|01.28.14 at 9:58 pm ET|
This was the final score on Dec. 8 when the Atlantic Division-leading Celtics steamrolled an embarrassed Knicks team at Madison Square Garden. The 41-point margin of victory was the largest in the NBA at the time.
Boston has taken the court 25 times since that game, and looked like a shockingly different team.
This became glaringly clear on Tuesday night, as New York avenged the blowout loss in December with a 114-88 shellacking of their own back at the Garden. The Celtics (15-32) have dropped 20 of 25 games, and now find themselves in a three-game slide.
Carmelo Anthony authored the win with 24 points and nine rebounds. J.R. Smith (17 points), Jeremy Tyler (17 points), Tim Hardaway Jr. (16 points), and Tyson Chandler (12 points) aided the cause for New York (18-27).
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS
Disastrous first half: The Knicks set the nets ablaze and suffocated Boston on defense in the first half, en route to a 63-37 advantage in the first half. There were no silver linings, no glass-half-full outlooks. It was simply complete and utter domination by New York. The Knicks outshot the Celtics, 61.5 percent to 31.8 percent from the field and also made four more 3-pointers. New York collected 10 more assists than Boston and forced the C’s into eight turnovers. Finally, just two Celtics scored at least six points. Conversely, all four Knicks off the bench tallied at least six points. While the bench’s 28 points in the half helped, Anthony paced the team with 17 points. Chandler also added 10 points.
Melo: It’s not that the Celtics needed to stop Anthony. This would be an unrealistic goal considering that Anthony entered Tuesday’s game with 97 points in his last two games, including a 62-point, 13-rebound performance on Friday versus the Bobcats. Instead, Boston hoped to slow him, frustrate him, and perhaps even break his unconscionable scoring rhythm. None of this happened, as Anthony finished with 24 points, and never broke a sweat. He needed just 15 shots and 28 minutes to tally his eighth straight 20-plus point game. Anthony left his mark on the game in other aspects with nine rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Rondo: Boston’s point guard continued the rusty start to his season with another shaky performance. Rajon Rondo used 13 shots to score just seven points, and he turned the ball over four times in 26 minutes of play. It was evident that the requisite chemistry and cohesiveness required for a player like Rondo to possess with his teammates was lacking. Multiple times Rondo whipped a pass past a Celtic big who was staring at the basket in anticipation of a shot. This is not unexpected as Rondo has played just six games this season with a completely different supporting cast than what he thrived with in his heyday. But his first five games are tough to look at statistically: 6.6 points, 5.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 3.2 turnovers per game on 29.9 percent shooting.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS
CJ: Johnson earned his second 10-day contract with the Celtics before the game Tuesday, and he continued to show he belongs in the league with another strong outing. Johnson scored 12 points from the bench, all on 3-pointers, and provided a rare burst of energy to a lethargic Boston team. The former Grizzlies guard is averaging 10.4 points per game for Boston.
|01.28.14 at 11:01 am ET|
In four appearances for the undermanned C’s, Johnson has impressed, averaging 10.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 26.8 minutes while filling in for Avery Bradley (ankle), Jerryd Bayless (toe) and Keith Bogans (just chilling). Bayless is expected to return to the Celtics lineup on Tuesday.
Johnson’s first 10-day contract expired after Sunday’s loss to the Nets, and his signing to a second such deal prior to Tuesday’s game will keep him on the roster for the next four games against New York, Philadelphia (twice) and the Magic.
On Feb. 6, the Celtics will be faced with a decision on whether to sign the Dayton product for the remainder of the season or let him walk, since players are limited to two consecutive 10-day contracts for the same organization.
|01.27.14 at 3:33 pm ET|
“I think we’ll always bleed green as long as we’re playing basketball and as long as we’re living. Even when they bury us six feet, this is what it’s going to be.”
