Game Notes: Celtics at Knicks
Kevin Garnett hits them when it matters. No, really.
The panic, at least temporarily, had subsided. Borne by a two-game winning streak and buoyed by the return of their lightened (and presumably enlightened) one-time “centerpiece,” the 3-9 New York Knicks returned to their Garden home to face the Boston Celtics. It was just like old times—the arena was sold out and filled with jersey-clad fans, Spike Lee was in his usual seat up front alongside damn near a whole row of A-Listers, fervent cheers accompanied the introduction of the starting lineup.
But there were differences as well. Several of the aforementioned celebs (Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Rosie Perez and Brooke Shields) were there to film scenes for an upcoming movie. The cheers were loudest for the visitor’s starting lineup—primarily for Kevin Garnett, but also for Ray Allen and noted Knick-killer Paul Pierce. And many of those jerseys in the stands were green.
There were other, non-movie-filming celebs on hand as well, however. Noted NBA influencer and friend Willliam Wesley—Uncle Wes to his friends—gave Eddy Curry a hug. Steve Schirripa, now entering his record 56,974,964th minute of Sopranos fame, made the rounds. And former Knick enforcer and hairstyle icon Anthony Mason again settled into a baseline seat. And the Knicks received their share of cheers.
On with the show. (And back into the present tense.)
For the second straight day, the Knicks have a day game. Coming off a W in Jersey, the Knicks appear exhausted during their pregame shootaround.
Before that shootaround began, though, about two hours or more before the game, Ray Allen came out to perform his usual pregame shooting routine. He was summarily bounced, though, as security told him that the Knicks would be holding their shootaround now—the same one that they no longer have the morning of a night game. This wouldn’t be noteworthy, except for the fact that Ray Allen—and his self-diagnosed OCD—needs to maintain his routine, for fear of having a poor shooting game.
Once the Knicks opened the court to the Celtics, a handful of guys took the court immediately. Most noticeably, Brian Scalabrine, who spent a lot of time stretching and getting loose. Working with him during many of his drills was Ty Lue. Lue, not a year removed from his playing days, looked, for lack of a better word, old. If the Celts ever activate him or add him to the roster, it’s a sign that they’re really in trouble.
On the other side of the court, Jordan Hill is hard at work, knocking down Js and practicing his post moves. The Knicks first Draft pick this year, Hill puts in time on the practice floor before every game. Unfortunately, as of yet, he has not shown fans the fruit of his labor.
Inside the Celtics locker room, all is calm and cool. You wouldn’t know that this team is mired in a mini-slump. Per the usual, the Big Three are nowhere to be found.
Marquis Daniels, an undervalued offseason pickup by the Celts, is chilling by his locker, getting his mental right for the game.
Daniels interested is piqued by the December/January issue of XXL Mag in my hand. After studying the cover for a minute, he asks, “You think all that cash is real?” I wasn’t sure, so he called over Rasheed Wallace.
Sheed and Quis decided that the money had to be fake because, “you can’t just walk into a bank and ask for a couple million dollars. And the color’s not even right.” I guessed that maybe the top bill on each stack was legit. (I was wrong. All of the cash on the cover is fake)
Quis then asked Sheed whether you actually could get a bank to let you take out a couple million in cash. Sheed seemed to think long and hard about it. That’s when Eddie House walked into the conversation. But I decided immediately that Eddie House couldn’t procure that kind of cash, even if it’s possible—his salary just isn’t large enough.
That conversation-slash-debate carried on for another five minutes, at which point it ended when the trainer came over to stretch Quis out.
Noticing that mag was still by Daniels’ locker, Sheed asked me to grab it and bring over to him. I did just that. Why? Because if Wallace talks—which he rarely does pregame—you grab the opportunity to listen.
