In their first matchup against the New York Knicks this season, the Boston Celtics did not have Rajon Rondo in their lineup, but it didn't matter. Down the stretch Boston executed its offense to perfection, while New York resorted to desperation three-pointers, and the result was a gritty 102-96 win.
It's Boston's third straight win, and third win in four games since Avery Bradley returned to its starting lineup. Paul Pierce had 23 points in 27 minutes, and Carmelo Anthony countered with an ugly 20 points on 26 shots.
The Knicks attempted a ridiculous 32 three-pointers and made an impressive 14 of them. But it wasn't nearly enough.
Jason Kidd didn't appear to have much fun early on, when Avery Bradley picked his pocket just moments into the game. But overall he was steady, leading the Knicks with a plus/minus of plus-11, and scoring eight points with a couple of threes.
Jason Terry still hasn't climbed out his shooting slump, but he scored one crucial basket late on an aggressive drive into the paint. That's not enough to redeem his performance, but in the vacuum of this game it was a big bucket. He finished 1-of-7 from the floor in 30 minutes.
Ronnie Brewer was ineffective on both ends of the court, scoring one basket on a corner three in 18 minutes of play. For good measure, he also had two fouls and a turnover.
He stole the ball from Jason Kidd on his first possession. Moments later he got into Carmelo Anthony's jersey on a switch, forcing a jumper that was long. He suffocated J.R. Smith in the second half with ball pressure that probably made the Knicks guard wish the game would just end.
This is Avery Bradley. He's a really, really good defensive basketball player. He also scored 13 points—including a buzzer-beating layup at the end of the half—to go along with five assists and one turnover.
Carmelo Anthony didn't have fun Monday night, and it started early on. He first headed to the bench just four minutes into the game after picking up two quick fouls and didn't score his first basket until a couple minutes had ticked off the second quarter.
From then on, Anthony got into a minor scuffle with Kevin Garnett (who he continuously found himself matched up against as Boston executed switches during almost every late-game possession) and missed just about every shot he attempted. He went 6-of-26 from the floor (4-of-12 from behind the arc).
Mirroring what happened to Anthony, Paul Pierce took his first seat shortly after the Knicks forward with two fouls of his own.
But he came back in the second quarter to score 15 first-half points on 6-of-9 shooting. He then picked up two more fouls just a few minutes into the third quarter, sending him back to the bench, and forcing the Celtics to search for another go-to scorer.
When Pierce returned he picked up where he left off, scoring just about every big Celtic bucket down the stretch and finishing with 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting.
Marcus Camby converted a floater early on, but was mostly useless apart from that. He did, however, have seven rebounds in nine minutes, but they were mostly inconsequential.
Brandon Bass didn't attempt his first shot until there were two minutes left in the first half, when he caught a wrap-around pass from Pierce right at the rim. Apart from that, he played his part on defense and knocked down a couple open jumpers.
Tyson Chandler did Chandler throughout this game, catching and dunking lobs, keeping offensive possessions alive with timely tip outs, etc. He played an incredible 41 minutes and logged 17 rebounds (eight on the offensive glass!) to go along with an efficient 13 points.
Chandler also stayed out of foul trouble, which is always a positive.
Kevin Garnett started the game scoring Boston's first eight points, going 3-of-3 from the floor and sinking two free throws. In the 37 minutes he took the floor, Boston ran its offense through him a good portion of the time, and in typical Garnett fashion, he delivered, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
J.R. Smith initiated a pick-and-roll with Chandler that led to a dunk early on and was most deadly from behind the three-point line, making four in the game and leading the team in scoring with 24 points.
A few of his shots later on were a bit rushed, but the Knicks wouldn't have been in this game if it weren't for Smith's incredible ability to hit difficult shots.
Jeff Green took advantage of Steve Novak defending him early on with strong drives to the basket, especially in transition, and the result was a confidence that lasted throughout tough stretches when Pierce had to sit. He ended up with 16 points with six free-throw attempts.
Green's defense on Carmelo Anthony was superb, moving his feet and forcing one of the world's best scorers into several off-balance shot attempts that didn't fall.
Steve Novak was as great a liability on defense as you'll see in an NBA game, allowing Jeff Green to get going, along with everybody else in a Celtics jersey.
Amar'e Stoudemire came in and showed flashes of his old offensive brilliance, but they were too brief. He finished with 13 points and two rebounds.
Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa offered sublime ball pressure early on, and it helped Boston weather the early storm.
Jared Sullinger showed continued improvement, with 10 points and five rebounds, including a beautiful putback before the third-quarter buzzer.