When it comes to covering basketball in Boston, it doesn’t get much better than Sunday night. I could wax poetically about Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and their legacies as Celtics, which I attempted to do in this column, but this 15-minute video sums it up better than any words I could put together on a page. Enjoy.
|01.27.14 at 1:28 pm ET|
CSNNE Celtics analyst Tommy Heinsohn talked with Mut & Merloni on Monday about the tributes for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett during Sunday’s game at TD Garden. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Heinsohn enjoyed the tributes for Garnett and Pierce, saying it exemplified what they and the team stood for.
“Last night with these two great players that brought a championship to Boston exhibited over their careers what the Celtics organization was and has been for many many years; full of spirit, teamwork, and accomplishment,” Heinsohn said.
Heinsohn recalled watching how Pierce grew not only as a player but as a person in his time with the Celtics.
“I’ve watched him grow as a person, as a player, accept all the challenges that anyone could hope to meet,” Heinsohn said. “Take the last shot at games, willingly. Really enjoyed being in that position, and the real tribute to him was when he was named captain and how he went about fulfilling that role. He was a very dedicated guy and worked at his craft all the time. Not just at the basketball end of it, but at the person side of it.”
Added Heinsohn: “He was around all those banners when he first came in, and I coached after the [Bill] Russell era and saw players come in and look up at the banners and the rafters and it became both a blessing and a curse. They feel privileged to play for the Celtics but they also know that they have to live up to the standards, and Paul Pierce certainly did that and recognized what those standards were. Just was an outstanding guy to be around.”
While Garnett was only a Celtic for six years, Heinsohn believes he always had the Celtic attitude and should have his number retired by the organization one day.
“He was totally focused,” Heinsohn said. “When he’d come out on the basketball court there was nothing else in his mind but winning a basketball game. And it wasn’t about him, it was about winning. He wasn’t there to score the most points or do anything else, he was there to be the supreme teammate, to excel in what he did best to help win a game and that embodied the Celtics spirit of the teams I played with and coached.”
Added Heinsohn: “When you see the impact he had on that team, he belongs up there. It was just at a chance that he ended up some place else, because he had the Celtic attitude as soon as he stepped on a basketball court in the NBA.”
|01.27.14 at 1:34 am ET|
Sunday night was hard for Paul Pierce, really hard.
He knew it was coming. It’s been on the schedule since last summer. But when the moment finally came, the former Celtics captain said it was the most difficult game to play in for the obvious reasons.
He just could never picture himself playing against Boston and accepting all the love showered upon him all at once.
“I was telling Kevin, and everybody this was the toughest game I ever had to play,” Pierce said after scoring just six points but helping his team to an 85-79 win over his former Celtics. “Tougher than any championship game, or any Game 7. This game was just really hard to focus and concentrate on what was at hand. At the end of the day we had a game to play but it was so hard to really focus.
“I saw so many friends, so many people I’ve known for years. Ugly cornbread Maxwell back there, my man, my main man. It was hard to really get into my routine, you have a routine when you come and get ready for a game and it never settled in and you thought about the time, the friendships, the relationships and it was just, you get showered with love the whole game. You look up and see so many Kevin jerseys, my jerseys, posters and its every second you are on the bench and in the game people were calling your name. I’m happy we got it over with and I can go back to playing basketball right now.”
Pierce acknowledged that he, Garnett and Rajon Rondo got together for dinner Saturday night before the game.
“We didn’t really bump into anybody in the street but we had a chance to go to dinner with Rondo [Saturday] night,” Pierce said. “We talked to him about his situation here and the things we went through when we were in his situation before. It was good to see him and really, that was pretty much the only guy he had a chance to see. Other than that I really just tried to focus and get back to the hotel and try to get some rest and couldn’t think about anything but today really, it was even hard for me to sleep. Laying in a downtown hotel in Boston when I’m used to being at my house. Getting into the arena, coming in the backside, and making a left instead of a right. Everything was so different, and it was great though.”
|01.27.14 at 1:08 am ET|
|01.27.14 at 12:29 am ET|
It takes a lot for Kevin Garnett to be blown away.
