AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
Rajon Rondo and the Celtics couldn't cool the red-hot shooting Knicks in the first half.Rapid reaction after the New York Knicks defeated the Boston Celtics 118-110 Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden:
HOW THE GAME WAS WON
Carmelo Anthony registered a triple-double with 35 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists, but the night belonged to the Knicks bench as J.R. Smith and Steve Novak went off for 25 points apiece, absolutely raining down 3-pointers as the duo combined to go 15 of 20 beyond the arc. New York connected on 19 of 32 triples overall, generating nearly half of its total offense from downtown. It all overshadowed Paul Pierce's brilliant 43-point effort that paced Boston. The difference in the game, though, the Knicks' bench outscored Boston, 55-2.
The Knicks erupted for 72 first-half points while shooting a ridiculous 63.4 percent from the floor. That included connecting on 14 of 21 trifectas, highlighted by an unconscious Smith, who made 7 of 9 triples (while Novak drilled 4 of 6 from downtown) before the intermission. The Knicks bench outscored the Celtics' reserves 39-0 in the first half. If Boston felt bad for itself while playing without Ray Allen (ankle) and Mickael Pietrus (knee), the Knicks certainly didn't and unloaded from beyond the arc, building a 19-point halftime cushion.
CAPTAIN TRIES TO STEADY THE SHIP
Pierce produced Boston's first 40+ point regular-season game of the Big Three era (the last one for the Celtics was Pierce going off for 50 vs. Cleveland on Feb. 15, 2006), connecting on 11 of 19 shots and 17 of 18 free throws. Pierce actually missed four shots in the opening frame and had only 12 first-half points. He put the Celtics on his back in the third quarter, however, pouring in 17 points in the frame to help spark a rally that had Boston within two possessions late int he fourth quarter. Alas, Novak hit some clutch 3-pointers to seal the win for New York.
BRADLEY, CORNER POCKET
Allen might not have been able to suit up due to lingering soreness in his right ankle, but Bradley continues to mask his absence and thrive now that he's cemented in the starting role. Bradley made 5 of 6 trifectas and has been absolutely lethal from the right corner. He finished with 17 points and 3 rebounds over 38:19.
BOLD PLAY OF THE GAME
All the focus lately has been on Rajon Rondo's assist streak -- with 13 helpers on Tuesday night, he's now reached double digits in 23 straight games -- but he landed in this spot for calling his own number early in the first quarter. Caught with a mismatch with Tyson Chandler defending, Rondo drove hard into the paint from the right side. Instead of finishing on the left side of the glass with Chandler chasing and looking for the block, Rondo somehow reached back to the right side with his long arms and spun the ball in off the glass. Rondo finished with 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics missed out on an opportunity to clinch the Atlantic Division title. With the 76ers losing to the Pacers, a win by Boston would have locked up that crown and the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. Alas, their magic number remains at 1 with another chance to cross that off their checklist when the Orlando Magic visit TD Garden on Wednesday. As for Tuesday's game, the Celtics have to simply tip their hats. Novak and Smith were absolutely ridiculous, making big shots throughout the night. Boston's 3-point defense -- previously the best in the league -- got absolutely torn apart and the Knicks made them pay any time the Celtics got caught scrambling (particularly after offensive rebounds). Boston probably doesn't have to worry about New York making a late-season charge at the division title, but that dream lives on for at least one more day for the hot-shooting Knicks. Boston's bigger concern should be health and making sure the likes of Rondo (who landed hard on his back during the game) and Pierce (who aggravated a toe injury, but clearly wasn't hindered by it) are OK moving forward towards the postseason.