Coming into today's game, the New York Knicks had not won in Boston vs. the Celtics in over five years. As New York has struggled to find the right formula for success over the years, Boston has risen to the top of contention behind strong efforts from their "Big Three."
However, the Knicks brought some momentum with them into the matinee matchup in Boston, having posted a 10-3 record since LINsanity struck.
Because they've put together quite the recipe for racking up the wins as of late, New York was expected to compete at a high enough level against the proven Celtics.
And that they did. The Knicks not only hung around all game long, but also carried a lead into the second half, as well as the final seconds of the game. As much as the Knicks tried to pull away, however, Boston proved you can never count a past champion down and out for good.
The Celtics clearly had a game plan going into this one, and executed it beautifully. Much of the Knicks' continuing momentum is due to the emergence of Lin, and the Celtics did their part to not only fluster him, but take him out of the game early. They trapped the Harvard graduate on offense, preventing him from driving to the hoop or finding the open man. What's more, Boston players went right at him on the defensive end as well, driving to the hoop to drive fouls. Lin had two fouls early in the first and was forced to sit.
Lin's effectiveness was taken out of the game, if not only by him not being on the floor physically, then instead by Boston's ability to intercept his attempts to get his teammates involved.
The turnovers mounted all game long, with Lin and Baron Davis combining for 12 out of the Knicks' 22 total. At the same time, while Lin's game was thrown off, Davis led his team with 7 assists. Furthermore, he and his fellow mates from the second unit kept the Knicks afloat with the starters struggling.
Iman Shumpert and Steve Novak both added 14 off the bench, but it was ultimately Carmelo Anthony who helped his team command a 103-100 lead in the final seconds. But Anthony's contributions (he finished with 25 points and 7 rebounds) weren't enough to overcome the massive heroics of Paul Pierce.
Pierce, who has tormented the Knicks for years with his solid play, finished with 34 points and hit an off-balance bomb from long range that tied the game at 103 and sent the game into overtime. From there, the wind was quickly ripped away from the Knicks' sails, and the Celtics secured a 115-111 victory.
As heroic as Pierce may have been for the Celtics, nothing and no one could have overshadowed Rajon Rondo, who has been the subject of recent trade rumors. The point guard propelled his team to victory by posting quite the historic performance. The all-star not only scored 18 points, but dished out 20 assists while grabbing 17 rebounds. He became only the third player ever in NBA history (joining Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson) to record 15-20-15.
The Knicks fell to a veteran squad, but did stay competitive throughout despite not being led by Jeremy Lin. There were positives to this game. Obviously being able to overcome an uneventful game by Lin is one of them, but it's also good the bench keeps producing as it has. Should the Knicks be able to go back to the drawing board in practice and work on limiting the turnovers, a solid road trip against contending teams should be in store this week.
The players can only do so much, because it's up to Coach Mike D'Antoni to figure out the most effective rotation for the full 48 minutes of a ballgame. Switching out the first and second units (rather than mix and match the players to find more balanced lineups) may not ultimately be the best option.
Amar'e Stoudemire also included 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Knicks, who will take on the Mavericks Tuesday in Dallas as they continue their road trip.