You had to wonder how the Celtics would respond after surviving the fourth quarter rush by LeBron James and the Cavs.
Would there be a false sense of security after the win? Would they use the victory as a building block as they move toward the playoffs? Or would there be a letdown.
Half-joking, Doc Rivers said the hangover the Celtics seemed to play with in their 104-101 loss to the Knicks was probably ess physical or emotional after the Cleveland loss, and more literal after staying the night in New York Monday.
“That beats you a lot,” Rivers joked. “Miami, New York and LA, those are very tough cities.”
Jokes aside, his disappointment was real. The playoffs are just 10 days away, Rivers has said that the priorities are timing, rhythm and health — not necessarily wins — at this stage. But the Celtics completely looked past a Knicks team overtly preparing for free agency this summer.
The Celtics have now lost four of their last five, stunting whatever momentum they had started to develop with a solid March.
“It’s concerning,” said Paul Pierce. “You just don’t turn it on in the playoffs. We’ve got to start building some momentum. We get a good win at home verses Cleveland and then come here, not taking anything against the Knicks, but they’re a team we’re supposed to beat.”
Executed by Gallo
Rivers said he could see the light go off for Danilo Gallinari in the third, as shots stared to fall. In a way, Gallinari was a symbol of the Knicks’ win not for the 31 points he scored, but because of the way he got them.
“He was making shots,” Rivers said. “He was running past us. He was out-huslting us, He played harder. He played with more passion. He clearly thought — you could see him in the third — like ‘Wow, we can win this game.’ You could literally see it click and he played with that type of passion.”
He scored 19 points in the third, shooting over whoever the Celtics threw at him. He joiined LeBron James, Aaron Brooks, Kevin Durant and Manu Ginobili on the list of players to light up the Celtics in the last week.
The Celtics committed the sin they’ve been guilty of throughout the season.
“It’s hard to turn a guy off once he’s on,” Rondo said.
Gallinari actually got into a mix-up with Kevin Garnett, who tried to play mind games with the second-year forward, sparking the third-quarter eruption. As he came down to set up on offense, Garnett straight into Gallinari’s chest. Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni was livid, drawing a technical.The next Knicks possesion Gallinari knocked down a 23-footer.
“Somehow he’s got to find a way to play games with himself to get motivated,” D’Antoni said. “Because he got in a little bit of a tussle out there and that got him going.”
The Celtics allowed everyone from Earl Barron to Toney Douglas to Sergio Rodriguez get off, fooling themselves into believe the Knicks had nothing to play for.
“You give a team that’s struggling confidence and it carries over throughout the rest of the game,” Pierce said. “You have to do a better job of respecting opponents. A lot of guys want to come back, there’s guys playing for a contract. There’s guys playing to end the year on a good note. There’s plenty of motivation for a player at the end of the year.
Valuing the ball
The Celtics practically gift wrapped extra possessions for New York, turning the ball over 18 times (costing them 27 points) and giving up 15 offensive rebounds (19 second-change points).
Kendrick Perkins had a team high eight rebounds. Kevin Garnett pulled down just four in 29 minutes. Barron killed the Celtics on the boards, pulling down 18 (eight offensive).
“Turnovers and rebounding, like we talked about before the game” Rivers said. “You can not offensive rebound when you don’t move, when you have no focus and we didn’t.”