The game started with 2 pieces of good news: Big Al Jefferson got his first ever Celtic start tonight(and had a decent night: 12/5). The NBA office overturned the Flagrant 2 foul on Ricky Davis last night and rightly reduced the foul to a flagrant 1 foul and Ricky Davis was in tonight's lineup.
Kurt Thomas started the game strong with 6 points by the 9:25 mark and the worries that the C's were going to once again get worked over in the post started to creep up. This early concern wasn't helped when Blount went down with a poke to the eye which no one during the offensive possession noticed and Paul Pierce felt he had to waste an early foul by wrapping up Crawford, when Crawford pushed the ball right back up the floor and Blount was still curled up holding his eye in the Celtics defensive paint. The right move, out of concern for his teammate at the time, this foul ended up causing problems for PP later on.
Up to this point, little used Kendrick Perkins went into the game for Blount while the Celtics medical staff attended to him. It was a short lived stint at the time, but Perkins got plenty of time later in the game and had a nice showing with a 4 pt, 13 rebound night. (AHEM, with an absent Raef LaFrentz, those rebounds were key).
PP left the game at 8:10 in the 1st with 2 fouls, collecting his second foul on a reach in.
The C's started the game with 4 turnovers in less than 4 minutes played. The Boxing out issues continued to haunt the C's as the Thomas Boys (Kurt and Tim) along with Nazr Mohammed (22/18) worked them over early in the paint on the boards. The Knicks got out to an early 23-12 advantage. A GP to Blount dunk at 3:20 ended a 10-2 Knick run at 26-14.
Brain Fart Moment: Sometimes when we're so consumed with what's going wrong, we lose all track of space and time. At 2:33 former Celtic Vin Baker entered the game and before I could stop myself, I blurted out: "What the hell is Doc putting him in for?". Chalk that one up to a brain fart moment of bad memories at a time when we weren't playing so well.
A Gary Payton drive at 2:10 made the score 30-18 Knicks. Perkins came back into the game and had a nice little jump hook (similar to that of Al J's) with :28 secs left and at the end of 1, the Knicks led: 34-23. The Knicks shot 58% and had 10 assts in the 1st quarter.
Word from the Knick announcers (which thankfully didn't include the awful Walt "Clyde" Frazier, who was out of town on other matters) was that Doc told the C's to pick up the tempo.
The Perk-O-later (now that he's had a decent game, we can commence with a knickname) opened with a nice rebound and score, reducing the Knick lead to 34-25. At 9:13, a Ricky Davis steal and dunk closed the lead to 36-31. Blount then hit one of many 15 fter's tonight at the 8:42 mark and the C's were on a 10-2 run, with the score 36-33. Paul Pierce then hit a fade away jumper to score his first points of the game around the 8:00 mark and make it 36-35.
Allen Houston collected his 3rd foul at the 6:11 mark, which would normally be a note of interest, except that he's missed so much of this early season that the Knicks are used to playing without him. However, the C's floundered during this time and the Knicks went on an 8-0 run and the C's were forced to call a timeout around the 5:19 mark with the Knicks leading 44-38.
The C's started to feed the post (and Al J) more, along with alot of FT's kept the C's in this one early. PP hit a 3 at 3:59 to make it 44-40 and a strip steal by GP, recovery by Waltah and then score by GP made it 44-42.
A nice scoop and finish by PP at 2:30 made the game 47-46, but Crawford responded with one of his 5 3 pters on the night to make it 50-46 Knicks. A GP to Waltah layup with 1:26 left made it 50-48.
NBA Sophomore Mike Sweetney helped to educate Big Al, by overpowering him in the post for a score and FT to make the score 53-48 with 1:10 left. Crawford hit his 4th 3pter of the half and the Knicks enjoyed a 56-48 lead with :50 secs left. Marbury scored, with Waltah answering to leave the score at the half: 58-50.
Half Time Notes: I saw alot of encouraging signs during the second quarter. So much so, that when my wife came back downstairs from being on the phone most of the 2nd quarter and asked for an update, I told her, "we're losing 58-50, but we're going to win the game".
After another 15 fter opened the 2nd half, the announcers mentioned that Mark Blount was the Celtics leading scorer, which prompted an immediate thought of "God Help Us All". I would later come to regret that thought.
Nazr Mohammed had a 3 pt play at 8:42 to make the Knicks lead 65-48. After some random scrappiness by the C's, Kurt Thomas followed with a 3 pt play of his own and the Knick lead was 68-58 at the 8:25 mark. Big Al hit a Blount-like 15 fter to make the score 68-60 around the 8:15 mark. The Knicks announcers then added: "The not-so-objective Tommy Heinsohn (LMAO)mentioned before the game that he thought Al Jefferson will be a very good player".
