Ford Keys to the Game: Celtics 96, Knicks 86
Celtics 96, Knicks 86
Tonight marked the second consecutive game in which the Boston Celtics gave a lackluster performance in the first half against a playoff-bound team, eventually falling behind by as many as 15 points.
Tonight also marked the second consecutive game in which the Celtics stormed from behind in the second half to stun their opponent on the road.
Boston again used a big third quarter to cut into their 15-point deficit and wound up heading into the fourth quarter trailing by only six. If it weren’t for the dramatic final minutes of this game, the Key Moment would consist of Boston’s 5-0 run in the final 26 seconds of the third, which cut an 11-point deficit down to six heading into the deciding quarter. There was, however, a dramatic close to this game, and the Celtics were the team that came through in the clutch.
Sparked by energy, hustle and an onslaught of points from captain Paul Pierce, the C’s quickly dissolved that six-point deficit and made this one a nail biter down the stretch. Pierce scored 10 of the team’s first 14 points in the quarter to eventually bring his team back within one possession, as his jumper with 5:52 remaining left the score at 82-80.
Kevin Garnett put home an easy layup on Boston’s next possession after Amar’e Stoudemire missed a shot in the paint, and that bucket brought the game to a tie. Carmelo Anthony tried to answer back with a 3-pointer, but his shot bricked and Pierce reeled in the rebound and whipped it up court to a wide open Ray Allen, who put home an uncontested layup to put the C’s on top 84-82 with 5:01 remaining. That was Boston’s first lead since they were ahead 22-20 in the final minute of the first quarter.
That streak to take the lead was huge, but what happened next loomed even larger.
Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups, brought the ball up court for the Knicks on their next possession and tried to thread a pass over to Stoudemire on the perimeter, but Garnett stuck his hand out and broke up the attempt. The ball bounced quickly out to midcourt, and the two superstar power forwards broke into a dead sprint to retrieve it.
As the ball passed over the halfcourt line, both players dove to gain possession of the ball. KG fully extended his seven feet of length and reached out with his right hand, but Stoudemire had position and was able to pull the ball in.
But Garnett didn’t quit. He felt the ball and continued to reach around Stoudemire with both arms, leading to a bear hug with all four of the two players’ hands being on the basketball. A jumpball was whistled, and the two wound up leaping at center court.
We all know the athleticism that Stoudemire possesses, but Garnett wasn’t about to lose on this play. The 16-year vet rose up over Stoudemire and took home the jumpball with ease, tipping it backward to Glen Davis.
Gaining possession wasn’t enough. The C’s needed a basket to make this a two-possession game. Who might be the man to provide such a critical bucket? You guessed it: KG.
Garnett drilled a 20-foot jumper on the ensuing possession to put Boston ahead 86-82 with 4:18 remaining and put all of the momentum in the Celtics’ back pocket.
Yes, New York managed to tie the game at 86-86 and the C’s used a 10-0 run over the final 3:09 to seal the win, but KG’s sequence of a hustle play followed by a jumper took all of the weight off of Boston’s shoulders and placed it squarely on New York’s. We now know that the Knicks couldn’t handle that pressure, and that Boston has the firepower to pull off shocking comebacks in back-to-back games against teams that will still be playing come the end of April.
Key Box Score Line
Kevin Garnett’s impact on tonight’s game cannot be overstated. He wasn’t just the single constant the Celtics had from start to finish; he also played the role of motivator, hustler and big-shot maker.
New York’s power forward, Amar’e Stoudemire, may have been able to steal a starting spot on the All-Star team away from Garnett, but he couldn’t outshine the Big Ticket tonight. Garnett powered up for a game-high 24 points and tied Stoudemire for the game-high in rebounds with 11. He shot a ridiculous 10-of-15 from the field, including several big jumpers, and also grabbed a game-high four steals.
It wasn’t just the raw numbers that led to his game-high, plus-22 figure in the plus/minus category, he also provided a shot of energy that the Celtics needed throughout the game. He threw down a monster slam in the second half that could quite possibly be his most emphatic dunk in more than two seasons, and he sacrificed his body when he dove on the floor in the final minutes to complete the hustle play that may have changed the outcome of the game (see Key Moment above).
Tonight, Garnett was everything that he’s known to be by the rest of the league: a scorer, a rebounder, an enforcer, a leader, and a never-say-die fighter. He was Boston’s inspiration, and he led them to another dramatic win in the World’s Most Famous Arena.
Box Score Nuggets
- Boston outscored New York 59-35 in the second half.
- It was the second consecutive game in which Boston has come back to win after trailing by as many as 15 points.
- New York shot just 40.5 percent from the field.
- Ray Allen and Carmelo Anthony both suffered lacerations to their eyes, on separate plays, that drew blood.
- Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce each shot 4-of-4 from the free-throw line.
- Only four Celtics recorded an assist in the game.
- Garnett finished with game-highs of 24 points and four steals and also tied for the game-high in rebounds with 11.
- Pierce scored 21 points.
- Garnett (10-of-15) and Pierce (8-of-13) combined to shoot 64.3 percent from the field.
- Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks in scoring with 22 points.
- Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire each made seven field goals while attempting 17 and 15 shots, respectively.
- Boston outrebounded New York 48-38.
- After dishing out only four assists in the first half, the C's notched 13 in the second half.
- Glen Davis joined Boston's four All-Stars as the only Celtics to finish with a positive plus/minus rating.
- Rajon Rondo returned to his normal ways with a huge double-double of 13 points and 12 assists.
- The Celtics made only one 3-pointer in the game to New York's seven.
- New York blocked six shots, while Boston blocked none. Ronny Turiaf accounted for four of those blocks for the Knicks.
- The two teams' benches combined to score only 28 points (16 by Boston's, 12 by New York's).
- Boston outscored New York 44-28 in the paint and 18-7 in fast break points.
- New York outassisted Boston 20-17, but none of its players accounted for more than four dimes.
- The Celtics committed only nine turnovers.
Quote of the Night
Doc Rivers gives us several quotes of the night:
"Well we decided to play in the second half. I haven’t used the word ‘soft’ in four years, but at halftime that word came out a lot.”
"They [the Celtics] were a little disappointed at halftime and probably disappointed at what I had to say, but I said to them ‘I’d like to see the Celtics play in this game.’ ”
"It was a bloodbath, but it was beautiful.”