The Boston Celtics were feeling especially green Wednesday night at the TD Garden. Not only were they taking on the New York Knicks, who were coming off a two-game win streak, including a huge win at Dallas, but it was also St. Patrick’s day. The Celtics were coming off of a blowout of the Detroit Pistons. The Celtics did what they have done against most of the mediocre opponents they’ve faced all season: win. The Celtics built up a huge lead through three quarters, then rested their starters in preparation for their upcoming trip through Texas and Utah. The end result? The Celtics defeated the Knicks, 109-97. And the game wasn’t nearly as close as that, with Boston’s bench slacking off through most of the fourth quarter.
The Celtics on Offense
Two Celtics scored over twenty points on St. Patrick’s Day: Kevin Garnett (22) and Paul Pierce (29). The only other Celtic to hit double-digits was Marquis Daniels, who put up 10. The Celtics did most of their damage in the paint, putting up 56 points to the Knicks’ 44. In most other offensive categories, they were about even with the Knicks. New York put up eight three-pointers, Boston put up seven. Boston scored 21 fast break points, and New York scored 20. Both teams scored about even in points off of turnovers (23 vs. 25 in favor of New York), and the same goes for offensive rebounds (New York 14, Boston 12). So it all comes down to play in the paint. The Celtics were just stronger when it came to slashing to the hoop and scoring from within the free-throw line. The Knicks may have gotten a great performance from David Lee (29 points, 9 rebounds, 44 minutes on the court), but it wasn’t enough to counter the twin killing of KG and the Truth. The Celtics offense played big and stayed inside and it led to more scoring opportunities than the Knicks could counter with.
The Celtics on Defense
The strength of this game didn’t lie in the shooting for Boston (just over 50%), but rather in the defense, which is what you hope for with this team. The Celtics held the Knicks to under 42% shooting for the game and just over 30% shooting from beyond the arc. And despite the large number of rebounds available when two teams combine for 170 shots, Boston still out-rebounded New York 45-37, winning the defensive rebounds battle if not the offensive one. New York likes to shoot the trey, and Boston did a decent job contesting the shot. Considering New York shot from beyond the arc 26 times (Boston only tried 20 times), just 8 three-balls made is commendable. And the Celtics did a better job holding New York out of the layup lanes than vice versa. While the defense may have broken down in the fourth quarter, it’s understandable and forgivable considering the 21 point lead the Celtics had going into the final twelve minutes of the game.
This was a nice win for the Celtics, to be sure. They overpowered a weaker team in the New York Knicks and have done much in the last few home games to raise their home winning record. Whatever first-half home-court jitters they seemed to be suffering from seem to be going away. But now they have to go back on the road and take on much more talented teams in Houston, Dallas, and Utah. They can’t afford for the bench to play as lackadaisically as they did in the fourth quarter. If the bench (just 35 total points, and no on the positive side of the +/- differential except for Daniels) cannot play better, the age and lack of stamina of the Boston starters will make it difficult for them to win. The starters proved tonight they can dominate when they’re fresh. Now the bench has to step up and prove the same. And the team as a whole will have to prove it can win against good teams on the road with little rest.