|Carmelo Anthony, SF 40 MIN | 11-24 FG | 10-11 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 34 PTS | +22
Had a classic “Look a little closer” first half, shooting 3 for 11 and displaying a frustrating willingness to settle for long two but going 8 for 9 from the line, committing just one turnover, and drawing a whopping six fouls, including two on Kevin Garnett that would pay dividends throughout the evening. Melo’s second half approach was the same, he was simply hotter (8 for 13 for 19 points). His FG% so far this series isn’t pretty (he’s 24 for 53) but he has 70 points on 53 shots (owing to 6/10 from deep and 16/17 from the line) and has committed only 4 turnovers. And he played a role in an immense second half performance on the defensive end. Has managed to be very good in this series without the benefit of the Melosplosion that we all know is coming before this postseason is out. Bravo.
|Iman Shumpert, SF 18 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +24
Quick fouls cost him most of the first half and limited to 18 minutes on the night. That turned out to be enough. His half-dozen points came on two quick corner threes out of the break that erased a 6-point Celtic advantage and the intensity of the Knicks’ perimeter defense — a misnomer in a Shumpless second quarter — hit historically relevant highs upon his return to the court. The Knicks were plus-24 in Shumpert’s 18 minutes. This was not a coincidence.
|Tyson Chandler, C 22 MIN | 1-4 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 3 PTS | +21
Has played 1 great minute (Dunk-and-1 and a block at the other end during a 20-second stretch of the third) and 41 crappy ones in this series. Looked like he was moving a bit better tonight but signs of his limitations still abounded (clearest example: took a great feed from Felton and instead of up-faking Garnett to clear himself for an emphatic dunk, he flipped up an awkward layup that the Ticket Stub [see what I did there?] dismissed rather easily).
|Raymond Felton, PG 37 MIN | 8-15 FG | 0-2 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +22
If you had told me in November that the Knicks would play the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs and that the deciding factor of the series would be one team’s utter domination of the other at the point guard position, I’ve gotta be honest with you, I might’ve stopped watching right there and taken up knitting or basket-weaving or origami or…ugh…maybe even hockey. And, yet, as the desperately Rondoless Celtics try a succession of underwhelming unpoints at the helm of a heretofore listless offense, Raymond Felton has flourished. His assist total (2) was a bit misleading this evening, collateral damage to Chandler’s physical limitations and the resultingly spare pick-and-roll game. Felton forced the issue in transition and the halfcourt alike, played his part in the Thing 1/Thing 2 offense alongside Prigioni and Kidd alike, and – more than anyone else – controlled the game during the Knicks utterly bonkers third quarter. Defensively, his value is amplified by the Celtics unusual personnel; his typical shortcomings as an on-ball defender against quick point guards are moot, his bulldogging has bothered Celtics from Avery Bradley to Paul Pierce, and his freedom to stray has allowed him to create turnovers and points in transition. This grade is admittedly as much about his Game 1 performance as his showing tonight but I make no apology for that; playoff series are like good sci-fi movies: the rules are established early on and only acts of heroism, divine intervention, or wholesale tears in logical fabric should be able to break them. Felton has helped establish the rules of this series; the onus is on Boston to rewrite them.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 18 MIN | 0-1 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 1 PTS | +7
I simply refuse to believe that he’s 100%. As ever, the Knicks were a far better offensive team tonight when they had a pair of point guards on the court together. The fact that Prigs only got 18 minutes under such circumstances — and was strikingly absent throughout most of a pitiful second quarter — is an indication that Woody wasn’t ready to give him too much burn just yet. Made good use of his minutes though; he and Shumpert were in many ways the first two ripples in what ultimately became a decisive third quarter tidal wave. Or something like that — I don’t really know tides.
|Kenyon Martin, PF 23 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 11 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 4 BLK | 3 TO | 3 PTS | -6
I don’t know how. I don’t know why. I don’t care how. I don’t care why. I just watch, and I smile, and I can’t wait for more.
|Chris Copeland, SF 9 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0
On a scoreless night in a game replete withe commercials for the upcoming movie version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, it occurred to me that Copeland is the Nick Carraway to JR Smith’s Gatsby. I have nothing else to contribute herein.
|Steve Novak, SF 10 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -14
Buzz, your girlfriend, Woof!
|Quentin Richardson, SF 3 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +2
Instead of a jersey he should wear a Double Claro wrapper. And when Woodson puts him into the game, he should light his hair on fire.
|James White, SG 3 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +2
An airline pilot saves almost all his passengers on his malfunctioning airliner which eventually crashed, but an investigation into the accident reveals something troubling. Starring Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, John Goodman, and Nadine Velasquez. 2.5/4 Stars.
|J.R. Smith, SG 36 MIN | 7-15 FG | 3-4 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 19 PTS | +2
An electrifying 4 for 4 first quarter culminated in a no-doubter 39-footer that put the Knicks up 6 at the gun. Unfortunately, he took this as a sign that we should run the JR Stepback Offense and put up a particularly unenjoyable 1 for 5 second before settling for a more measured second half approach. Not his best work and not his worst. Game could’ve gone south if he hadn’t staked them to their first quarter advantage which is the primary reason for his better than average grade.
Two straight games the group has looked lackluster out of the gate and two straight games they’ve leveled and then pulled away behind dominant second-half efforts. The first two games of this series represent the two lowest second half scoring outputs in Celtics playoff history; they’ve scored 48 points total in 4 second-half quarters. Plenty of credit to the coach for that one. And yet, it’s hard to shake the feeling that a slow start in Boston won’t be as easily overcome, hard to wonder why they go away from their wildly effective base offensive look for long stretches. It’s an A — it almost has to be — but it doesn’t come without a measure of concern that won’t be allayed until the Knicks put their mark on a first half.
Four Things We Saw
- There are moments in the life of a franchise that mean something. After an extended drought, we’ve been lucky enough to have many of these in the last few years. A 5-point win in Miami in the early days after the Melo trade meant purpose. A disallowed three at the end of a playoff game meant pain, but the kind of pain that only comes with belief. A roller-coaster February behind an out-of-nowhere young point guard meant insanity. An overtime win against Chicago at the Garden meant excitement. A sweep-stopping win behind a singular performance by our franchise player meant possibility. A win in Boston in the aftermath of an insult meant defiance, meant difference, meant change. A win in Game 1 of a playoff series meant joy, meant exorcism.
- So what does this one mean? This one that fell flat for a half and was unwatchable for a quarter at the end? This one that was decided by 12 great minutes and forgettable for its other 36? It wasn’t about excitement, it wasn’t about joy, it wasn’t about dominance. It wasn’t even really about hope.
- It was about basketball. It was 48 minutes of “We’re up 1-0 at home against a proud opponent, we need to get Game 2 to hold serve at home and it doesn’t matter how.” What was this game about? It was about the fact that it wasn’t about anything bigger, about the fact that we’re past that, about the fact that we are the second-seeded team in our conference and – from coach to star to role players to fans – have begun to carry ourselves in a manner befitting that seed.
- What was tonight about? Tonight was just about tonight. And that it was able to just be about tonight makes it about more than any of the other milestones along the way.