By Jon Evans

Fall 1997 didn’t seem like that long ago but then I’m reminded of this.

Dream deferred, each forged their own path in the league and here we are a decade later. The toast of the league Boston Celtics host the laughingstock of the league that is the New York Knicks on TNT. After what were essentially two straight losses by the Celtics, are we seeing a chink in their armor? After back to back wins, are the Knicks a legitimate NBA team? Will the blackboard quotes from Reggie Miller or Quentin Richardson have any affect? Only one to find out.

Pregame
An hour before tip off there are more Knicks fans in the house than I would’ve thought. Lot of Knicks #3 jerseys sprinkled in the crowd at roughly a 75-25 Marbury to Starks ratio. The guy in the tenth row in the authentic Andre Igudola jersey is just confused.

40 minutes until tip off, Doc says at his pregame press conference “Ray is a student of the game. The guys in the locker room call him The Philosopher.” Looks like we have a challenge to the JesusTruthTicket nickname.

Craig Sager is prowling around looking more normal than usual. The olive green slacks pinstriped shirt combo works well. The jury is still out on the lavender tie.

Surveying the pregame meal, there’s some sausage, tomato and pepper thing and some clam based thing. I play it safe with hot dogs and mac and cheese. While not the most adventurous of choices, I take solace in the fact that today Danny Ainge also has the appetite of a junior high school kid.

I don’t know what kind of seat upgrade promotion SLAM won but I will happily enjoy sitting on the sideline within earshot of the Knicks bench. The best part is I’m sitting next to Gus Johnson. He’s very happy to hear that I’m from SLAM and enthusiastically digs through his briefcase and pulls out a well worn copy of issue 113. In case you were wondering, yes, he is a subscriber.

Ooh, I may have spoken too soon. Craig Sager strolls out onto the court rocking a blue blazer with multicolored pinstripes. It looks a lot like something you’d find in a bin at the Burlington Coat Factory.

1ST QUARTER

The Celtics are sporting their green and black alternate jerseys for the TNT audience. The Philosopher is rocking some new custom white green and grey Jordan 8s. I’m going to go out on a limb and say you can’t cop those at Finish Line.

Rondo crosses up Crawford and takes it in strong for the layup. 10:55 2-0 Celtics.

We’re two minutes into the game and it looks like I’m going to have to keep my eye on Gus Johnson tonight. The man acts out his play-by-play violently with his arms. This is awesome to watch but leaves me scared I might leave the Garden with a busted lip. Just as I type that he almost elbows me in the head as he created his own sound effects for a Z-Bo foul on KG.

Rondo pulls up for the jumper from 20 feet. Wet. 4-0 Celtics.

Curry and Q playing the two-man game. Curry passes out of the Pierce double team to an open Q for 3 to put the Knicks on the board.

PERKISABEAST.COM. Slam off the assist from The Philosopher. 6-3 Celtics.

Rondo hits another pull up jumper from 20 feet.

Perkins comes through with a big block on Marbury. Leads to a jumper from The Philosopher and a timeout by Zeke. 10-3 Green.

I must say, Eddy Curry looks much plumper from this close.

Ditto Z-Bo.

Pierce again comes in with a soft double team on Curry who misses in the paint.

Starbury penetrates, and dishes behind his head to Rajon Rondo. If this was ‘98 that pass would have been to Zach Randolph.

Rondo blows by the D for an easy lay in. Rondo 8 – Knicks 3.

Curry drives the left baseline. 14-5 C’s.

Jumper from The Philosopher. 6:18, 16-5 Celtics.

Coney Island’s Finest atones for his earlier turnover with some vintage dribble penetration and a tough lay in. 16-7 Celtics.

4:52- 16-7 C’s. During the timeout Big Baby gets his “Soulja Boy – superman” on up on the jumbotron. Gus is happy.

Truth face up jumper from baseline on Q. C’s +11.

Knicks miss yet another bad jumper. They’re not running much of an offense. That is unless you consider “let’s stand around while we all take turns settling for bad jumpers” an offense.

Gus reenacts a Starbury offensive foul as only Gus Johnson could.

KG cuts thru the lane. The Philosopher finds him for turn around kiss off glass.

The Knicks are trying to work inside out. A valid gameplan if not for the fact that Z-Bo and Curry are missing everything. With 2:31 to play, Plump and Portly are combined 1-11 from the field. As a team, the Knicks are shooting 17% from the field.

KG jumper. C’s +13.

Out of the timeout, the Knicks second unit provides some semblance of defensive intensity. Doubling the ball almost forces a steal, but instead leaves Scalabrine open for three. Veal connects. Jake Appleman is happy. 23-8 Celtics.

Rondo buries another 21-foot jumper. That’s 10 for Rajon in the first quarter, including three jumpers. If he keeps connecting from mid range, the Celtics will be that much more dangerous. He has already shown he can drive the ball down the throat of a defense. If he can keep defenses honest with his jumper, opponents will have another headache when facing the Celtics.

Z-Bo connects on a tough turnaround from left baseline. Green +11.

Jefferies with the double pump jumper from wing as shot clock runs down. Eight times out of ten, Jarred Jefferies misses that shot. End of 1, 27-16 C’s.

2nd QUARTER

Curry matches up with Big Baby. This seems right.

Lee and Scalabrine. Also right.

Over to my right, Posey leaps over the scorers table for a loose ball, taking out the Celtics radio team in the process. Amazingly, it looks like Sean Grande, the C’s play-by-play guy, is still talking while sprawled out on the floor. That’s a professional. I can’t help but wonder what would Gus Johnson have done.