Posted up by Sheed’s locker, the discussion swayed from rap (“Beanie Sigel is my man, no doubt”) to boxing (“Not saying that Pacquiao isn’t great, but you can’t hit what you can’t see. Floyd’s gonna beat him.”) to Sheed’s appearance wearing a Portland jersey in the latest issue of SLAM (“That was in my power dunking days. Now I power layup”).
On a totally separate note, it was a homecoming of sorts for assistant coach Armond Hill. Hill, a NY native and former coach at Columbia University, was all smiles and was chatted up by plenty of people pregame.
It’s a good thing the Knicks are cresting on this wave of victories and goodwill, otherwise they might be getting booed relentlessly for opening the game with a two and a half minute long scoring drought. Which is finally broken by Larry Hughes. Go figure.
Three-pointers? Child’s play. Danilo Gallinari breaks him off some, drives to the basket, and dunks with both hands all up in Kendrick Perkins’s screwface. This ties the game at four with four minutes gone. Not sure what’s worse, the thought of a 48-48 tie at the end of regulation, or the thought of Gallo deciding that he’s found a new weapon. Sure enough, two possessions later he tries to dribble behind his back, loses the ball, and Rajon Rondo picks it up and waltzes (or perhaps tangos) the other way for an easy dunk of his own.
Paul Pierce for three. Get used to this.
Nate Robinson enters the game with the Knicks trailing 15-12. Presumably he’s been given detailed instructions on which basket to shoot on. A few minutes later, Eddy Curry and Rasheed Wallace join the fray, and Kevin Garnett collects two fouls in less than a minute. Meanwhile, the Celtics embark on a 5-0 run. It’s 20-12
However, Nate breaks the Knick drought, and Al Harrington sinks a three over Shelden Williams.
Like all good things, the Knicks run doesn’t last. Curry fumbles away a turnover, and Eddie House wets a three from the corner in front of his own bench. Presumably he yells at his own teammates just to stay in character.
Al Harrington buries another three. Perhaps his nickname should be “Paper,” as he covers rock AND he’s one dimensional. Just a thought. Pierce answers with another three of his own, and the Celtics lead 30-22 at the end of one. So much for 48-48.
Eddy Curry scores his first basket in the Garden since 1974, and Nate helps him celebrate by knocking over House on a three-point attempt. House goes two of three from the line. If Rasheed is correct and ball don’t lie, does that mean his foot was on the line?
Nate hits a long jumper from up top off the bounce while drifting towards the scorer’s table. It’s one of those shots where the two points probably isn’t worth the aggravation.
Eddie House misses a three, but the ensuing Lee outlet is picked off by Rondo and fed back to House in corner, who doesn’t miss twice. It’s perhaps worth noting that outlet passing is not one of Lee’s strengths.
KG checks back in for Shelden, and promptly commits his third foul of the afternoon. See you after halftime, Kev.
The Knicks tie things up at 40 on a Wilson Chandler follow with 5:05 to go in the half.
Ray Allen, somewhat invisible to this point, tries to draw a charge on Lee. It’s hard to see where it wasn’t – but he’s called for the block regardless. Lee collects on the and 1.
Gallo hits a three over Brian Scalabrine, which probably is a metaphor for something. A little while later, Scalabrine responds with a three of his own, and is cheered.
Pierce and Harrington exchange threes, Allen misses one, and the Celtics cling to a three-point lead, 56-53, at the half.
What’s colder than cold? The Knicks! Back-to-back layups from Perkins and House, Lee gets blocked, then throws a cross-court pass to some lucky fan in the sixth row. Wilson Chandler steps on the sideline for another Knick turnover, Perkins hits another layup, and the Celtics lead is nine. Following a time out. Pierce hits another three—he’s five for five. D’Antoni immediately calls time, and is clearly furious, stepping to the ball as if he’s going to kick it into the stands. Celtics up 12, and the Knicks have once again opened a quarter with a two-minute plus scoring drought.
