Live Blog: Celtics at Knicks
Christmas Day at the Garden
by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
It’s been a long, agonizing wait for hoop heads and the SLAM fam alike. We all sat and watched as players and owners entered and exited midtown Manhattan hotels, frustrated that an agreement couldn’t be reached on what boils down to a game. But, the season is finally here and there may be no better way to kick off the season than a Christmas day matchup between the Knicks and Celtics at the World’s Most Famous (and renovated) Arena.
There are storylines and questions galore for this one:
After being swept by the C’s in the first round of last years playoffs, the Knicks made some major offseason moves and formed their own Big 3 who and championship talk seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue. The Knicks have arguably the strongest frontcourt in the league, but will backcourt play be the team’s demise? Or, will Baron Davis stay in shape and successfully man the point position while opening up looks for Amare and Melo? Coach D’Antoni has his job on the line and will need to find success fast with this lineup or his days in New York may be over.
Are the Celtics washed up? A lot of people seem to believe so, but you can never count out the original Big 3 and in a shortened season, anything can happen. The Celtics ceratinly have a lot of question marks surrounding them though. They didn’t add much depth in the abbreviated off-season, only making a seemingly lateral move by trading Glen Davis for Brandon Bass, and losing Jeff Green for the season with a heart ailment really puts the pressure on Bass to perform at a high level. With Paul Pierce already banged up, will KG and Jesus Shuttlesworth be able to remain healthy during a hectic 66 game regular season? After losing out on the CP3 sweepstakes who knows how Rajon Rondo will respond after being dangled as trade bait by Danny Ainge, will he tune the team and management out or show Ainge and Co. that they made a mistake by considering to trade him in the first place? The Celtics are certainly walking a thin line between success and disaster, but with championship experience and veteran leadership don’t be surprised if they make a postseason run.
Fortunately, the speculation ends today as the NBA season finally kicks off with this marquee matchup at the Garden, let’s go….
Update: Paul Pierce officially out for today’s game.
Celtics: Garnett / Allen / O’neal / Pavlocic / Rondo…Celtics go big to match Knicks frontcourt.
Knicks: Douglas / Fields / Chandler / Anthony / Stoudemire
12:00: Opening tip goes to the Celtics (to resounding boos) and the ’11-’12 season is underway!
11:10: Sloppy start to the game with both teams committing turnovers on their first possessions. Rondo hits 2 free throws for the first points of the season.
10:50: Toney Douglas nails a 3 for the Knicks first points of the season.
9:25: Toney Douglas definitely needs to get comfortable at the point position, missed a wide open Landry Fields for a turnover and foul the other way. Douglas will be instrumental to Knicks early season success.
8:50: Rajon Rondo getting to the basket with ease, gets to the paint better than anyone in the league and has hit his free throws thus far in the game.
7:43: Knicks can’t stop Rondo, has 7 of teams first 9 points.
6:59: Marquis Daniels and Brandon Bass check in…great to see Daniels out there after last year’s scary injury. That being said, Melo takes it right at him for a bucket and one. Knicks up 8.
6:55: STAT picking up right where he left off last season with his first Tech of the year.
6:17: Rondo taking it right at Douglas, has him playing on skates. He now has nine of the Celtics’ 11 points, most of them coming from the line, Doc Rivers gotta be happy about that.
5:42: Chris Rock on the big screen giving an impromptu performance of Run-DMC’s “King of Rock”, he is still the man…Iman Shumpert making his first appearance for the Knicks, let’s see what the kid can do.
4:35: Shumpert certainly not lacking in confidence has he takes (and misses) two quick shots.
2:50: With the exception of Rondo, Celtics can’t get anything started offensively, he’s single handedly keeping them in the game. Celtics definitely missing Paul Pierce.
2:38: Only two starters on the floor for their respective teams are KG and Melo…Bench play will be key for both these teams this year, important stretch right here.
1:40: Melo with the steal and bucket getting the crowd hype, Celtics really struggling offensively they need to make a run to close the quarter.
1:00: Jared Jeffries with a long range jumper, a collective “nooo” from the Garden faithful, but he nails it!
