New York defeated Boston in Game 2 of their best-of-seven series 87-71 in a game that was much closer than the score suggests.
The Knicks took a six-point lead into the second quarter, but the Celtics outscored them by 12 in the second to take a six-point lead of their own into halftime.
'Melo and the Knicks came out firing in the third, though. They outscored the Celtics 32-11 and brought a 15-point lead into the fourth. Boston managed to trim the deficit to single digits early on in the final period, but New York was able to pull away.
It was a game once again dominated by runs. The Celtics had theirs, but the Knicks had more. And that made all difference.
Avery Bradley, PG, Boston Celtics: B-
I'm seriously not being generous. Avery Bradley played some strong defense that didn't show up in the box score. It rarely does.
I'm entranced by his ability to transition from on-ball to off-ball sets. He does it so seamlessly that it's difficult to notice.
Bradley wasn't as effective on offense, where he was just 2-of-6 from the field for six points. He added two rebounds and two assists as well.
Boston is going to need to provide Bradley with some help. Strike that, I mean effort. Doc Rivers is forced to change his defensive assignment much too often because someone else isn't pulling his weight.
It was a decent game for Bradley, but it could have been better. Continuity and role assurance on both ends of the floor would have gone a long way.
Pablo Prigioni, PG, New York Knicks: B
Five assists in just 18 minutes? The Argentinian did work. No seriously, he did.
Pablo Prigioni finished with just one point, one rebound and one steal to go along with his five dimes, but I commend him for forcing the Knicks to run the pick-and-roll a bit more.
Earlier in the season, it was such a huge part of their offense. In this series especially, they've relied heavily on isolations, and he made a conscious effort to change that in the second half.
I would like to see more shooting from Pablo. He passes up what seems like an open shot per possession, and then when he does shoot, it's almost reluctantly.
None of that changes how good the 35-year-old rookie played in Game 2. Everything he did was understated and will probably go unnoticed. But the Knicks needed him.
Paul Pierce, SG, Boston Celtics: B
You can just tell Paul Pierce wants to will the Celtics to victory, but he just can't. Not on his own.
Pierce finished with 19 points on 8-of-19 shooting from the field to go along with six rebounds and six assists. He also added a blocked shot to the cause.
The Truth did struggle defensively, though. He wasn't reading pick-and-rolls as well as were used to (especially with Kevin Garnett off the floor), and he had trouble moving his feet when defending with his back to the basket.
Those five turnovers of his weren't pretty either, though they were mainly a product of him attempting to do too much.
And you can't fault that. All you can do is hope that he gets some assistance moving forward.
Raymond Felton, SG, New York Knicks: B+
Raymond Felton got his 2010-11 on in this one. OK, not really. But he was close.
The point guard turned off-ball savant shot 8-of-15 from the field for 16 points. No longer the primary ball-handler when on the floor, he finished with just two assists. He did more than his fair share on the glass, snagging seven rebounds.
Defense remains a battle for Felton. All season long he has struggled to fight over screens. Sometimes, he wouldn't even go under them in this one. He would just bounce off.
What you have to appreciate is his ability to remain effective when not manning the point. Now that he doesn't have the ball in his hands as much, he has to choose when to attack more carefully, which he did here. He did a nice job accounting for midair contact when approaching the rim as well.
Most notably, you never got the feeling Felton was out of control. Anyone who's watched the Knicks this season can tell you that's huge.
Jeff Green, SF, Boston Celtics: C-
Like some of his teammates, Jeff Green found himself in foul trouble for a majority of this contest. He managed to log 35 minutes of burn, but didn't do much during his time on the floor.
Green shot 3-of-11 from the floor for 10 points and failed to provide the offensive spark he did in Game 1. He also finished with just one rebound, immensely troubling considering the size advantage he has at his position.
Don't even get me started on his defense. Oh wait, too late.
I get that the Celtics prefer not to double Carmelo Anthony. They'll gladly let him get his points. But when he's on fire and it's late in the game, you've got to provide some help, especially when the no-longer-as-agile Paul Pierce finds himself defending the NBA's leading scorer.
Green didn't. He appeared like he wanted to, but didn't. Instead, he was often caught defending, well, no one. He cheated off his man as if he was going to provide some help, yet never did.
He did a nice job scoring in transition in the first half, though. So I guess there's that.
Iman Shumpert, SF, New York Knicks: B-
Iman Shumpert is the latest hot-and-cold act the league houses. There are points when he comes on strong, and others when he just disappears.
For most of the game, Shumpert wasn't involved on the offensive end. He did, however, open the third quarter with two threes that tied the game. And then he disappeared again.
Shumpert did resurface (on offense) for a brief second. He failed to convert a layup at the buzzer to end the third, and it appeared he may have hurt himself a bit. The Shumpert of last year would have dunked that, so I'm not shy about speculating his head just isn't right yet.
And we're berating Derrick Rose for taking his time.
But I digress.
Shumpert's defense was passable, but not great. He had trouble setting his feet when guarding the dribble and was falling for up-fakes he's normally all over.
Here's to hoping we see more of the third-quarter Shump in Game 3.
Brandon Pass, PF, Boston Celtics: B
Brandon Bass wasn't reliable on the offensive end. His mid-range jumpers weren't falling (2-of-6 from the field), and he finished the game with just six points.
With Garnett battling foul trouble for most of the game, I was impressed with how well Bass stepped up on the glass. He finished with 10 rebounds.
And I know you're not going to believe me, but he played some nice defense. At times it was spotty, but he did a nice job rotating and forcing the ball out of his man's hands.