Speaking of Gus, he scares the bejesus out of me by slamming the scorers table in admiration of the hustle of the Knicks second unit.

8:52. Official timeout. 27-16. I argue with Gus about Rondo. I’m pro-Rondo while he’s more on the fence. Regardless, I still lose the argument.

Eddie House for three.

Gus refers to Ray Allen as the “baby faced assassin.” Well, so much for ‘The Philosopher’. Babyface sets up Balkman with an up and under off the glass.

Z-Bo blocks my view as he reports to the scorers table. According to Gus, Marbury just hit a jumper. Staring at Z-Bo’s backside, I’m in no position to argue.

Ray Allen floats in for a fast break lay up that is gracefully reenacted by Gus. Knicks timeout. 6:16 to go, Celtics +19.

Starbury forces up a three that is nowhere near the flow of the offense. Zeke sees the same thing I do and pulls him in favor of Fred Jones.

KG drives baseline, finds a cutting Big Baby for 2. C’s +21.

Exhibit A on “Have the Knicks Quit?”: Big Baby misses the second of two freethrows. Garnett is allowed to pull down the offensive rebound. Finds Eddie House for an open three. Four point possession. C’s +25.

Crawford crosses House and drops the floater. 43-22 Celtics.

Jones drives baseline, finds Q on left baseline. Q rises for an impressive jam in traffic. Somewhere, Darius Miles is taping his forehead.

Fred Jones converts on a tough drive on Babyface. 46-26 C’s.

Seconds later, KG finds a curling Pierce for a much easier lay in.

Knicks are working hard for everything on the offensive end while everything comes in rhythm for the C’s. It’s really the perfect study in contrasts. The Celtics seem to have an offense they know how to run. Everyone knows their role and players even move without the ball. Whereas the Knicks are simply the Knicks.

Plump and Portly are a combined 2-15 from the field so far

Lee misses a reverse dunk. The rebound sets up the Celtics fastbreak. Pierce for three. 52-29 C’s.
Halftime
I’m not planning on bringing up Michael Bivens every game. But when he’s in the tunnels of the Garden interviewing the C’s dancers in their leather ensembles, its worth a mention.

3RD QUARTER

Randolph 1 on 1 on KG. Drives by and the misses layup. The very next Knicks possession, – same exact situation – KG blocks him. Did he really think KG would let him get by him twice?

A lazy pass by Q on a pick-and-roll with Lee leads to a steal that sets up a three from Babyface. C’s by 29.

Curry misses a hook. The portly and plump pair are now a combined 2-18 from the field.

KG jumper top of the key. 62-31.

Q airballs from deep.

8:35. Crowd on their feet. 65-31. Timeout. C’s on 11-0 run. Knicks take out all their starters. Balkman, Nate, Jefferies, Jones and Lee are in against C’s starters.

David Lee tries to dunk on KG. Really? I love Lee, but seriously; did he think anything positive would happen there?

Rondo penetrates, finds Perkins for wide open slam. Celtics = (Knicks x 2) + 3

Allen misses a three. I’m starting to get the sense that the JesusTruthTicket is bombing away to get this up so they can get the 4th quarter off.

Knicks run a halfhearted press that leads to open three from the Truth. 5:39 left in the 3rd, 72-35. Gus is dismayed.

Jefferies layup gives the Knicks just their second field goal of the quarter. 74-37 Celtics.

P-squared has all the time in the world to drill another three. Not only was he able to line up his shot, but if they were playing with a Paul Pierce approved Spalding Infusion, he could have inflated or deflated the ball to his desired pressure.

Knicks in a nutshell: Eddy Curry manages to jump which is impressive in itself. But alas, he literally has an offensive rebound slip between his fingers.

Babyface for 3.

Babyface drives roughly 30 feet thru heart of a lifeless defense for two. 82-37.

Eddy Curry with the bucket from close about 45 minutes too late.

Next time down, Curry quadruple teamed and blocked. Who didn’t see that coming?

Q airballs a three. Again.

Crawford jumper in traffic. Wet.

Marbury turns it over. Again.

4TH QUARTER

Jared Jefferies has come for the powder here on press row at least five times tonight. Let’s see, four points, four rebounds. It’s not working.

C’s lineup : Posey, Pruitt, House, Davis, Scalabrine.

We have a Malik Rose sighting.

9:27. House for 3.

The House always wins. Eddie House for 3. Again. 93-43. I repeat. 93-43.

7:30 the crowd starts the “Fire Isiah” chant. Which Garden am I in again?

Pruitt connects on a jumper just inside the arc. C’s + 52. Fifty Two!

Note to Doc Rivers: Big Baby shouldn’t be given the ball twenty feet from the basket. Noting but hilarity can ensue.

Malik brings the Knicks within 46. For the first time in a while, if you doubled the Knicks score, they’d be leading.

The JesusTruthTicket is dancing on the sideline to some disco-funk thing that I am thankfully too young to identify.

Seeing KG poppin and lockin is the official notice for me to stop keeping the running play by play. In hindsight, Powe + Pruitt checking in should’ve been enough.

Nate with the somewhat meaningful three pointer heave as time expires.

104-59.

Postgame
The vultures (myself included) huddle around waiting for Zeke to emerge from the locker room. He comes out looking past dejected. It looks like someone just shot his dog. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a grown man who looked like he needed a hug so badly.

The man in the funny stripped jacket asks the tough questions. Zeke responds, essentially saying the team didn’t quit on him. The 2,000 words of game notes here may suggest otherwise.