The Celtics and their fans achieved that and more on Sunday night with their tribute to KG and Paul Pierce for their six years together in Boston that produced one NBA title, two NBA finals appearances and countless memories as one of the most inspirational leaders in franchise history.
“This was over the top,” Garnett gushed afterward, referring to the 60-second video tribute and the standing ovation from the crowd late in the first quarter. “Doc (Rivers) had [texted] us two days ago [telling us what to expect]. I think I had reporters ask me about the expectations before the Dallas game and I didn’t want to be thinking about things before I had another game to play. What comes to mind is unbelievable, I didn’t expect anything like that for myself, shows the first class, shows the type of organization that this is and the appreciation from this organization for you.
“And I couldn’t put it into words. Paul and I were joking before the game who was gonna tear up and drop a tear. I had lumps in my throat and I kept them under control and I focused as much as I could on the game and not take away from it but man this was over the top. I couldn’t put that into words.”
It was Garnett who stole a Rajon Rondo pass when the Celtics were within a 3-pointer of tying the game. Garnett knew Rondo was trying to set himself up for a three. Garnett, who knows Rondo as well as anyone on the court, stepped into the lane and rumbled the other way and made the layup that sealed the 85-79 win for the Nets against his former team.
“I knew they were trying to run a pick and roll and (Rajon) Rondo was gonna try a three, I knew they needed a three at that point and I just played the passing lane,” Garnett said. “It took me two days to get the layup up I thought I was gonna get caught but I got it still, put the ball in front of me, and I got the layup.
“I’m glad we came here and got a win. A lot of distraction, but they were good distractions. It felt good to be showered and for the city to show their appreciation nevertheless the organization man. You give yourself, people always say players can be too loyal. I don’t believe that, a city like Boston is worth it and tonight’s the epitome of all that.”
For Garnett, he said the totality of the night didn’t hit him until he saw longtime Celtics‘ staffers in trainer Ed Lacerte and public relations director Jeff Twiss.
“It didn’t hit me until I saw Ed Lacerte and Jeff Twiss,” Garnett said. “I got to see all the guys that made our stay worth it; Phil Lynch, Johnny Joe(Connor) all those guys. The guys that people really don’t know but make the whole thing go around. You see, like Paul said, the endless friendships through the place; the security guards, the ball boys everybody man that shows their appreciation. By far the hardest day that I’ve had to focus. This is bigger than Minnesota, even when I went back to Minnesota, Minnesota wasn’t like this.”
And for anyone who thinks this rivals any of the playoff experiences Garnett had, don’t. Garnett said Sunday night was much, much more intense.
“[The playoffs] is not even close [to Sunday],” Garnett said. “It’s not even close. The impact of people and how much we’ve impacted their lives, not just kids but grownups, just the culture here. You come here and one of the first things Jeff Twiss tells you, he takes you through the library where he shows you all the history here and you feel that responsibility. To come back here and be showered like this, it’s not even close, not even close.”
The moment Garnett will always relish, though, came with 2:25 left in the first quarter when the video came up on the big board 50 feet above center court.
“It was just an emotional moment that I just kind of went back and reflected on myself,” Garnett said. “When we all got together a lot of people didn’t think that the first year we could do what we did and I think before everyone started getting together making their teams, stacking their teams, I think we were the first to initiate that. We had a lot of pressure on us. As I sat back and watched the video, I thought a lot about the fun, how much work was invested in that.
“To this day, I talk about how big Doc Rivers was for us just from a growth, not just as a players, but as a human being and a young man perspective, of every man he coached. I don’t know, I’m just appreciative of the time. Throughout the timeline you think about those moments and you reflect, that’s what the fist pump was. I had some great times in here, like Paul (Pierce) said, obviously some dismal times, but none of those overshadow the good. It was a great time here in Boston ‘