Knicks up 34-23 to end the quarter, Celtics struggled mightily offensively. Knicks definitely showed an improved defensive effort, but I think the Celtics are knocking off the rust after the extended off-season. Look for Allen / KG / Rondo to stop this game from getting out of hand and step it up offensively in the second quarter.
10:30: Great pass from STAT to hit a cutting Balkman for an easy layup…KG responds with a jumper of his own. Look for STAT and Garnett to battle the rest of regulation.
9:30: Amare with the 3!
9:15: Ray Allen comes off the bench and immediately gets into it with Toney Douglas, each get T’d up. “Boston Sucks” chant rings out throughout MSG.
8:30: Toney Douglas with the steal and fast break layup to go up 16, and the crowd is really into it now. Celtics need to get it together and get the crowd out of it before it’s too late. Fortunately for them, they are a veteran team so this shouldn’t phase them too much.
8:10: Garnett with the beautiful behind the back pass to O’neal for an easy lay up and one…man, it’s great to have basketball back.
6:10: The Knicks need a point guard bad…Celtics on a little bit of a run after a nice Brandon Bass dunk.
4:31: Rajon Rondo is going to be in Toney Douglas’ nightmares, he’s taking it right at him and Douglas can’t do anything about it. Celtics cut it to 9.
3:00: Rondo is keeping the Celtics alive, showing an improved jumper and tremendous court vision, if the Knicks can stop him in the 2nd half, they should have no problem putting Boston away. Tyson Chandler is quite a difference maker, he is playing tough, going after every rebound and contesting every shot inside, C’s have no answer for him.
1:37: Melo hits back to back jumpers to get the crowd back into it than grabs a defensive rebound, getting in done on both ends of the court.
Knicks take a ten point lead into the half. What a difference Tyson Chandler has made already for the Knicks defensively, he is completely shutting down Boston in the paint and bringing a toughness to NY that hasn’t been seen since the ’90s. Melo is proving why he is one of, if not the, best all around offensive players in the game, and he is hustling on defense. STAT has barely touched the paint on the offensive side, relying heavily on his jumper, they need him inside. Shumpert is playing hard and taking it to the rack with ease, can’t get his layups to fall but you gotta think those will fall as the season progresses, I really like what I’ve seen from him thus far.
The Celtics are really struggling offensively and without Rondo they would have no shot in this game. He has showed an improved jumper and if he can hit that 18-foot jumper with consistency he will be unguardable. Celtics really missing Paul Pierce out there as he does so much for them on both sides of the ball. Ray Allen has been a complete non-factor but I don’t think that will last, he is too good to be shut out for 48 minutes. KG doing his usual jawing and has played pretty well thus far. Stay tuned for the 2nd half.
Also, DMC at center court performing “Christmas in Hollis” and I’m not mad at that at all…
11:00: Jermaine O’neal looks like he spent the off-season much like Shawn Kemp did in ’99.
9:21: Both teams trading baskets to begin the half…Toney Douglas not having a great day, missed two wide open shots, Shumpert checks in for him.
8:22: Rondo with 24 already, cuts it to 5, anybody know his career high?
7:53: And just like that the Celtics cut it to 3, Ray Allen heating up….Hits a three to cut it to 2.
7:11: Celtics come out on fire and tie it up. Rondo absolutely changing the game on both ends of the floor and now with Ray Allen hitting his shots the Knicks need to respond, look for Tyson Chandler to step it up defensively.
7:11: With Toney Douglas playing poorly, a lot of pressure on Shumpert to play well the rest of the way, let’s see how the rookie handles it.
6:43: Beautiful alley-oop from Fields to Chandler negated by a charge, Celtics playing great defense have the Knicks frustrated.
6:04: Ray Allen finds a wide open Jermaine O’neal for the dunk…STAT trying to do it all by himself on the other end, Celtics up 2, fans getting restless.
4:53: Melo on the pine with 4 fouls, Celtics up 4 after Brandon Bass free throws, Celtics smell blood, taking it to them now.
3:00: Knicks stop the bleeding and cut it to 4, need to hold on for the rest of the quarter so Melo can do his thing in the 4th. “Old” Celtics lead the Knicks 16-8 in fast break points.
