C's Get Back to Business in NY After Ugly First Half

NEW YORK – The Celtics got back to business during the second half of Tuesday night’s matchup with the Knicks.

Then they got back into the win column with a 97-89 victory at MSG.

Boston’s business of late has been ball movement and outstanding offense. The team had averaged 27.1 assists per game over its previous seven contests, ranking second in the league over that span, while dropping 112.1 points per game.

The Celtics didn’t reach those numbers Tuesday night while notching 97 points and 20 assists, but their second-half performance was right in line with their recent trends.

Boston’s offense dished out nine assists during the third quarter alone and 14 overall during the second half. The team shot 50 percent from the field and scored 52 points during the final two quarters.

Ball movement and aggression were the keys to the game, as they not only led to open shots, but also pushed New York’s defense onto its heels.

“It just makes the defense kind of fly around and just makes them a little less solid than they would be if you don’t have those kind of things coming downhill,” said Tyler Zeller, who, with a season-high 16 points, was a key beneficiary of the uptick in ball movement.

The Knicks had no answers for Boston’s team-oriented offense. Isaiah Thomas, who dished out five second-half assists, and Evan Turner, who dished out four, got the ball rolling with their ability to penetrate New York’s defense.

“I thought we made some drives and dishes,” Brad Stevens said. “Obviously, Jae’s (Crowder) two 3s kinda got us feeling better about life, but I thought we had some drives and dishes at the rim that were huge.”

Turner said that he was able to jumpstart the offense in the pick-and-roll as a result of New York’s big men playing well off the ball on screens. He said his goal was “try to attack and make the right play.”

He and the rest of the C’s made the right play more often than not during the second half, but doing so wasn’t always a given. In fact, during the first half, doing so seemed nearly impossible.

Tuesday’s first half was not kind to the Celtics, but much of their pain was self-inflicted. The ball was sticking, players were forcing shots, and the offense struggled its way to only 45 points. A key sign of the team’s 24-minute regression on offense was its measly six assists.

Boston did not panic during the halftime intermission. Instead, Stevens delivered a pointed checklist of to-dos during the second half.

First, the coach said, they must stop Carmelo Anthony’s post-ups.

Second, they must protect the defensive glass, where they had allowed 10 offensive rebounds.

Lastly, and freshest in the Celtics’ minds as they took the court for the third quarter, he told them, “If we move the ball and we get the same shots, we’ll make them.”

The C’s one-upped their coach’s final request. They didn’t just get the same shots.; they got better shots. They picked the Knicks apart with ease thanks to ball movement and penetration.

The Celtics may have gotten away from their customary offense for a brief half, but they made it a point to get back to business in New York. They did so in a hurry while dropping another checkmark into the win column.

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