The Boston Celtics (17-17) made a real statement with a 102-96 win over the New York Knicks (23-11) at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.
Much has been made about the return of Amar'e Stoudemire to the team from injury. Many are questioning whether he will adversely affect what was one of the best teams in the league during his absence.
It would appear that those doubters may be on to something.
Stoudemire finished the game with 13 points, two rebounds and two assists. However, his plus-minus rating was minus-15, which was only slightly better than Pablo Prigioni's minus-19.
Carmelo Anthony had a good game, scoring 20 points and recording five assists as well. Melo was a bit wasteful from long range, going 4-of-12 from three-point range.
It was J.R. Smith who was the star of the night for New York. Smith scored 24 points, including going 4-of-9 from behind the three-point line.
The Celtics were without Rajon Rondo, but that didn't make much of a difference. Avery Bradley stepped up, adding 13 points and five assists.
Kevin Garnett had a double-double, with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
It was shooting that doomed the Knicks, which is surprising considering as a team they went 14-of-32 from three-point range.
Boston made fewer than half that amount, but it shot a scorching 52.7 percent from the field. When you shoot that well, you're not going to lose.
You can read the full box score here (via ESPN.com).
Player of the Game: Paul Pierce, SF, Boston Celtics
Paul Pierce had a very good all-around game. The Celtics were without a doubt missing Rondo, but Pierce did his part to fill the gap, adding six assists.
He also shot 55.6 percent from the field, scoring 23 points. He really had to watch himself late, though, as Pierce finished the game with five personal fouls.
Up Next for the Celtics
It doesn't look like Boston will fall immediately under .500. The Celtics face off with the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night. Phoenix is 2-8 in its last 10 games.
Up Next for the Knicks
The Knicks have a date with the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night. It's a good test for New York. The Pacers have one of the worst offenses in the league to go along with one of the best defenses. It could be an ugly affair.