1:31: STAT lets his man go right by him, Bass there to pick up the offensive rebound and dunk.
0.57: Shumpert goes down with knee injury, being helped off the court and back to the locker room, let’s hope it’s not serious.
End of third: Celtics up 87-79, Toney Douglas may have just shot the Knicks out of this game. Brandon Bass with a double-double (18 and 10). Celtics came out on fire and Rondo continues to give them headaches, should be a great fourth quarter.
11:09: Toney Douglas’ shot selection has really hurt the Knicks today but he’s their only option at point right now, going to have to compensate for that.
9:45: Melo is cookin’, but Ray Allen comes right back and hits a HUGE 3.
8:50: KG hits a huge shot right in Chandler’s grill and gets in his face all the way up the court.
8:22: Melo with an alley-oop to Chandler after the break, then Knicks force a turnover, still down six though. As my man Adam Figman put it, “Knicks about go with that Game 2 All-Melo-Everything offensive strategy.” Also known as Greg Jennings syndrome.
7:36: Thought I saw an Elf in a Landry Fields jersey, nah that’s just Spike.
6:34: Great, great defense by Chandler, blocking two shots in a row, that’s why you give a guy like that a huge contract. Celtics still up 5, but looks like momentum is swinging back in Knicks direction, Garden crowd is deafening.
6:14: KG / Jesus / Rondo / Melo / Amare / Chandler all on the court in the 4th, this is what it’s all about.
5:59: Shumpert out with a strained MCL, glad it’s not serious, if anything he’ll be responsible for a few highlight reel dunks this season. Allen hits 2, not a soul in the world that he was missing those.
4:00: Toney Douglas hits a 3, Knicks are going to live and die with him.
3:00: KG making a living at the top of the key. 2 point game with 2:30 left, let’s go!
1:30: Melo cannot be stopped. Rondo not looking for his shot like he did earlier in the game; old habits die hard I suppose. 104-104 with a minute left, whole crowd is on the edge of their seats.
16.3: Marquis Daniels tagged with the foul, if that’s not a home court call, I don’t know what is. Melo sinks him both, now has 37 for the game, he is in beast mode, let’s see what the Celtics do here they have so many options.
Knicks win! What a way to kick off the season, Merry Christmas everybody, thanks for following along.
Post Game Thoughts:
There is certainly no love lost between the Celtics and Knicks and this game will only add to the renewed rivalry between the two teams and cities.
The Knicks showed great defensive intensity and hustle in the first half but seemed to stray back to last season’s defensive effort in the second half, and the Celtics took complete advantage. But, they stepped it up to close the game and the addition of Tyson Chandler was huge as he finished the game with 7 blocks and was a problem for the Celtics all day long on the boards. STAT had an up and down game, but he showed up when it mattered most and made some big plays in the fourth to help the Knicks get the dub. The Knicks backcourt got even thinner today as Iman Shumpert went down with an injury. Toney Douglas had an up and down game and showed defensive intensity but his shot selection was putrid and if it wasn’t for Melo’s fourth quarter dominance, the Knicks may have lost this game because of him. Is there a better closer in the league than Melo? Doesn’t look like it, and he proved once again that he was worth every penny and trade asset. There are only a few players in the league who can score like Melo and when you have him on your squad, no game is out of reach.
The Celtics showed heart and championship effort today and there’s no doubt that they will be one of the top teams in the East. Rajon Rondo was unstoppable, and showcased an improved jumper, and if he can continue to hit those it’s a wrap for the rest of the league. He was easily the best all around player on both ends of the floor, pestering the Knicks guards defensively and getting to the basket with ease. Brandon Bass looks like he will be a huge pickup for the C’s as he showed great toughness inside and a soft touch from the outside. The Celtics will need him to play a huge role for them since they will have to rest Garnett if they intend to make a postseason run. You have to think that this is a different game with Pierce in the lineup, and he must be chomping at the bit to get back out there.
All in all, a tremendous and entertaining way to kick off the ’11-’12 season. Once, again Merry Christmas everybody and thanks again for reading.