NEW YORK -- You never blame the referees after a close loss -- except when it’s perhaps legitimate to blame the referees after a close loss. That’s why Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers chose his words ever so carefully after Sunday’s 106-104 loss to the New York Knicks.
Sure, he makes a lot of money. But he doesn’t like to pay big fines any more than anyone else.
The problem was two fourth-quarter technical foul calls on the Celtics. That violates a serious no-no under Rivers. Technicals aren’t the issue. Technicals in the fourth quarter are the issue. And the notoriously short-fused Joey Crawford, a veteran official who brooks no dissent, verbal or even visual, whistled Jermaine O’Neal and Sasha Pavlovic for technicals less than two minutes apart in the fourth.
“Fourth-quarter technicals on our team are not allowed,’’ Rivers said. “That being said, the game has to be about the players. All right? I mean, c’mon. I thought both teams were complaining just the same, and we got the two techs. The game has to be about the players on the floor. That’s it.”
Pavlovic said he had no idea why he got teed up.
“I was just playing my game,’’ he said. “I told him [Crawford] I can’t afford to get a technical in the fourth quarter.”
Crawford, Zach Zarba and someone named Marat Kogut presided over a game that went 2 hours, 47 minutes (long even for a national TV game) and had 53 fouls and 65 free throws. There were six technicals in all -- Ray Allen and Toney Douglas were given double technicals, prompting the first "Boston [You Know What]" chant in the building. There also was a minor skirmish at the end of the game when Kevin Garnett and former Celtic Bill Walker briefly tangled.
Chandler big down low
The Knicks have talked defense, defense, defense since the acquisition of Tyson Chandler, but the Celtics still shot 51.3 percent, scored 104 points and outrebounded the hosts by a big margin, 41-31. Chandler had only three rebounds in 37 minutes. But he was an undeniable force underneath with six blocked shots. ... There were Christmas colors everywhere. Three Celtics wore red headbands to go with their green uniforms. Ray Allen wore red sneakers. Carmelo Anthony wore green sneakers with red laces and Knicks rookie Josh Harrellson wore some hideous looking red and green sneakers. ... Lockout leftover: On two occasions, the Celtics could not execute an inbounds play from the baseline under the Knicks’ basket. The first resulted in a backcourt violation. The second resulted in a turnover and a foul on Garnett. ... Jeff Green was in the Celtics' locker room before and after the game. ... Amare Stoudemire made two 3-pointers for the third time in his career. He made only 10 all last season. The Knicks attempted 20 treys to the Celtics’ five.
Signs of life from JO
O’Neal played 17 minutes. He had 6 points, 2 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. “He had a great third quarter,’’ Rivers said. “I thought he was a little slow, late on a lot of stuff. But in the third quarter, he played terrific. He defends the basket.” O’Neal also took a charge in the third quarter when the Celtics were in the process of taking the lead. ... Rookie E’Twaun Moore made his NBA debut at the close of the first half, playing the final four seconds. He didn’t touch the ball, but he can tell his children and grandchildren that he came into the game and replaced a Hall of Famer (Garnett). Fellow rookies JaJuan Johnson and Greg Steimsma did not play. ... Two Knicks were injured in the game. Jared Jeffries reinjured his sore right calf. And rookie Iman Shumpert, who had played well, sprained his right knee MCL. He could be out 2-4 weeks. The Celtics appeared to emerge unscathed. The big question for them is how soon Paul Pierce can get back on the floor. As for Mickael Pietrus, he will also help assuming he can pass his physical in Boston, which is scheduled for Monday. Pietrus was traded to Toronto earlier this month, but swelling in his right knee alarmed the Raptors’ doctors and the deal was called off. Pietrus had surgery this past summer and missed the last 12 games of the 2010-11 season due to the right knee condition. When the trade fell through, the Suns eventually waived him -- and the Celtics signed him on Christmas Eve. For more on Pietrus, click here.