The New York Knicks always want to make sure they get the ball into Carmello Anthony’s hands.
Tonight it cost them a win.
Anthony went 6 for 26 and guard J. R. Smith lofted up 18 shots of his own, making just 7 while the Boston Celtics featured a more balanced approach, knotting their season record at 17-17 in taking a 102-96 road win.
Smith’s 24 points led all scorers and Tyson Chandler’s 17 rebounds was easily a game high. Amare Stoudemire equaled Chandler’s point production of 13 but New York still dropped to 23-11. Why? Anthony’s stat line of 20 points, 3 boards and 5 helpers looks solid until you see that he missed twenty shots – and that, besides Smith, no other Knick got more than six shots.
Conversely, Boston played a more team-oriented game.
Paul Pierce poured in 23 and served 6 dimes leading a balanced Boston scoring attack. Kevin Garnett turned in another solid game, scoring 19 and hauling down 10 rebounds and Avery Bradley broke through for double digits for the first time this season as the Celtics won their third straight.
Key reserve Jeff Green scored 16 and pulled down 6 boards, while rookie Jared Sullinger continued to impress with 10 and 5 off the bench. Bradley’s 13 points gave the Celtics the kind of production they need from the shooting guard spot, along with his smothering defense.
The Celtics were without point Guard Rajon Rondo, whom the league suspended late in the afternoon for making contact with a referee in their win at Atlanta – and the Celtics responded with the total team effort.
Typically, Anthony’s frustrations with his shooting woes affected his temper, showing poor judgement not only in his shot selection, but also for trying to mix it up with the excitable Kevin Garnett in the 4th quarter, the ensuing schoolyard argument earning each player a technical foul – then Anthony tried for a second “T” by taking swipes at the ball in Garnett’s hand during dead ball time.
In the end, getting under Garnett’s skin was the most successful thing Anthony accomplished all night.
Spike Lee got into the act from his customary courtside seat, going all Richard Sherman on Pierce as the Celtics’ captain tried to inbound the ball in his voice range shortly after. Pierce didn’t waste the opportunity to give the business back to Lee and the Madison Square Garden crowd, blowing kisses at the crowd after nailing a tough jumper for the dagger that put the home team away.
Needless to say, their next meeting should be entertaining.
New York came into the contest with a seven game bulge over the visiting Celtics, who have won the past five consecutive Atlantic Division titles – something that the Knicks havn’t won in two decades. The loss sliced their lead over the idle Brooklyn Nets -also winners of 3 straight - to just 4 games, 6 over Boston.
The Celtics now return to Boston to host the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday before hosting the Houston Rockets on Friday. The Knicks visit Indiana on Thursday and return home to host the Bulls on Friday.
With the win, the Celtics cut into New York’s Atlantic Division lead, climbed to .500, extended their winning streak to three and sent a very clear message to the Knicks – all on the same night.
“Our goal is bigger and so are the Knicks’, I’m sure, but maybe that’s part of their goal and that’s their first step,” coach Doc Rivers said of the division title. “But our goal is always bigger than that.”
The message? You’re not taking our Division Title without a fight.