We’re guessing D’Antoni’s not any happier when Rondo picks off the ensuing inbounds pass. Pierce fakes the three, drives, and is fouled by Gallo. He hits both and the Celtic lead balloons to 67-53.
Lee finally scores the first Knick points of the half with 8:16 remaining in the third. On the other end, Rondo finds Perk alone underneath, who does his best Shaquille O’Neal impersonation.
But wait. A Wilson Chandler runout dunk cuts the lead back to single digits at 69-60. But Perkins hits a fadeaway in the paint, and Rondo converts a little flip layup under Lee’s outstretched arm. Rondo’s headed for triple-double territory with 11, nine and six.
KG, no doubt out of rhythm thanks to the minimal first-half minutes, misses from the top of the key. Next time down he’s short again, and Harrington hits a three. Celtics by six.
And another one. It’s 73-70 Celtics with 4:05 to go in the third. Al has 18 pts
KG misses yet another jumper. Lee rolls to the basket off a screen from Hughes, and is fouled by House. Al Harrington? Yeah, you know. We’re tied at 75, and Harrington has 21 points.
Nate misses a deep three over House. My notes read “What a shot.” I detect a note of sarcasm.
Marquis Daniels and Eddy Curry exchange baskets before Nate splashes a three in transition. And the Knicks lead, 80-77. When Harrington tips in a miss at the end of the quarter, the Knicks are up five and in the midst of an improbably 27-8 run.
Rasheed Wallace misses a turnaround over Eddy Curry, Eddy misses a dribble all by himself. Sheed, given a second chance, misses a three-pointer. This is becoming a habit.
Nate has his dribble ripped by House AND Rondo, but the ball goes out of bounds and back to the Knicks.
Two minutes into the quarter, a Rondo open layup makes it 82-79 Knicks. This starting slow thing is contagious.
A pair of Rondo misses from the line (whatever changes he made aren’t working) and a Curry turnover lead to the most confusing sequence of the afternoon: Rondo drives in for a layup and gets bodied by Nate. What looks to be a brawl breaking out just turns out to be Marquis Daniels recovering the ball and laying it back in—there isn’t even a foul called. What? Obviously the refs are just saving their whistles, because Rasheed gets called for a foul and a tech on the other end.
Brian Scalabrine telegraphs a drive so clearly that Eddy Curry draws the charge. Ugh.
KG can’t hit ANYTHING. Perk rebounds and is fouled by Gallo. Before the second free throw, Allen waves KG off the line and back downcourt.
The Knicks are missing threes, Perk and Curry are mixing it up down low, and Kevin Garnett is still missing shots.
Garnett finally converts a jumper, which is met with cheers. With 6:18 to go, the Knicks lead 88-84.
Eddy Curry misses, and takes out his aggression on the other end by shoving Rondo to the floor. Good thinking! Flagrant on Curry, enter David Lee. Free points for the Celtics, although Rondo is still iffy at the line. Shortly thereafter, Pierce ties things up with a layup.
Al Harrington puts his head down, drives to the basket, is fouled by Pierce. He hits one of two. On the other end, KG does much the same and is fouled by Lee. Only he hits both. Celtics lead by 1.
But the Knicks respond. Chandler scores on the drive, they force a 24-second violation, then Lee scores on the baseline. It’s 94-91, only they let Pierce shoot from the top of the key. Silly Knicks. Duhon and Lee both miss up close, and Rondo drives baseline to set up an Allen corner three. Bang. C’s up 96-94 with 2:44 to go. The Knicks run a superugly possession that includes two shots, one off the bottom of the backboard, and no passes to a red-hot Al Harrington.
There’s a fan behind the basket in a Gallinari t-shirt wearing a rooster head mask. I’m impressed. On the other side of the coin, it’s hard to tell what’s more disrespectful to MSG—“Run This Town” or the wave.
Pierce to KG, who hits again from the top of the key, and the Celtics lead is two with a minute to go. Harrington misses a deep three following a careless Duhon near-turnover, and the Celtics call time with the ball and 39.5 seconds.
