The Boston Celtics ended their two-game losing streak and defeated the New York Knicks, 90-86. For the Celtics, Jared Sullinger dominated on the post with 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting, and Courtney Lee came off the bench and scored 18 points. Carmelo Anthony, as usual, led the way for the Knicks, with 26 points.
Courtney Lee helped the Celtics to a 29-26 first quarter lead with 8 points on 3-of-3 shooting. From the 3:03 mark of the first to the 5:16 mark of the second, the Celtics' bench outscored the Knicks 30-to-11, and led 49-33 when they exited the game. However, with both starting units back on the floor, the Knicks exploded for a 15-to-5 run thanks to 9 points from a red-hot Carmelo Anthony. Boston led 54-48 at halftime.
Unfortunately for the Celtics, the Knicks outscored them 25-14 in the third quarter. Anthony and Bargnani continued their hot play, as they grabbed a lead and extended it. Trailing 11 points with 10 minutes to go in the game, the Celtics went on a 10-to-0 run because of the efforts of Phil Pressey, Vitor Faverani, and Avery Bradley. But it wasn't until there was less than three minutes left in the game when the Celtics finally grabbed back the lead, after Bradley hit a clutch three-pointer from the right corner. Up by only two, Boston stepped up their defensive effort, suffocating every Knick attack. With about one minute remaining, Boston made it a priority to attack the basket, where they found much success with a Vitor Faverani layup, and a Jeff Green and-one bank shot.
Lee and the bench lead the way
Shooting guard Courtney Lee scored 18 of the bench's 38 points in one of their most impressive nights of the season. Lee played like a superstar, scoring all of his points on 6-of-8 shooting. Vitor Faverani also played huge minutes down the stretch, sinking a clutch layup with less than two minutes to go. The rookie center totaled 7 points and 4 rebounds in only 13 minutes. And you can't forget Gerald Wallace, who also played a strong game, with the highlight being a monster slam in the second half. Wallace might get criticized for some of the things he says to the media, but his 7 points and 6 rebounds kept the Celtics competitive throughout stretches of tonight's game.
Celtics' starters struggled early
The Knicks' starting unit played inspired basketball after the Celtics' 41-point shellacking on Sunday. Carmelo Anthony and Andrea Bargnani combined for 48 points, and at times appeared to be unstoppable in the pick-and-pop. Jeff Green did a solid job defending Melo in the second half, but when Brandon Bass was matched up, Melo was unstoppable. The statistics don't pop off the page for point guard Pablo Prigioni, but he also played a terrific game for the Knicks, with 5 points and 8 assists.
But it wasn't just the defense. For the first three quarters of the game, Boston's starters (besides Sullinger) were out-of-sync, shooting 8-of-26 from the field. For whatever reason, nothing was working for the Celtics. Shots weren't falling, and Jordan Crawford played one of his worst games of the season, which hurt their flow in half court sets.
Bradley sparks the starters late
However, the story changed late in the fourth quarter, when Avery Bradley ignited the fire necessary for a Celtics win. Bradley began to disturb the Knicks' ball handlers with his "pitbull" defense and translated it into offense on the other end. In the fourth quarter alone, Bradley scored 7 points, hitting two clutch three-pointers. It's games like tonight that make you wonder what kind of money he could make in restricted free agency this coming offseason. As incredible as he is defensively, his contributions on offense tend to come in big moments, which should only raise his value.
Who cut the Steez?
Jordan Crawford played absolutely terribly tonight, with only 2 points on 0-of-8 shooting. Steez may have had 6 assists and only 2 turnovers, but he ruined the flow of the offense countless times tonight, either by walking the ball up the court, taking contested jumpers, or by forcing passes. For all the talk and hype about Crawford being a potential longterm asset, tonight's game makes you think twice about that.
Olynyk makes his return
It was nice to see rookie big man Kelly Olynyk back playing tonight after missing the past 10 games with a sprained ankle. (He was also dealing with plantar fasciitis in his foot, as well as a hamstring injury.) KO came off the bench and scored 4 points in 14 minutes. At times he appeared to play extremely tentatively, but that was also the case before these injuries. Once Kris Humphries returns from his knee injury, it will be interesting to see if he or Olynyk receive the limited amount of minutes available.
Boston will continue their five-game home stand next week with games against Minnesota on Monday, Detroit on Wednesday, and Washington on Saturday. The Celtics will look to avenge their early-season losses to the Timberwolves and Pistons, and they'll get their first shot against the Wizards.