The undermanned Knicks went to Boston and took care of business with a 100-85 win, and not only gave the Celtics their fifth-straight defeat, but also all but ended the Celtics’ dreams of catching their rivals for the Atlantic Division crown.
New York (43-26) now has a 7 1/2-game lead over Boston (36-34), while also bumping up their lead over the idle Nets to 2 1/2 games.
J.R. Smith led all scorers with 32 points, including 21 in the first half, as he tormented the Celtics with a very efficient performance off the bench, shooting 13-of-24. Smith also added seven rebounds (four offensive) and three steals. Carmelo Anthony actually played the rare role of sidekick, as he added 29 points. Anthony also grabbed eight rebounds and had three steals.
The Knicks didn’t have the services of Tyson Chandler, but his pivot position was ably filled by Kenyon Martin, who added nine points and five rebounds. Martin’s impact was even bigger in other areas that won’t be noticed by the casual fan, as he was a true enforcer of the paint for a small Knicks lineup that actually led the Celtics with points in the paint in the first half (32-22) to set the tone. Martin’s four offensive rebounds also greatly contributed to the Knicks’ 27-4 advantage in second-chance points through three quarters when the game was still in doubt.
What we learned ...
1. Start fast. The Knicks did what every team needs to do when entering the hostile environment of the Boston Garden, and that’s set the tone. The Knicks did just that as they led 58-44 at the half. Their opening-half highlights included a plus-19 in second-chance points; a plus-10 advantage in points off turnovers; a plus-7 advantage in fastbreak points; a 30-20 scoring advantage in the second quarter; and a momentum-killing 14-0 run in the middle of the second quarter.
2. No Chandler, no problem. Chandler missed yet another game with a bulging disk in his neck, despite being upgraded to questionable following Monday’s practice. Chandler wasn’t missed at all, as the Knicks actually outrebounded the Celtics, 41-40. It helped that Boston was without their best big man, Kevin Garnett (foot), but the Celtics players who actually got in the game had very little impact in the paint.
3. Forty is just a number. Jason Kidd turned 40 years old last week, but he was as effective Tuesday night as he’s been all season. Kidd did a little bit of everything, as he tallied five points, six rebounds and one steal in 23 minutes off the bench. Kidd also did the intangibles that won’t show up in the box score as he drew multiple charges on the Celtics, while stifling Boston’s sparkplug of a shooting guard, Avery Bradley, who only registered six points on 3-of-11 shooting.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.