best work came in the fourth quarter as the Celtics directed their offense through Garnett on the left block. On Thursday in Boston, Garnett was conspicuous by his absence after he fouled out with 4:22 in regulation. With Garnett on the bench, the Celtics had difficulty executing down the stretch. Ball movement stopped and with no threat in the post, the Lakers could focus on impeding Allen and Pierce on the perimeter.

On Friday, with K.G. on the court in crunch time, the difference was clear. Garnett only had two points but distributed all four of his assists in the quarter. On one play, the Knicks' David Lee went over to help Al Harrington for a double team, leaving the Celtics' Leon Powe alone under the hoop for an easy two.

As Lee ran up the floor, Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni calmly alliterated, "David, don't double."

After the game, Lee noted keeping track of all the Celtics' offensive options was not easy.

"It wasn't just one guy who beat us," Lee said. "they moved the ball well. Ray Allen hit a couple big shots. Eddie House did. Kevin Garnett made a couple good passes. Paul did what he does.

"I was encouraged by the way we played tonight and we came up a little bit short, but nobody went for 50 or 60 tonight and we kept those guys close and we were the aggressors."

If the Knicks sounded cautiously optimistic, it's because they had to find a silver lining to this week where they faced three teams with winning percentages better than .800. Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni didn't like the results, but couldn't find fault with the effort.

"I think we have a very solid team that plays hard and plays well together," D'Antoni said. "We're trying to learn how to finish games against the best teams in our league and there were three of them [this week]."

For the Celtics, the triumph on the second night of a back-to-back after losing to the Lakers was just what the Doc Rivers ordered.

"It was a great win for us," Rivers said. "Last night was so emotional and I told the coaches before the game, we just got to get them to the fourth quarter somehow.

"If we can get them to the fourth quarter we could spread the floor. As long as the score was one or two points, I felt good about that."

The Knicks had the defending champs on the ropes for the first three quarters, but it was the Celtics' experience and execution down the stretch that proved to be the difference. House said the Celtics' togetherness -- the ubuntu mantra that fueled their run to a record 17th NBA title last year -- is still there.

"It's the same thing [this year]," House said. "We say it before every game, every time we break the huddle we say "ubuntu." We live by it and it's a very important word to us."

Meanwhile, the Knicks are trying to take a little lesson from each of the exceptional teams and All-Stars who passed through and left their marks not only on the record books, but also the Knicks' collective conscious. Lee, for one, said he and his teammates were taking notes this week.

"We have a lot of work to do, and we're going to need to get a lot better," Lee said, "but I think it was the best 0-3 week I've ever had as far as the team improving."

And next time, they may even be able to steal a win.

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