Smith and Novak Turn Into Smith and Wesson As They Shoot The Celtics Down

Published on: 18th April, 2012

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Smith and Novak Turn Into Smith and Wesson As They Shoot The Celtics Down  | read this item

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NEW YORK –Call it the Carmelo Anthony factor.

It’s a simple concept, really. Instead of running an offense in which the penetrating point guard controls the ball most of the time, passing it around the court in search of the open man, all of whom have the green light to shoot it, this Carmelo Anthony factor has completely changed the way the Knicks play on the offensive side of the ball. Better yet, the Anthony factor is also confusing the hell out of defenses, even veteran-laden defenses like the Boston Celtics.

Anthony lit up the night tonight at Madison Square Garden with the second triple-double of his career, scoring 35 points, pulling down 12 rebounds and dishing 10 assists while his New York Knicks made 19 3-pointers to keep alive their Atlantic Division title hopes with a 118-110 victory over Boston on Tuesday night.

J.R. Smith and Steve Novak both scored 25 points off the bench for the Knicks, who overcame a season-high 43 points from Paul Pierce and moved into sole possession of seventh place in the Eastern Conference while trimming Boston’s division lead to 3½ games.

“Our bench was great tonight,” Anthony said. “Novak and J.R., them guys combined for 50 points off the bench. When they get hot like that, it’s hard to deal with.”

The Celtics would have wrapped up their fifth straight Atlantic title with a victory. Instead, the Knicks stunned them with a record-tying 14 3-pointers in a 72-point first half and equaled their season high by finishing 19 of 32 behind the arc. They improved to 14-5 under interim coach Mike Woodson.

Tyson Chandler had 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting for the Knicks, who finished one short of their franchise record for 3s, set last season.

But, back to the Anthony factor.

“We didn’t defend the 3 at all tonight,” Pierce said. “We talked about maybe overreacting to Carmelo. We allowed him to swing the ball to open shooters when we doubled-teamed him.”

So, the Anthony factor has teams loading up to yes, stop Anthony, especially when he’s playing and scoring at his current 31.2 points per game over the past five games to go along with nearly eight rebounds and 4.4 assists.

This appears to be the Anthony Knicks fans were clamoring for during the weeks leading up to his acquisition by the Knicks for nearly half their team last season. The Garden crowd had not seen this type of performance from the NBA star since he arrived with enormous fanfare.

Call it the Anthony Factor.

“We allowed Anthony to get going and everybody else on their team to get going by all of our trapping,” said Celtics coach, Doc Rivers. “We didn’t have a smart defensive game tonight, and they made every shot, give them credit. But they had good shots.”

Anthony’s scoring prowess and the fact he appears to be the Knicks only high-powered offensive threat without Amar’e Stoudemire or Jeremy Lin in uniform has led Knicks opponents to double and triple-team him. His job is made simple. Hit the open man. With so many defenses worried about stopping “Melo,” it makes the other Knicks players jobs, particularly the three-point shooters, easy. Get the pass and score the bucket.

Tonight, the open man was the two-headed monster named Smith and Novak, though it could easily have been called Smith and Wesson, as their shooting was, well, assassin-like in the eyes of the Celtics.

Novak hit eight 3s in the highest-scoring game of his career. Smith made all seven of his 3s in the first half, equaling a team record. The Knicks bench astoundingly outscored the Celtics reserves, 55-2.

Kevin Garnett scored 20 points for the Celtics, who fell out of a three-way tie for fourth in the East with Atlanta and Orlando. Rajon Rondo had 13 points and 13 assists.

The Celtics watched Anthony score 42 points in a losing effort against Miami on Sunday and apparently overreacted to it, trying so hard to get the ball out of his hands that they didn’t pay enough attention to his supporting cast.

“We panicked,” Rivers said. “We trapped too early. We were doing things that we shouldn’t have done. It happens. We talked about it at halftime. I thought we were better at it and then we did it again in the fourth quarter out of nowhere. Good lesson though. I told our guys it was a really good lesson for us: Don’t overreact to one great player and I thought we did that.”

Playing without the injured Ray Allen, the Celtics got a brief scare in the third quarter when Rondo landed hard on his back going for a rebound and remained on the court for a few minutes while being attended to before remaining in the game.

Woodson has repeatedly said the division title was his goal, even though the Knicks’ 18-24 record when he took over always made that unlikely. Rivers said he’s never talked to the Celtics about winning a division title or congratulated them for doing so, but there’s no doubt it’s worth having this season. Division winners are guaranteed to be seeded no worse than No. 4, avoiding Chicago or Miami until at least the second round.

Allen missed his fifth straight game when he felt pain in his right ankle Tuesday morning. He had gone through the morning shootaround and Rivers assumed he was set to play before the pain returned. Neither was sure if Allen would play Wednesday against Orlando.

Allen, the NBA’s career leader in 3-pointers made, would have fit in perfectly in this game.

It was as good a half as the Knicks could have hoped for, going into the locker room with a 72-53 lead.

Both teams lit it up from three-point land over the first 24 minutes of the game.. The Knicks put on a spectacular display, hitting on 14 of 21 shots from beyond the stripe, a 66.7% shooting percentage. The Celtics were no slouches, either, hitting on 63.6% on 7 of 11.

The Knicks were led in scoring by Smith, who had the best scoring half of his NBA career, with 21 points. All of his points came on three-point shots, hitting 7 of 9 from beyond the stripe.

Anthony, once again playing the four position, added 19 points. His power forward counterpart on the Celtics, Kevin Garnett scored only nine points.

The Celtics jumped to an 8-2 lead, but the rest of the first half belonged to the Knicks. New York scored the final 10 points of the first quarter, going up 32-26 behind 12 points from Anthony and 63 percent shooting.

The Knicks then scored eight straight points to open the second quarter, capping an 18-0 run when Smith’s 3-pointer made it 40-26 with 9:16 left. Consecutive 3s by Mike Bibby and Smith later made it 54-35 midway through the second, and the lead reached 20 points when Novak was fouled while making a 25-footer, falling backward out of bounds and into the arms of Woodson — the only time anyone got near a Knicks shooter in the half.

Novak hit two more before halftime, the Knicks taking their big lead into the locker room. He is shooting an NBA-best 47.2 percent from behind the arc.

“He’s the best 3-point shooter in our league by far. I mean it’s not even close,” Smith said. “The guy’s shooting 50-something percent from 3, so people are starting to catch onto it but not fast enough.”

Pierce, who was 17 of 18 from the free throw line, had 17 points in the third quarter to get the Celtics back into it, and the Knicks led 96-84 after three.

The Celtics finally got within single digits late in the game, with Pierce scoring four straight to cut it to 112-106 with 3:07 left. But Novak hit two 3-pointers around a jumper by Rondo, putting it away at 118-108.

The Anthony Factor continues on the road, just across the Hudson River, tomorrow night against the New Jersey Nets in Newark. The biggest question will be, which poison will the Nets choose in guarding the Knicks? Play Anthony straight up and make him score against one defender or, double and triple Anthony and force him to find one of the assassins, Smith and Wesson, er, Novak.

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