Knicks Lose Exhibition At MSG But Starters Play Well In First Half

Published on: 14th October, 2010

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New York — The Knicks played an exhibition game tonight against the Boston Celtics. With a week and a half before the start of the season, the final score doesn’t really matter but if you were betting on which team did win, I’m guessing most of you would have correctly assumed the Celtics won it. They did, 104-101 by outscoring the Knicks 27-19 in the final quarter.

Doc Rivers decided to play three of his starters, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce for all or most of those last quarter minutes while the Knicks countered with their backup players and two rookies. No biggie for Mike D’Antoni.

“I was never tempted to go for a win tonight despite Doc Rivers playing his starters late in the game,” D’Antoni said. “He played his older guys probably because they don’t practice real hard at their age and they didn’t have a game last night. I’m sure Doc felt he needed to get his guys the minutes.”

The Knicks actually played pretty well with their projected starters on the floor during the first half, outscoring the Celtics 56-51. Amar’e Stoudemire was a force on both ends of the floor, scoring 14 of his game-high 30 points while changing Celtic shots from close range. He scored his 16 second half points all in the third quarter as the Celtics had no defensive answer for the Knicks newest star.

“We did a great job defensively in transition in that first half,” Stoudemire said. “We did a great job getting back. We did a great job with communication. We got out and ran. We definitely didn’t wait for those guys to set up their defense. We ran with a purpose. We played aggressive. They had a hard time stopping us.”

Does he wish he could have gotten back into the game in the fourth quarter when the Celtics had their starters on the floor?

“You always want to play and be competitive,” Stoudemire said. “When you see those guys out there playing in the fourth quarter, you definitely want to play with the best but again, it is preseason. You want to be cautious and get your rest. We will see them again.”

D’Antoni understands the importance of not over-using the one indispensable player on this team.

“I was not going to put Amar’e back in this game. He’s too important to try to win this kind of game for no reason. We can’t do that.”

Other good news for the Knicks was the play of rookie, Landry Fields. The kid from Stanford looks like he belongs on an NBA court, offensively and defensively.

“It was a great experience playing in front of a sold out crowd at home,” he said afterwards. “I’m looking forward to the entire season. The pace of the game wasn’t as fast as I anticipated.”

He also got to work on his defensive chops as D’Antoni matched him up with Ray Allen, only one of the league’s all-time great shooters.

“It was great guarding Allen,” said Fields. “He’s a shooter so I tagged through all the screens. I tried to get a hand in his face and it was a great experience going against a guy like that.”

Anthony Randolph, the athletic, 6’9” acquisition from Golden State, struggled in his 19 minutes. He scored nine points on 2 of 6 shooting along with six rebounds. He also had five turnovers, mostly on plays that indicate a lack of court understanding of where his teammates and defenders are.

“I wasn’t happy with the total performance,” he said. “It was just one of those nights. I’ll just come out there and look forward to the next game.”

D’Antoni understand this young player is very raw, a work in progress.

“He showed some good things and then, sometimes, things go a little haywire for him. He just needs to even out his game. We’ll work with him until he gets it.”

The Knicks, themselves, remain a work in progress. With the season fast approaching, those ups and downs for this young team will surely appear with some frequency. The challenge for D’Antoni is to come up with a rotation that provides more ups then downs.

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