For the first time since 2006, the Knicks came away victorious in Boston on Thursday night.
While such a win puts an end to such a frustrating and traumatizing losing streak, perhaps it also symbolizes why this a season is one more different than any other in recent years for the Knicks.
Clearly an NBA powerhouse over the past few seasons, the Celtics have always seemed to have New York's number. Even in a season full of struggles, a player like Kevin Garnett and his team (as dirty as it may have been) knew exactly how to get into Carmelo Anthony's head earlier this month. Losing his cool, and letting his frustrated mentality trickle down to the rest of the team, may have in fact contributed mightily to the Knicks' losing effort that night.
Frankly, Anthony shouldn't be chastised for losing his cool in an earlier January game. What matters most is his ability to bounce back, and to put everything else behind him when the season's biggest games are on the line come playoff time.
With all eyes of Anthony and Garnett on Thursday night, such a contest certainly seemed to have a playoff atmosphere to it.
The game went back and forth as the teams traded leads all night, and the Knicks looked quite similar to the way they've had in losing efforts to teams they should be beating, much like the Nets in this past Monday's matchup. Sometimes New York has been known to stagnantly hang around throughout the game, only to let a win slip away from them in the contest's final minutes.
Though they hung around with a similar way with the Celtics throughout the game on Thursday, there was no letting a win evade them that evening. Though he struggled all game, J.R. Smith came up in the clutch to not only come up with a key defensive stop, but also sink a three-point field goal that ultimately sunk Boston's hopes of stealing a victory from the Knicks.
In a game where Smith and even Anthony struggled to find a steady rhythm from the field, it was the team's ability to adjust that kept them in the game throughout. Coach Woodson's call to switch up to a zone defense may not have been the prettiest thing in the world, but it was undoubtedly the right call when it came to making the Celtics think twice. Boston couldn't get into a rhythm once again following the Knicks' change-up.
A key cog in that ever so efficiently changing defensive engine on Thursday evening was Amar'e Stoudemire. Since his return to the court, Stoudemire has emerged as a backup five whenever Woodson opts to rest Tyson Chandler. STAT's not exactly a defensive juggernaut, but there's no doubt he was able to hold his own in the zone.
On a night where nearly everyone else seemed to struggle at one point or another, Stoudemire was spot on all game long. Whether it be solely because he's continuously featured as a top offensive option off the bench as of late, STAT is certainly beginning to regain some of his offensive prowess. His jump-shot may not be all there yet, but his aggressiveness has returned for sure.
The physicality he's displayed in the last couple of games has helped him gain an extra step on opposing defenses when charging to the hoop. In just 20 minutes of play, Stoudemire came up in the clutch and had arguably his best game since returning. He tallied 15 points, 9 rebounds (up from his Knickerbocker average of past years), and swatted 2 blocked shots. His impact was felt, as evidenced in his team-high +11 for the contest.
As Stoudemire looks to continue thriving, here's to hoping the Knicks do as well. The most recent win in Boston only further asserts that New York is a team that won't be pushed around, because they have a group who doesn't let up in crunch time.