Final Score: Celtics: 78 Knicks: 85
It was a tale of two halves this afternoon between the Knicks and Celtics as decently paced, high scoring first half turned into a drag-em out physical game in the second half. The second half was a flashback for Knicks fans who have been relating this team to the 90’s Knicks as both teams struggled to put the ball in the basket as defense became the name of the game. This was a game the Knicks needed to have to maintain home court advantage in the series and to not give the Celtics any momentum. The next game in the series will be Tuesday night at 8 P.M. ET in Madison Square Garden.
• Whatever Head Coach Mike Woodson told his team during halftime worked as the necessary adjustments were made and the Knicks turned up the intensity on the defensive end in the second half. The Knicks surrendered 53 points in the first half, led by 20 from Jeff Green, but put the clamps on him and the rest of the Celtics for the whole second half. The Celtics managed to score only 25 points in the second half, a franchise tying low for a half, including a franchise low eight in the fourth quarter. The Knicks got the jitters out in the first half and got to business in the second half, riding their defense to the victory.
• Jason Kidd showed once again this afternoon why the Knicks coveted him so much in the offseason. Kidd stuffed the stat sheet like Knick fans have come accustomed to seeing him do while also providing a number of plays that will not show up in any stat sheet. Today Kidd scored eight points, grabbed five rebounds, handed out three assists and got three steals. Kidd also played exceptional defense for the Knicks, deflecting a number of passes and harassing Paul Pierce throughout the afternoon, holding him to six of 15 shooting for the game. The playoffs is where the Knicks were expecting Kidd to play his best and the first game he showed why.
• Where would the Knicks be without Kenyon Martin? His signing may be the shrewdest pickup for Glen Grunwald this season as he has provided a huge spark to a Knicks squad whenever they need it. Today Martin was the player of the game for the Knicks, as he filled in valiantly for Tyson Chandler who looked out of place on the court. Martin was one rebound short of a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing nine rebounds while providing great effort on the defensive end as well, blocking two shots and getting one steal. Martin also administered some hard fouls; bringing toughness and a defensive mentality the Knicks were in desperate need of with Chandler being ineffective.
• A big thing to pay attention to coming into the series was how the benches for each team would perform. J.R. Smith didn’t have the best shooting night, but the Celtics would have taken his game as well as the rest of the Knicks bench players instead of their own. The Celtics bench managed to score only four points in the game, compared to 33 for the Knicks. The benches will continue to play a big role in this series as the physicality sometimes pushes the referees hands and causes they to call the game tightly, resulting in foul trouble for both teams.
• Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith led the Knicks in scoring tonight, going for 36 and 15 respectively, but they did not come easy. Anthony went 13 of 29 from the field while Smith went seven of 19, an inefficient afternoon for the main guys offensively. The Knicks will need them to score the ball more efficiently as the series wears on otherwise the Celtics will make this series more difficult than it already is. Anthony did start the game by knocking down his first four shots, but finished the game nine for 25. Smith’s biggest problem was beyond the arc tonight, knocking down only one of his seven attempts. Not playing in over a week could have played a part in the inefficiency but hopefully for the Knicks they can get back on track and play like they did heading into the playoffs.
• Tyson Chandler had a rough go at it this afternoon for the Knicks. After suffering a bulging disk in his neck, Chandler missed 16 of the last 20 Knicks regular season games and it showed on the court as Chandler looked out of sync and was ineffective. Chandler only played 20 minutes, not taking a shot in the game and grabbing five rebounds. Hopefully Chandler will get it back together as the series goes on and he will work his way back into a rhythm. It would be a lot to ask Martin to carry the load in the middle for the Knicks by himself throughout the series and as long as the Knicks are in the playoffs.
• Chris Copeland and Steve Novak, two players on the fringe of the Knicks rotation and sitting on the bench for the afternoon, did nothing to get more minutes from Woodson. Copeland started the game for the injured Pablo Prigioni and went scoreless in 13 minutes grabbing only one rebound. Novak had a stat line that would make Dunkin’ Donuts jealous with how many doughnuts he had in there. These two will play a role for the Knicks eventually in the playoffs and Woodson have to hope they respond better than they did tonight.
• The lineups in the beginning of the game, if both teams stick to what they were doing, favored the Celtics. The size advantage was something the Knicks had trouble combating as Green dominated the likes of Iman Shumpert and Copeland. Neither player is big enough to stay with Green who succeeded from beyond the arc and in the post in the first half. To get off to better starts in the game Woodson may change up his rotations a little, but he made the correct adjustments in the second half as the Knicks clamped down; it is not Doc Rivers turn to come back and see what he does for game 2 to change the Celtics fortunes.