UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens yearns to utilize each day of the preseason for his team to make strides toward when games truly matter. But some situations are more conducive to progress than others, and the Celtics, playing their fourth game in six days and opting to rest a handful of key players for at least a portion of the game, produced what was probably an expected batch of sloppiness while slogging through a 96-80 loss to the New York Knicks on Saturday night at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Oh sure, Stevens would have loved to see his team grind through the final day of an unforgiving stretch. After the team arrived late while battling weekend traffic on a two-hour bus ride from their practice facility in Waltham, Mass., Stevens said it would be good to see if his team could simply throw on their uniforms and go play.
The Celtics, who rested both Kelly Olynyk and Gerald Wallace while limiting some of their key veterans in the second half, were competitive for much of the first half. Things went south in the third quarter when Boston registered only four field goals in the frame -- three of them by Marcus Thornton -- and the Knicks were able to extend their lead to double digits heading to the final 12 minutes.
Rapid reaction after Boston fell for the second time in two nights:
• Nitty Gritty: Thornton and Jared Sullinger each scored a team-high 15 points while carrying Boston's second-half offense. Thornton was 5-of-15 shooting and only 1-of-7 beyond the 3-point arc, but Sullinger made 6-of-7 attempts while adding seven rebounds. Carmelo Anthony scored a team-high 16 points for the Knicks, who also got 14 points from J.R. Smith.
• Loose balls: A ponytailed Kelly Olynyk got the night off after playing heavy minutes in the team's first three games of the exhibition season. ... Joel Anthony started the game at center but did little to suggest he'll have much more of a role than we saw after he was acquired last season. ... Jeff Green (strained left calf) accompanied the team, but sat out his fourth straight game. The team is hopeful he can return to practice on Monday, but has been cautious bringing him back. ... The Celtics moved Thornton and Tyler Zeller into the starting lineup to open the second half with Avery Bradley (rest) and Anthony shifted out. ... Boston shot 37.5 percent overall.
• What it means: The Celtics fall to 2-2 on the exhibition season. Another long bus ride looms, but Boston gets a day off Sunday before two much-needed practice days to make some actual progress.