NBA Playoffs: Knicks scrap by Celtics in Game 1

Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks slid by the Celtics in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first round series Saturday at Madison Square Garden. (Getty Images)
Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks slid by the Celtics in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first round series Saturday at Madison Square Garden. (Getty Images)

The Knicks struck first in what should be a long and drawn out first-round matchup with the Boston Celtics, as they held on for an 85-78 win Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

Led by Carmelo Anthony’s game-high 36 points, the second-seeded Knicks showed the seventh-seeded Celtics that things won’t be as easy as they were the last time these long-time rivals met in the 2011 playoffs.

Anthony didn’t start off shooting particularly well (9-of-24), but he got hot late and finished 13-of-29 from the field, and was effective enough down the stretch on both ends of the floor, including a key steal in the final two minutes that led to a bucket. He finished with a game-high four steals, and was aided by J.R. Smith’s 15 points and five rebounds, as the Knicks managed to escape. Smith, who has masterfully played the part of Anthony’s sidekick all season, also executed solid defense down the stretch to spark the Knicks, including a couple of steals late as the Celtics were clawing back into the game.

Anthony certainly appreciated the effort of his team, acknowledging how big it was to strike first.

“This was a big game for us to get, [because] it was on our home court,” Anthony said, already trying to temper the frantic expectations of the rabid faithful. “We didn’t do nothing except protect our home court. We have to do the same thing in Game 2.”

Jason Kidd (eight points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals) played big down the stretch. He didn’t make anyone harken back to his MVP-type seasons during his New Jersey Nets days, but what Kidd did was leave an imprint on the game like only he can at this stage of his career. The 40-year-old guard had a key steal and a big rebound down the stretch, including one theft that set up a clutch 18-foot jumper from Anthony to extend the lead to five with barely 90 seconds remaining.

Head coach Mike Woodson was impressed with the way Kidd made an impact in crunch-time.

“Jason has been doing this all season,” Woodson said. “Loose balls, strips, keeping balls alive. He just always seems to be in the right place at the right time.”

Even Celtics’ head coach Doc Rivers was impressed with Kidd’s imprint.

“He beats everyone with his brain,” Rivers said.

Anthony not only beat the Celtics with his basketball IQ, but like Kidd, he also managed to be in the right place at the right time late in the game when he had a sweet assist to Kenyon Martin for the easy layup. It pushed the lead back up to seven with 41 seconds remaining, essentially salting away the game. It was Martin who gave the Knicks the best chance to win down the stretch with his energy and ability to cash in around the rim against the vaunted defense.

Tyson Chandler’s minutes (20 total) suffered as a result of Martin’s presence, but Woodson said to not read too much into things going forward, as he was merely going with the hot hand.

“Tyson just didn’t have it tonight [and] that’s no knock on him,” Woodson insisted. “He gave us what he had and I just elected to go with Kenyon.”

For his part, Chandler downplayed his uneven performance, and said he “felt great” after the game. The veteran pivot said if anything his conditioning isn’t peak yet, but his malaise had nothing to do with the bulging disk in his neck.

Regardless, a win’s a win and the Knicks will take it, especially since they outperformed the Celtics on the defensive end — something Rivers and Co. typically take great pride in doing themselves. The Knicks as a whole played outstanding defense, even without the reigning Defensive Player of the Year at his peak playing performance yet. Their collective effort was felt particularly in the fourth quarter, as they limited the Celtics to just eight points. Boston only mustered a .415 percent shooting from the field for the game.

The Celtics were led by Jeff Green, who surprisingly led the Celtics with 26 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Green sparked the Celtics from the opening tip, as he notched 20 points and two blocks in the first half.

Paul Pierce, usually the Celtics’ go-to guy, added 21 points on 6-of-15 shooting, as he started the game more as a facilitator — something Celtics’ fans have grown used to seeing without the presence of a true point guard. Pierce, who’s known more for his scoring than dishing, started off by trying to get others involved with six of his team-high seven assists coming in the first half. Avery Bradley added 15 points and three steals in a losing effort.

Things started off very well for Boston as it led 29-26 after one and 53-49 at the half. This was the type of game the Celtics wanted to play because the tempo was slower paced and the buckets hard to come by. Neither team was truly able to form any kind of offensive flow, as the Knicks’ offense was also stymied for most of the game (.405 percent from the field). New York only had two starters score in double figures (Raymond Felton had 13 points), making this defensive-struggle of a win all the more refreshing and confidence boosting for the Knicks.

What they’ll be saying: The Celtics need to grab one of the first two games at Madison Square Garden to have a legit shot at winning this first round series, and in the first half it looked as they would accomplish their goal right out of the gate. But the C’s scored just eight fourth quarter points and looked like the tired group they were for much of the last month of the regular season.

The Celtics got just four points off the bench and Jason Terry was particularly brutal as he did not score in 20 minutes of play. Terry jacked up several shots that could have turned the Celtics fortunes but finished 0-for-4 from 3-point land. – Matt Burke



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Pennsylvania police shooter manhunt near home of suspect's…

A police manhunt intensified on Friday for the gunman who killed an officer and wounded another in an ambush at a Pennsylvania police barracks a week ago.

Local

MAP: New York City street closures, September 19,…

The Department of Transportation and NYPD said there may be residual delays near all of the street closures on September 19, 20 and 21. There will be many streets and…

Local

MTA announces service changes for Sunday

The MTA has announced service changes ahead of Sunday's People's Climate March, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Riders using…

Local

NYPD launches Twitter account for L train

The NYPD recently launched a Twitter handle dedicated to the L train and its riders. According to @NYPDLtrain, officers went underground Thursday morning to hand…

Movies

Kevin Smith makes peace with the Internet

I was thinking about Ain't It Cool News and Harry Knowles last night, wondering if anyone from Ain't It Cool had reviewed my new movie…

Movies

Art imitates life in 'Swim Little Fish Swim'

There's a certain comfort to be taken in finding that young artists are still moving to New York and trying to make it — and…

Movies

Review: Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' is better…

Terry Gilliam's latest, "The Zero Theorem," concerns a reclusive malcontent (Christoph Waltz) struggling with the search for the meaning of life.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and a being called Emily get…

Esperanza Spalding is about to spiral off in a brand new direction that may or may include an alter ego named Emily.

NFL

Oday Aboushi ready for increased role, and to…

Oday Aboushi might feel comfortable enough to engage in some trash talk the next time he is on the field.

NFL

Giants vs. Texans: 3 things to watch

The Giants host the surprising Texans (2-0) in what may already be a must-win game for Big Blue.

NFL

Eric Decker misses practice again, could miss Monday

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker missed practice Thursday as he continues to rehab a hamstring injury suffered last Sunday.

MLB

Derek Jeter still focused on baseball as final…

Derek Jeter has effectively hid his emotions for 20 years in the Bronx.

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.

Style

3 things we love from Day 1 of…

The highlights from Day 1 of Milan Fashion Week.

Sex

Why don't more couples use condoms?

  Call it the “condom moment.” That’s the name the authors of a new study have given to the pivotal conversation every couple should be…

Sex

Need an idea for a first date? Here's…

Picture your idea of a nice first date. Is it dinner and a movie? A visit to an interesting museum exhibit? Instead, an expert on…