Ray Allen’s stripped, but Wilson Chandler loses it out of bounds with 22.1 left after he’s tripped by Garnett. There’s no call, but the replay draws the crowd’s collective ire. So of course Ray Allen is called for the offensive foul off the inbounds, and the ball goes back to the Knicks with 17.7 seconds remaining.
Inbounds. Harrington blows right by KG on the perimeter—far too easily—and he’s fouled by Perkins with 4.7 seconds left. He hits both, the Celtics call time.
And the Celtics run something that certainly wasn’t drawn up on any clipboard. Rondo dribbles the clock away, and winds up launching a three that probably wouldn’t have even counted. Overtime.
Paul Pierce? Wide open three? Absolutely. 101-98 But Harrington has figured things out and takes it hard to basket again for another layup. 101-100. Pierce’s turn. He strolls down the wide-open lane, is fouled by Harrington. His fifth. Hits both.
Boston calls a time out with one second left on the 24. They run an out-of-bounds alley-oop play, Pierce to KG. The pass is on target, but Garnett just doesn’t have the lift.
Harrington tries to drive by KG again, Garnett gets the strip—and is called for the foul. His fourth. 1:07 With the Celtics leading by two, Chandler’s blocked by Pierce, and the ball goes out of bounds to Celtics. Under a minute. Rondo misses, but KG comes up with a huge rebound in traffic. Pierce misses a tough fallaway that Harrington seems to goaltend, but there’s no call. Lee rebounds and immediate calls time. 19.3 seconds.
Apparently there’s more on D’Antoni’s clipboard than “God, I hope we get LeBron.” Larry Hughes hits a rolling Lee for a dunk down the lane. Yeesh. That was way too easy. But there’s 9.3 seconds left. Which is plenty of time for Paul Pierce. He catches the ball up top, runs another screen and roll with Garnett, who winds up with the ball up top with no one around and plenty of time. Release, red light, splash. Ballgame. Garnett faces the Spike Lee row and delivers a crisp salute before letting the 12-letter words fly and heading over for the chest bump from Marquis.
Not a pretty win for the Cs. Nobody is too happy in the locker room with the W. A win is a win, unless it comes against the Knicks (or Nets).
A visibly relieved Doc Rivers concedes that the final play was actually drawn up by Pierce. “Sometimes the coach is a good listener, but honestly Paul called that play.” As for the one at the end of regulation? When Rondo ran out the clock? “We messed up,” he laughs. Sure. You can laugh now.
Ray Allen’s fears were realized. He NEEDS his routine. He looked lost without it, firing blanks to the tune of 3-13.
Rajon Rondo’s first words are an inquiry as to whether he got his triple-double (He didn’t.) His second words are an inquiry as to whether we can do anything about it. (We can’t.)
After answering questions, Paul Pierce flips on a nice pair of shades. As Russ said, somebody tell him it’s dark out. Oh, and it’s almost winter.
Though they both appear skinny, Marquis Daniels and Rajon Rondo are both jacked.
Though he already is tatted from belly to neck, Daniels tells me that he’s about to get some more work done. I pointed to his tat-free legs. He shook his head. “That’s not for this man, leg tattoos.”
He’s not a fan of tattoos on his face either. Actually, to be more precise, his mom isn’t. “My mom told me I’m never too old to get spanked. And if I get one there, that’s what’ll happen.”
Headed home to Boston after the game, the Celts are ready for that. They all say that they can’t wait to spend times with their families and in their own beds.
As usual, KG is out last. His outfit subdued as his mood, the only thing sparkling are the 4657845 carat (approximated) rocks in his ears. He rarely looks up. Someone asks whether he was surprised he was so open on that last play. He pauses. “A little bit, but I couldn’t hit a shot, so shit, I wouldn’t have guarded me, either.”