Celts Stay Grounded After Crushing Knicks
NEW YORK – On the greatest stage in all of sports, the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks may have given the greatest role reversal performance of this NBA season.
Just don’t expect the Celtics to get caught up in the role they played.
Boston and New York, each of which had won two straight games heading into Sunday’s contest, collided in a matinee special on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Talk of the town, and even within the Celtics' circle, was about how the Knicks had dismantled their previous two opponents by an average of 34 points per game.
Do not pay attention to New York’s 5-13 record, said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. The Knicks were playing like a well-oiled machine that could cut the knees out from under any opponent.
Whatever oil the Knicks had been using, it must have found its way to Boston’s locker room.
Sunday was all about the Celtics dismantling the Knicks, to the tune of 41 points. Yes, 41 points. The Celtics jumped out to an early 25-point lead in the first quarter and kept the pedal down in the second half, pulling ahead by as many as 45 points in the game.
This was a domination on both ends of the court, and it started from the opening tip.
“We forced them to play on their heels,” Jeff Green said after the win. “We didn’t allow them to get easy looks. We challenged every shot. They missed some easy shots, which allowed us to get out in transition. We continue to pressure the ball and I thought that was the biggest thing.”
That was the biggest thing in the first quarter, but Boston took a key step on Sunday by continuing that pressure in the opening minutes of the third quarter. The Celtics were fresh off of a game Friday night in which they led Denver by as many as 27 points in the first half but allowed the Nuggets to make it a one-possession game in the third quarter. They were not interested in allowing that to happen again Sunday afternoon.
“Our main thing is the first five minutes of the third quarter, we want to try to control,” said Gerald Wallace. “I think we did a great job of that tonight controlling that, continuing to force them to take tough shots and then limit them to one shot.”
Boston’s focus was at an unparalleled level. All five starters scored at least 13 points and combined to shoot 56.4 percent from the field. Meanwhile, they, along with the strong-playing bench, limited New York to just 34.2 percent shooting on the afternoon.
The Knicks know as well as anyone that those are the ingredients to a blowout. Heck, they just felt this feeling on consecutive nights, once on the road and once at home.
Boston stole that mojo on Sunday and embarrassed New York on the sports world’s greatest stage. It is now Stevens’ task to keep his team humble and focused as it heads into a matchup with the Nets across town on Tuesday.
“The challenge is coming back and playing well now,” Stevens acknowledged shortly after Sunday’s win. “That’s a challenge, and that’s going to be severely tested Tuesday night and we have to be ready.”
Stevens doesn’t stick around to listen to what his players say to reporters in the locker room, but if he did, he would surely board the bus with a smile on his face. Nearly every Celtics player who spoke to the media began his postgame availability by savoring the way the team played and then added a “but” to the sentence.
Take Jordan Crawford and Jeff Green, for example. Each talked about how well Boston played, but then pointed out that the C’s will face this hungry Knicks team again on Friday. Green went into even more detail about how Stevens is keeping the team grounded.
“We’re not content with where we’re at,” he said. “There are still some things that we can get better at and we’re following his lead. That’s our leader and he knows that there’s still some things that we need to work on. He’s not content, and neither are we.”
Here we are on a Sunday in New York City, just a couple of hours after the Celtics crushed the division-rival Knicks by 41 points. This could be a time to celebrate, but Boston is instead concentrating on the next step of their season-long journey.
The Celtics were happy to star in a role reversal on Sunday. Now their next goal is to avoid a similar occurrence Tuesday night in Brooklyn.