Boston picked up tonight's game right where they left off Wednesday night against Charlotte, settling for perimeter jumpers and allowing the opposition to dictate their own action. As a result, the Knicks got off to a hot start, knocking down eight of their first 10 shots to build a rapid 18-6 lead.
The Celtics went on to fight their way back from multiple double-digit deficits and were able to cut the lead to a single possession, but that early hole came back to bite them in the end.
Jeff Green and Tyler Zeller were dynamite for the Celtics tonight, as Green's thunderous 28-point performance was complemented by a cool 19 from Zeller, but a slow start and sloppy play buried our beloved C's once again. Boston was unable to establish a rhythm on the offensive end, save for a small handful of cohesive spurts, and they didn't help the cause by committing 18 turnovers. New York took advantage, converting off of Boston's mistakes and racking up a season high 13 steals.
On the other side of the floor, the Knicks gave Boston an unexpected look milking the pick n' roll game and you can't blame them based on the success they had with it (along with the complete lack of success they had with the force-fed triangle). New York was extremely efficient, shooting above 50% for the better part of the contest, they got virtually anything they wanted out of the pick n' roll and Boston's undisciplined defensive habits were exposed.
Amare Stoudemire was particularly effective diving down the lane and overpowering Boston's bigs, as the somewhat rejuvenated shell of a former superstar continued his string of quality outings, dropping a 20-piece to go along with seven boards. Carmelo Anthony was originally not expected to play in tonight's game due to knee soreness, and he certainly didn't look as spry as usual but still managed to dominate the triple-threat game and lead the Knicks with 22 points.
Another game changing factor was the outstanding performance out of the New York bench. Derek Fisher got quality minutes out of all five subs that he put on the floor, lead by Tim Hardaway Jr.'s 16 points. First-year Knick Jason Smith made a big impact as well, putting pressure on Boston's front line through 17 active minutes that produced 12 points and five boards.
Brad Stevens' bench wasn't at its best tonight, but the guards did a decent job considering the circumstances. Marcus Thornton delivered another solid outing as that jumper's on switch stays on at all times, and Phil Pressey did a nice job of establishing an accelerated pace in the second half.
That Rondo-to-Zeller connection culminated to create some more brilliant lay-down opportunities and the seven-footer continues to make the correct reads to find himself in the right place at the right time. Zeller ate his Wheaties this morning and he's got 19 points and six rebounds to prove it. As the starting five-man in Boston's last eight games, it doesn't look like anyone is taking that job from him any time soon.
Unfortunately, one or two guys filling it up won't get the job done. The Celtics are not on the same page offensively, and that is exactly how they operate. Stagnant. Unsure. Timid. Sloppy. They are consistently inconsistent.
If you ask me, nobody can have as much of a positive impact on the overall offensive fluidity as Rajon Rondo. Sure, he's not necessarily what you would classify as a scorer. He is a pass-first guard, that's who he is and that's who he always will be. That's okay, too. With that said, that doesn't mean Rondo can't score... ever. It's time our new captain puts his head down and starts taking the initiative.
Rondo cannot be at his best as a creator if he plays himself for the pass every time. The more Rondo looks to assert himself, the more it opens up the entire repertoire of what this team is capable of doing on the floor. Rondo is a hell of a player, but he can be better and he has to be for this team to get the most out of what they currently have.
He'll especially have to step up and pick up the slack as the Celtics nurse the health of a large portion of their backcourt rotation. Adding salt to the wound of Avery Bradley's absence, rookie bulldog guard Marcus Smart suffered another setback in tonight's game and is expected to miss some time with what has been diagnosed as a strained Achilles. Get well soon, fellas.
As the Knicks finally snap their 10-game losing streak, Boston has now lost three in a row and have now fallen to 7-14.
Celtic of the Game
28 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 9-20 FG, 4-8 3FG
The Celtics will be back in action on Monday night, where they'll visit the 76ers in Philadelphia at 7:00 pm ET.