Upstart Knicks Fall To Celtics After Leading Whole Game

Published on: 16th December, 2010

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Upstart Knicks Fall To Celtics After Leading Whole Game

AUBURN HILLS, MI - JANUARY 5: Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics celebrates against the Detroit Pistons during the game on January 5, 2008 at the Palace at Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2007 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)  | read this item

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New York – It’s not easy for a team to lose at home on a game-winning near-buzzer shot, against a long-time rival, within their own division, while ending an eight game winning streak of their own and still, feel really, really good about themselves.

But, the Knicks accomplished exactly that as they led the Boston Celtics for most of tonight’s thrilling game at Madison Square Garden before going down to defeat, 118-116 on Paul Pierce’s step-back jumper with 0.4 left on the game clock.

If the Knicks proved nothing else to themselves and to their faithful fans in a sold-out arena after this game, it’s clear now that the new New York Knicks are capable of competing against the league’s best, certainly an appropriate description for the Celtics. 

“We had them all night,” said Amar’e Stoudemire. “We played great basketball tonight. They did a good job down the stretch scoring the ball. Other than that, we played great ball.”

The first half demonstrated to this Knicks team and it’s fans that they could not only compete with the big, bad Celtics, but they could also take it to Doc Rivers’ team. The Knicks held leads throughout the half, by as much as 11 points but the Celtics stayed close, chiseling the lead down by increments. But, it was clearly the Knicks who were playing their style of basketball, making the Celtics scramble on defense to guard them.

“Real basketball players and people who understand the game know we have a good team and we can play with anybody when we play our game,” said Felton. “We play the same teams everyone else plays and I feel like this team can play with anybody in this league. We lost a tough one against possibly the best team in the league. They have a great coach and they’ve been playing together for a long time.”

The Celtics know they were in a dogfight with a hungry team that is just beginning to taste the fruits of their success.

“The Knicks test our defense,” said Pierce. “There are a couple of teams in the NBA that test us, and they are one of them. They go small ball and put four shooters on the court and then have a big man who is a leading scorer in the league who can pretty much shoot from anywhere. They’re a tough guard. They really challenge our defense, it was tough on us all night.”

Danilo Gallinari, scoreless in the first half and ineffectual in every way, started the second stanza with nine points in the first five minutes, including two monster jams that brought the crowd to its collective feet. 

The Knicks opened up a 12-point lead midway in the third quarter after a three-point shot by Landry Fields. But again, the Celtics didn’t let the Knicks get too far away as they kept creeping back.

Only in the last two minutes of the game did the Celtics show why they are the Celtics, a veteran, savvy, championship caliber team while the Knicks are trying to be the young upstarts.

After Felton hit a driving layup with 2:19 left to make it 113-109, Kevin Garnett, who is slower and less explosive but still 7 feet tall and effective in spots, got his own rebound off a missed layup and slammed it home at the 2:01 mark to bring the Celtics within two, 113-111.

Garnett followed that with another bucket, again on an offensive rebound inside, to tie it at 113 with 1:11 left.

Felton then drove the lane, missed a layup chance and the Celtics took off down the floor where Pierce found old reliable, Ray Allen alone in the corner for a three, a shot Allen could probably hit with his eyes closed after so many years of taking and making it.

Allen did what he always does, score the basket and with 1:02 to go in the game, with the Knicks crowd on their feet for most of the last quarter, the Celtics had their first lead of the game since the opening basket, when they led 2-0.

Gallinari came back down and hit a running 7-foot shot and was fouled by Pierce while in the act. Gallinari, shut out in the first half, came back to light up the second half with 20 points. He hit the free throw to tie it at 116 with 50 seconds left.

The Garden was rocking as it hasn’t for almost a decade as the fans waited for the Celtics to take possession after a timeout.

“On that last possession, it was a high screen and roll to a switch,” Stoudemire said. “Pierce was able to get the step back and he hit the jumper.”

“We wanted to go pick and roll at the top, me and Kevin,” said Pierce. “We knew they’d probably switch and coaches said win the game for us. I got to a spot on the right side, tried to drive it hard and pulled it right there on the right side of the court.”

Pierce, like Allen has hit that shot a gazillion times over his long and great career. This was no different and the ball went through the twine, taking the steam right out of the Garden crowd, which had created noise levels that reminded many Knick-watchers of the Patrick Ewing years and for those older Knick-watchers, of the Willis Reed, 1970’s teams.

But there were still those 0.4 of a second left on the clock, enough to throw the ball in and release a shot instantaneously. It would be a near miracle to catch and shoot it that quickly with accuracy, especially against a stingy Celtic defense.

D’Antoni had the rookie, Fields, throw the ball in from the mid-court sideline. He found Stoudemire, about 35 feet from the basket, with amazingly, an open look at the hoop. Stoudemire caught the ball and released it as the 19,763 fans in the stands watched the arc of the ball as it headed towards the basket. It seemed like it was in slow-motion as it traveled through the air.

“That was the play that was designed,” Stoudemire said. “I got the ball at the top and I just shot. I wasn’t sure if it was good or not but it felt good. It was just a second late.”

When the ball hit nothing but net, it was a shocking end to the best game seen in these parts in many years, except one thing. Stoudemire released the shot just barely 1/10 of a second too late, which was confirmed by the referees who went to the replay machine.

The old team had won again, but it was the young team that was feeling pretty good about themselves.

“I think it is a testament to where we are as a team,” said Landry Fields, who hasn’t seen many of these intense Garden matchups in his young career. “It is a tough loss but have to move on.”

“We definitely earned their respect,” said Stoudemire. I guarantee you that Boston  respects us. We are not slouches. We are going to play every single night until the horn goes off and Boston knows it. No question, we are playing great. We are just one step away from playing better. We are ahead of where we thought we would be at this point. We have room to improve. We can get better.”

It’s getting to the point where the league knows it, too.

NBA Notes: Stoudemire tied a season high with 39 points and recorded 10 rebounds over his 42 minutes. He extended his franchise record to nine consecutive games with at least 30 points.

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