The Knicks may be shorthanded, but they’re definitely not crippled, thanks to a star turn from Carmelo Anthony and a bench that mauled the Celtics in a 118-110 win.
Despite being without the services of Amar’e Stoudemire (back) and Jeremy Lin (knee), the Knicks (32-29) used torrid shooting from their reserves, led by 25 points apiece from J.R. Smith and Steve Novak, to win the game. Carmelo Anthony anchored the starters again, as he produced his finest all-around game as a Knick with just his second-career triple-double. Anthony, who has thrived in his newfound leadership position, had 35 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists -- all were team highs.
The Celtics trailed for most of the game, but made mini runs in the third and fourth quarters to whittle down a 21-point deficit to as low as six in the waning minutes of the game. But it was Anthony who helped expand the lead back to double digits as he dropped in 16 combined points in the third and fourth quarters. Novak also drained two huge 3-pointers late in the fourth to stem a 7-0 Boston run.
Novak, a fan favorite since signing back in December, said he’s really enjoyed the confidence that interim head coach Mike Woodson has in the reserves.
“It’s just fun to be out there,” said Novak. “Everything was coming together. … There’s not a game we’re not going to be in if everything continues to stay on track.”
As well as the reserves played, the post-game talk was all about Anthony. The star small forward was roundly criticized by fans and media alike under Mike D’Antoni, but ever since Woodson took over, Anthony has thrived -- even when miscast at power forward due to Stoudemire’s absence.
Woodson marveled about Anthony’s rare triple-double.
“It’s beautiful to watch him play,” Woodson said. “He’s doing a lot of things on both sides of the floor.”
Boston’s star small forward, Paul Pierce, did everything he could to keep the Celtics (36-26) in the game, but he was the only offensive weapon. Pierce finished with a game-high 43 points (11-of-19 shooting, including 4-of-6 from 3), but the bench only contributed two points. The Celtics were again without the services of Ray Allen, who’s still nursing a sprained right ankle. The other regular starters played admirably, as all five notched double figures in scoring, but it was the scorching marksmanship of the Knicks’ shooters that helped ward off the division-leading Celtics.
The Knicks were hot whether it was on the fastbreak or Woodson’s more traditional halfcourt offense. The Celtics, who came into the game among the leaders in points allowed and tops in the league in opponents’ 3-point efficiency, had no answer for whatever the Knicks ran.
Point guard Baron Davis, who’s taken over the starting role in Lin’s absence, said as hot as the Knicks have been lately it doesn’t matter what type of style they play offensively.
“We don’t mind the halfcourt. We’re going to have to grind out a lot of games anyway, especially this month,” said Davis, who had a great view of the hot shooting as he played only 18 minutes, by far the lowest total of any starter. “We were just hot. But our style will probably work better for us to play a possession-type game and only run when we have opportunities. … We obviously still have some explosive scorers on this team so when we go to a halfcourt game it could be to our advantage because we’re capable of going on long runs or also play uptempo.”
Boston also shot out the lights, shooting 55 percent from the field and 52 percent from 3. But they could not match New York’s hot hand. The Knicks shot 57 percent from the field, including 59 percent from 3. New York also used an 18-0 run that spanned the end of the first quarter and start of the second to really put the screws to a Boston team that looked flat from the onset.
Center Tyson Chandler was arguably the best big man on the floor, posting 20 points (nine-of-10 shooting) and seven rebounds as he helped control the paint. The Knicks held a 36-26 advantage on the boards. He said even though the race for the division title is likely over (they trail Boston by 4 1/2 games with just five games remaining), he still feels confident his team can set the tone for the playoffs by finishing strong. He added he feels his squad is coming together at the right time.
“I feel we’re right back in the mix of things and our goals are still [big]. We kind of got off track a bit earlier in the season, but now guys are back on track,” said Chandler, adding the entire team’s focus has been ratcheted up. “We’ve come out with a sense of urgency and locking in on assignments and I think that’s been the difference.”
The win helped the No. 7 seed Knicks distance themselves by another game from No. 8 Philadelphia, while also preventing Boston from officially clinching the Atlantic Division.
» Amar’e Stoudemire (back) sat out another game, but his return appears to be imminent. Stoudemire has been participating in shootarounds, but hasn’t dressed for a game yet. He won’t be available for Wednesday night’s tilt in New Jersey, but all signs point to a return at Cleveland on Saturday.
»Anthony’s only other triple-double was on Feb. 5, 2007, in a Nuggets loss to Phoenix.
»The Knicks drained 19 3-pointers, which tied a season high.
»Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo posted his 23rd consecutive game of which he had at least 10 assists. The NBA record is 44 straight games by Magic Johnson.
»The Knicks’ bench dominated their Celtics’ counterparts. At one point in the first quarter, New York’s reserves held a 30-0 scoring advantage.
» New York’s 72 first-half points was a season high.
»Boston came into the game tops in the league in defending the 3-point shot, allowing just 29 percent, but were burned by New York’s 59 percent shooting (19-of-32 shooting) from beyond the arc.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.