Kurt Thomas collected his 4th foul at the 7:10 mark, but remained in the game. Blount went on a mini run with 4 straight points and forced a Knick timeout, with a diminished lead of 70-64. GP had a nice bout of good hustle to help the C's reduce the lead and at the 4:10 mark, PP had a 3 pt play to make the Knicks lead 74-72. He then followed that up with a steal and score to tie the game at 74 ALL, an 8-0 Celtic run.
As has been the case of late, the Knicks came out of the timeout and scored 4 quick points. Blount answered with another mid-range jumper to stem the tide at 78-76 with 2:16 left in the 3rd. Blount then handed off the ball to a baseline cutting GP, who finished with a reverse layup to again tie the game, this time at 78 ALL.
Crawford then broke the tie with what was thankfully his 5th and last 3pter of the game, making it 81-78 Knicks.
Now comes when the Celtic Nation faithful's faith was tested: On a break away opportunity, RD blew a dunk, potentially going a little more sensational than he needed to. Crawford then scored and instead of the C's being down by 3, they are down by 5 (83-78)with :50 secs left in the 3rd. Doc called a timeout, obviously not happy with the development. PP came out of the timeout with a nice drive and score which made it 83-80. The 3rd quarter ended with the Knicks still leading 84-80.
Waltah opened up with a 3pter, then a steal and dish to RD and the Celtics had thier first lead of the game at the 11:28 mark of the 4th: 85-84. A nice drive by Marcus Banks (who coincidentally travelled on the play, but wasn't caught) made it 87-84 and at the 10:00 mark, the C's were on a 7-0 run.
We return to whether the faithful remained faithful: Kendrick Perkins was called for a Goal-Tending call. The Knicks announcers then chastized Ricky Davis for giving Perkins "5" after the play. Easy call for the uneducated to jump on the easy "let's bash RD" bandwagon, after he had blown a dunk which brought back issues of his past (Not that Kobe, TMac or Francis ever blow dunks (rolleyes), but let's get back to the point). For those in the know, Davis was making it clear to Perkins that being aggressive was a good thing, because that's what Perkins needs reinforced. Perkins showed on many occasions tonight that confidence is one of his underlying issues (Example: he pulled out on a 1-on-1 opportunity in the post, but yet shot a 15 fter with a step in between him and his man. He needs to learn that he's got the bigger body than most and hopefully Russell, Cowens, Parish, Walton or some other Former Great Celtics Big Man will spend some time in practice reinforcing that to him).
Anyways, Banks drove and scored to make it 89-86 and RD went right back to "being RD" when he beat Allen Houston to the hole and put down a memorable dunk to make it 91-87. (I'm not sure he should have posed afterwards, but I'm glad he didn't let the miss affect him). PP then added to it with a big 3pter, at the 7:00 mark and the Celtics were on a 14-3 run and the lead was a glorious 94-87. A possession later, Banks to PP on a no look for a dunk and it's 98-87. Waltah then hit a 3pter Banks followed with his own and it's 104-93 with 3:55 left.
Paul Pierce then went to the line and uncharacteristically missed 2 FT's in a row (I mention this now, because it's important for later). Tim Thomas hit a 3 pter to make it 106-100 at 1:49 but Blount responded with another 15 ft jumper, which was then countered by a Kurt Thomas tip in, countered by another Blount score, which was then countered by a Crawford jumper, which left the score 110-106 with :28 secs left. (are you following all this? ;-) )
Paul Pierce then went to the line and hit 2 FT's (redemption!) with 12.3 secs left after the Knicks were confoundingly (at least to probably Knick fans) slow to foul. Tim Thomas then hit a very tough 3pter. Banks was immediately fouled on the in-bounds, but hit both FT's and the score lay 114-109 with 7.8 secs left. Marbury then shot an air ball and the C's milked the clock out for a 114-109 Win.
Player of the Game: Mark Blount
Blount got out of his funk with a 22 pt, 6 rbs performance. The rebounds weren't where the Celtic Nation would like them, but his hard work in this game can't be denied, even if it was undeniably ugly at times.
Honorable Mention(s): Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins
Pierce gets his for recovering from early foul trouble (see earlier note about Blount incident) to have a 21/5 game. The Perk-O-Later gets his, because he pulled down a career high 13 rebounds(4 pts) in a game in which he played far more than just "garbage time". With Raef out, those boards proved big.