Boston's Team Play Outshining New York's Stars

Anthony, Stoudemire Are Dominant, But Celtics Own 2-0 Advantage

BOSTON – Carmelo Anthony stood just outside the 3-point line on the right wing of Boston’s end of the court Tuesday night and listened to the final horn sound on a 96-93 Game 2 loss to the Celtics. As the sound buzzed throughout the TD Garden, Anthony’s head hung to the side, his eyes stared blankly into the postgame mayhem, his hands sat on his hips and his body stood motionless.

What more could he do?

The answer to that question is simple: nothing.

Though the Celtics are leading this first-round series between the Celtics and Knicks two games to none, credit must be given to New York’s stars. In their first season with the organization, they have carried the Knicks on a highly competitive level with the defending Eastern Conference champions. Despite having a lack of serious talent around them, Stoudemire and Anthony have made this a dogfight of a series and have 100 percent carried their team.

Stoudemire caught fire down the stretch in Game 1 to the point where the Celtics did everything they could to keep the ball out of his hands. He scored 12 points in the fourth quarter of that contest while no other teammate scored more than three. Stoudemire hit six of his seven shot attempts in that final frame.

Everyone was expecting a similar performance from the All-Star power forward in Game 2, but that turned into a pipedream once he suffered a strain in his back during pregame warmups. Stoudemire did not play in the second half of Game 2 and finished with only four points in less than 18 minutes of play.

Stoudemire’s absence, coupled with Chauncey Billups’ inability to suit up for Game 2, left the entire weight of the Knicks on Anthony’s shoulders. But it sure didn’t look like he was carrying much more than his 230-pound frame.

Anthony went off on the Celtics despite the fact that everyone in the building knew he was the one and only focal point of New York’s offense. He was utterly unstoppable and the repertoire of moves he used to get of his quick-release shots was at times breathtaking.

“Mike (D’Antoni) came up to me in a timeout and was like, ‘Amar’e is done, we need you to carry us tonight,’ ” Anthony recalled after the game. “My thing was to just go out there, not try to carry the team by scoring the basketball, but just doing everything.”

Well, it certainly looked like he tried to carry the team by scoring the basketball. He took a game-high 30 shots, nearly two-times as many as any other teammate, and notched his season-high as a Knick with 42 points.

When asked to comment on Anthony’s performance, Doc Rivers wondered why the question was even posed to him.

“Carmelo Anthony? Do I have to?” Rivers asked rhetorically. “He was pretty – he was pretty good.”

The light was shining bright on New York’s star for nearly the entire game, but yet again, it was the Celtics who came out on top. Thanks to key plays at both ends of the court in the final minutes, Boston overcame a deficit in the final 20 seconds for the second consecutive game.

Two nights after Ray Allen canned the game-winning 3-pointer in Game 1, Kevin Garnett bulldozed Jared Jeffries into the paint and hit the softest of jump-hooks to give Boston the winning points in Game 2.

No one knew where the Celtics would go for that final shot on either night, and that included Boston’s team. Rivers drew up plays during his final timeouts of those games that had several options to go to for a critical field goal, and that’s the beauty of what this Celtics team brings to the table.

“They’ve been together for a while and they understand what they have,” D’Antoni said shortly after his team’s second consecutive demoralizing loss. “They’ve just got so many weapons and it’s tough. You’ve got to watch back picks with Ray Allen, one-on-one with (Paul) Pierce, and (Kevin) Garnett, whatever he does. They put (Rajon) Rondo in a good place, and it’s tough.”

Let’s not sell them short. At this point in the series, the Celtics’ team ball has been better than tough in crunch time. It has been unstoppable.

Anthony and Stoudemire have been unstoppable in their own right, but it just hasn’t been enough to give New York a win.