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).
Jeff Green was the only Celtics starter to reach double-digits with 14 points. Chris Johnson and Kris Humphries scored 12 points apiece rom the bench.
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.