NEW YORK – On a day of celebration and relaxation, the win didn’t come easy for the Celtics.
They survived a furious attack from Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and the New York Knicks to win their Christmas matinee 119-114.
Isaiah Thomas was the Celtics’ high scorer per usual with 27 points (9 for 23 FG, 3 for 13 3FG), while Marcus Smart had a game-high seven assists. The Celtics were in control for most of the second half, until the Unicorn emerged, stampeding horn-first.
Kristaps Porzingis kept laying in the wait, finally striking in crunch time with a series of coast-to-coast plays to catalyze the Knicks’ dormant offense. His ability to create fast breaks is unfathomable for a man of his stature. Once he is on the break, he cannot be stopped.
His steals in the fourth quarter helped the Knicks chip away at a consistent Celtics lead, before a breakdown icing a sideline screen let Carmelo Anthony get an easy layup equalizer with 1:06 left.
The Celtics responded with an optimal sequence, taking their time to manufacture a good look. Isaiah ran into trouble on an iso drive and bailed out to Horford. Al worked a spin move around his defender and drove across the lane. When the defense collapsed, he threw it to Smart, who drilled an open weak-side elbow three.
The Celtics got a stop on the next possession, but gave up the offensive rebound. When Melo got the ball in the corner with half a minute left, Avery Bradley picked his pocket to take control of the game.
Isaiah Thomas missed a few vital free throws in the final minute, but Al Horford’s block on Porzingis on their penultimate possession sealed the game. Horford had his fun with Porzingis on Christmas, opening up a poster on the Demigod earlier in the game.
Al Horford dunks on the unicorn https://t.co/0t0Q7cQNfW— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) December 25, 2016
It was one of the most well-rounded efforts of the year for Boston, with eight players scoring at least eight points. But when it came down to crunch time, it was Isaiah Thomas who did the scoring.
Jae Crowder went on a 9-0 run in the second quarter to take control of the game. He hit three threes in a row, punctuated by an impressive flair corner three that put his great footwork to the test. Derrick Rose broke up the run with a flurry of vintage Rose drives, putting an end to an 18-2 Celtics run.
The Celtics’ big run in the second quarter came out of the post, but it was actually Marcus Smart orchestrating from the block. The Celtics would clear space for Smart to post up Rose on the weak side and get the ball to him. The Knicks defended these plays facing the basket and giving the Celtics freedom to operate on the perimeter. It got Crowder four three-point looks, with only the most open one clanking wide.
In the second quarter, Jaylen Brown took a mediocre shot in transition where he could’ve gone all the way to the rim, but instead he threw down a few crossovers and went into a clearly telegraphed pull-up from the free throw line. The shot went out, and so did he when he got pulled for Gerald Green after six minutes. Gerald helped kickstart a nice run, while Jaylen was never seen again.
Carmelo put on a show in the third quarter, scoring by pulling out every weapon in his arsenal. Ironically, his best drive at around the 1:30 mark ended up with an open layup, and he missed it. It was a furious drive, and he was going too fast to control himself. He made the crucial layup to tie it with a minute left in the game, but he struggled to find actual baskets against the Celtics.