Ford Keys to the Game: Celtics 104, Knicks 106
Celtics 104, Knicks 106
It was as if the script was written for a starring role for Paul Pierce: The NBA’s first game of the season heading down to the wire on the big stage in New York.
It was perfect for Pierce, except for the fact that he was watching today’s game from the sideline rather than on the floor.
Boston’s captain has flourished in similar situations at Madison Square Garden in the past. Heck, he even hit a game-winner there last season in front of a national audience. This time around, though, With Pierce sidelined with a sore right heel, Boston would need the heroics to come from someone else. That person never stepped forward to deliver the goods.
Carmelo Anthony turned the ball over with 53.1 seconds remaining in the game with the score knotted up at 104-104. That would typically be the moment when the C’s would go to Pierce for a huge shot, but without him they instead chose to take the ball to the basket. Amar’e Stoudemire blocked Brandon Bass’ shot from just in front of the rim, but Ray Allen was able to pull in the offensive rebound. Before he could put up a legitimate shot, though, he lost the ball and Landry Fields recovered it.
During that sequence there was a lot going on around the basket. The whistle wasn’t blown, but it easily could have been. Those whistles seem to have been saved for the ensuing possession.
Anthony drove to the basket from the left wing and as he made his move Marquis Daniels slid behind him to poke the ball free from Anthony’s left hand. Daniels deflected the ball up into the left side of Anthony’s face, which made the play look a bit worse than it really was. Boston was set to gain control of the ball, but before they could, a whistle was blown. Daniels had been called for a foul and Anthony was sent to the free-throw line with 16.3 seconds remaining.
This was why New York put all of its chips on the table last season and acquired Anthony from the Denver Nuggets. The man simply makes big shots, and he gets big calls. He did both this afternoon and drilled both free throws to put the Knicks ahead 106-104.
Doc Rivers immediately called for a timeout and drew up one of his patented out-of-timeout plays. The problem again, however, was that Pierce wasn’t able to be included in such a play. That left Rivers looking in other directions for a big shot.
When the Celtics came onto the floor, no one knew who the main target would be for the shot. We didn't find out, either, because Boston couldn’t get an open look for any of their main options on the next play. Instead, the ball wound up with Pierce’s replacement, Marquis Daniels, in the left corner of the court. Daniels is not known as a 3-point shooter, but he confidently fired the shot up anyway. It missed long, and it seemed as if the game had slipped away from the C's.
But it hadn’t just yet.
Rajon Rondo snuck in behind Tyson Chandler and pulled down an offensive rebound that led to another Celtics timeout with 4.4 seconds left in regulation. Rivers had been given another opportunity to draw up a game-tying play.
Mike D’Antoni called his own timeout after he got a look at Boston’s out-of-bounds set, but the Celtics didn’t seem to change their play as a result. They went on to pass the ball in to Kevin Garnett near the right wing and he ran a fake-handoff with Rondo that led to two Knicks defenders crashing into each other. That debacle gave Garnett the freedom to drive to the baseline and fire up an open jumper from 14 feet out.
Given the situation, the Celtics couldn’t have asked for a better shot. Garnett had been on fire in the second half of the game and would probably hit the shot at least six times out of 10. This attempt just happened to be one of the misses.
Garnett’s shot missed to the left as time expired and that left Boston with an 0-1 record at the end of Christmas Day. The Celtics had their chances to pull this one out, but without Pierce in the fold for this script, it just wasn’t meant to be.
Key Box Score Line
The Celtics may have lost this game, but their point guard must have gained loads of confidence from his performance. Rajon Rondo was everything the Celtics want him to be, and everything opponents don’t want him to be.
Rondo did it all at both ends of the court and finished with a stat-packed box score of 31 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and five steals. That point total fell just one tally shy of his career high of 32 points.
Perhaps most important for Rondo was the way he scored all of those points. He did it not only with buckets in the paint, but also with a consistent jumper and smooth free throws. Rondo finished the afternoon making 11 of his 19 field goal attempts and nine of his 12 free throws.
It’s only a small sample size of one regular season game, but if this is a sign of things to come, the Celtics have an even stronger point guard this year than they have in years past. A consistent shot being added to Rondo’s arsenal is a nightmare for opponents.
Box Score Nuggets
- Two Celtics notched double-doubles, while no Knicks did.
- Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 37 points.
- Rajon Rondo's 13 assists were more than three-times the amount of any individual Knicks player.
- Rondo finished with 31 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and five steals.
- Brandon Bass poured in 20 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for Boston.
- Anthony led the Knicks with eight rebounds.
- Bass was the only Celtics reserve to score more than four points.
- Tyson Chandler blocked six shots in his Knicks debut.
- Amar'e Stoudemire finished with 21 points and six rebounds for New York.
- Ray Allen scored 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting.
- Boston outrebounded New York 41-31.
- The Celtics attempted only five 3-pointers, compared to the Knicks' 20.
- Anthony finished with a game-high plus-15 in the plus/minus category.
- The Knicks assisted on only 17 of their 35 made field goals.
- Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert attempted 13 shots in just 22 minutes of action.
- New York racked up 11 blocked shots and nine steals.
- The Celtics outscored the Knicks in the paint (48-30) and on the fast break (16-8).
Quote of the Night
Doc Rivers on his team's performance in the first quarter compared to the entire game: "I thought we were as soft as we could be in the first quarter, and then I thought we joined into the 2011-12 season. And from that point on I was pretty happy with the way we played, I thought we competed well."