Amar'e Stoudemire's arrival in Manhattan figured to add more excitement to a moribund Knicks team. But it didn't figure to make them contenders. Not without another superstar. Not this season.
The Knicks haven't yet arrived, but coach Mike D'Antoni's unorthodox lineups and run-and-gun style gave an aging Boston team fits at times Friday night. On a day the Celtics aired some dirty laundry off the court, Rajon Rondo cleaned up on it, hanging 24 assists on the Knicks in a 105-101 win at TD Garden.
Rondo's 24 assists were a career high and short of Bob Cousy's Celtics record of 28, set on Feb. 27, 1959 against Minneapolis. Rondo fell short of the record but recorded a triple-double for the game, finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds in addition to the helpers.
The Celtics went small often, but their two biggest players came up large against the Knicks. Shaquille O'Neal played 23 minutes and had 10 points and 7 rebounds, while Glen Davis (16 points, 6 rebounds) continued to infect the Celtics with energy. At one point in the second half, Davis dove fully horizontal and belly-flopped onto the parquet to retrieve a loose ball. The Celtics were eventually awarded a timeout.
The Celtics started the game poorly, turning the ball over four times in their first five possessions. They led 25-20 after the first despite six turnovers.
Taking care of the basketball proved difficult, but other tasks came easily against the Knicks. At one point in the third quarter the Celtics held a 34-17 rebounding edge. On defense, the Celtics held the Knicks below 50-percent shooting in each quarter. Without the turnovers, the win could have come more easily. But it seemed like Rondo was the only Celtic who had anything come easily Friday. Davis and Kevin Garnett both fouled out. The Celtics finished the game with 18 turnovers.
With 1:26 left in the fourth quarter and the Celtics leading 101-93, the game seemed to be in hand. But Stoudemire cut the lead to two points with a three-pointer with 17 seconds left. Paul Pierce, who led Celtics scorers with 25 points, iced the game with a pair of free throws.
The Celtics (2-1) have the rest of the weekend off before facing the Pistons in Detroit next Tuesday
1:26 4th quarter, Celtics 101-93: The Rondo watch (24 assists) is still on. Bob Cousy's Celtics record for a game is 28.
5:04 4th quarter, Celtics 93-82: Rajon Rondo's 22 assists are a career high.
8:28 4th quarter, Celtics 87-76: Ray Allen's three-pointer gives the Celtics their largest lead of the game.
End 3d quarter, Celtics 79-72: Paul Pierce has 22 points and 12 rebounds to pace the Celtics heading into the fourth.
3:24 3d quarter, Celtics 69-66:Without Jermaine O'Neal, Shaq has played 22 minutes so far tonight. He's 5 of 7 with 10 points and 7 rebounds.
5:58 3d quarter, Celtics 67-60:The Celtics have practically doubled-up the Knicks on the glass, 34-18. That's a great stat for a team that struggled on the glass last season. Pierce has 10 of those rebounds.
8:47 3d quarter, Celtics 61-53:Great effort by Paul Pierce. Rajon Rondo found him on a backdoor cut but Pierce bobbled the ball, then had his shot blocked. He stayed with the play, putting up an off-balance shot underneath before grabbing his own miss and putting it back in.
Halftime, Celtics 50-46: A stirring sequence at the end of the half as Rajon Rondo finds Kevin Garnett for an emphatic dunk. It was Rondo's 10th assist of the half. The Celtics have 15 assists on 21 field goals. Garnett is having a good half himself with 10 points and 5 rebounds.
The Celtics have played decent basketball in almost every category except the turnover department (they've got 11). Rebounding (25-15 Celtics) has been just fine.
5:16 2d quarter, Knicks 38-35: Too much passing dooms a potential fast break, the ball slipping through Shaq's hands out of bounds. Landry Fields finishes with an open dunk on the other end. You think Doc Rivers liked that sequence? Timeout, Celtics.
8:31 2d quarter, Celtics 32-29:Rajon Rondo is climbing toward a double-double. A bad one. He's got 6 assists and 5 missed shots to this point. Rondo was the team's leading scorer against Cleveland Weds. night. As Doc Rivers says, that's never a good sign.
End 1st quarter, Celtics 25-20: The Celtics are a pretty decent team when they aren't throwing the ball away every possession. They're shooting the ball well (11 of 21) and have held the Knicks to 38-percent shooting. Paul Pierce led the charge after a sloppy start and has nine points.
Von Wafer checked in at the end of the quarter to a very muted reaction from the crowd. He took the last shot of the period, pushing a three-pointer about 2 1/2 feet long for an airball.
3:45 1st quarter, Tied at 16: Marquis Daniels just came in to replace Shaq. For real. Glen Davis slides down to the center position, opposed by Amar'e Stoudemire. Both teams going small here.
6:10 1st quarter, Knicks 13-6: Someone in the crowd yells "Wake up". Six turnovers now, three made baskets for the Celtics.
10:19 1st quarter, Knicks 6-0: The Knicks are off and running, Timofy Mozgov the beneficiary of a follow-up dunk on the fast break. The Celtics look like they're playing in slow motion. Four turnovers and one attempted field goal for the Celtics in their first five possessions.
Pregame: A little different than Tuesday night. Good crowd to be sure, but a little more relaxed. And that's a good thing.
Jermaine O'Neal has the night off for the Celtics. Luke Harangody is active for the first time in his NBA career.