That is, unless his man was Carmelo Anthony (off switches). He helped force 'Melo into some of his many bad shots.
This wasn't a horrible performance by Bass, but Boston's anemic offense sure could have used him in this one.
Carmelo Anthony, PF, New York Knicks: B
Don't hate me for being too kind. Or too cruel for that matter.
'Melo finished 11-of-24 from the field for 34 points, which is actually quite an accomplishment, considering he began the game 3-of-11 from the field.
Anthony also did a great job drawing fouls at the rim. He was 10-of-11 from the foul line, where he essentially lived during the first half.
Though chants of "M-V-P" continued to echo throughout Madison Square Garden, Anthony left much to be desired. And not even defensively, where he played some tough on-ball sets. He had just one assist, abusing iso-'Melo to no avail in the first half. You would also like to see him grab more than four rebounds in a game this big.
We (luckily) saw a different kind of 'Melo to finish the game. He was scoring in the flow of the offense instead of forcing the action, hitting eight of his final 13 shots. And how about that ferocious dunk of his? You don't see that very often from him.
It was a good game by Anthony. Not the most efficient of performances, but he's now scored his team to a 2-0 series lead. It's difficult to hate too much on that.
Kevin Garnett, C, Boston Celtics: B-
I was tempted to give Kevin Garnett an incomplete. That's how much of the game he spent in foul trouble.
Garnett looks like, well, a guy who missed 10 of Boston's final 13 regular-season games. His timing is off when he's contesting shots and so is his positioning. He did finish with two blocks, and the Celtics defended the pick-and-roll well while he was on the floor.
Moving in and out of the game has drastically hindered his offensive production, though. He was just 4-of-9 from the field for 12 points. That Garnett-esque touch around the basket we've spent nearly two decades admiring just wasn't there either.
Garnett did manage to haul in 11 rebounds to round out a double-double, but that's really not a tune you can dance to.
Boston is going to need more from its big man in Game 3 if it wishes to get back in this series.
Tyson Chandler, C, New York Knicks: C+
I know, I'm cruel. But I'm also honest.
Save for an electric third-quarter performance, you could just tell Tyson Chandler still isn't right. He ran the floor well and the energy was there, but the execution was not.
Chandler did grab five rebounds and block a shot, but not much else. He was having trouble catching the ball on the move on offense and was setting soft screens. That bulging disc of his may not be fully healed, after all.
Fortunately for New York, he wasn't needed. I'd be remiss if I neglected to admit his health/effectiveness wasn't a potential issue moving forward, though.
Jason Terry, SG, Boston Celtics: B-
Jason Terry arrived, but he went as quickly as he came.
Terry went 3-of-9 from the floor for nine points. He knocked all three of his treys down in the first half, but was basically a non-factor in the final two quarters.
Unless you count instilling a sense of urgency in Doc Rivers to get Avery Bradley back off the bench. Then yeah, he did something. He's that much of a liability on the defensive end, although I managed to appreciate a few of his on-ball defensive sets.
A large part of me wanted to give Terry a lower grade, but I've got a soft spot for The Jet. Plus, I was actually impressed with how well he navigated the floor.
Call me a hopeless sap, but I think Terry has one game worthy of talking about before this series is out.
J.R. Smith, SG, New York Knicks: B
What, you didn't think they presented J.R. Smith with that fancy Sixth Man of the Year Trophy just because, did you?
Smith played a solid all-around game. He was tame on the defensive end, which is a good thing. He has a tendency to overplay his defender and get beat off the dribble, but he did a nice job staying in front and keeping those murals of art he calls hands to himself.
Offensively, Smith was Smith. He hit his first four shots and then went on to miss his next four. And then he knocked down a buzzer-beater to end the first from a different area code.
He finished 7-of-15 from the floor for 19 points. Not a bad performance from the league's leading bench scorer.
Boston Celtics: D
Please don't mistake my lack of analysis for laziness. There just wasn't much to write. Doc Rivers didn't go to his bench that much.
Jordan Crawford was largely ineffective as well. He shot just 4-of-11 from the field and finished with 10 points.
He had some nice drives to and adjustments at the basket, but he's still struggling with rotations on the defensive end, and his accuracy from the field remains an issue.
If you were hoping to see more or any of Chris Wilcox and Shavlik Randolph, this wasn't the game for you.
And if you thought Rivers might show some faith in Courtney Lee, you were also wrong.
New York Knicks: A-
Holy Kenyon Martin.
New York emptied its bench in this one. There was even a Quentin Richardson and James White sighting.
Martin took just three shots on his way to posting three points, but he grabbed 11 rebounds in just 23 minutes of play. Oh, and he had four blocks as well.
Credit him with forcing the Celtics to adjust their shots at the rim even when he wasn't actually swatting shots. He does a great job at intimidating opponents midair.
Those three turnovers of his are an issue, though. He doesn't touch the ball much on the offensive end, so when he does, you'd like him to protect it a bit more and make better passes.
Jason Kidd didn't light up the stat line, but there's just something calming about his demeanor on the floor.
He's so deft at directing the offense and was one of the few in the first half that didn't stand around while 'Melo missed eight of his first 11 shots. The 40-year-old provided some nice help defense as well (two steals) and remains one of the best in the business at snagging long rebounds.
As for Chris Copeland, he still looks lost. Rookie jitters, I suppose. He rushed his only two shots, but did make one nice play on the defensive end.
But now, it's time for my bold prediction: Before this series is out, Steve Novak will, in fact, hit a three-pointer. That is all.