Now hear dis: Celtics' OT effort spoils Brown debut

BOSTON -- Larry Brown exited quickly and quietly as the buzzer sounded at the end of a disastrous overtime, putting his head down and checking the top button on his dark blue sports coat as he shuffled toward the locker room to review everything that had gone wrong.

To start with, there were 15 missed free throws, 10 fewer offensive rebounds, 22 turnovers and a 10-point deficiency in second-chance points. But those were merely the most egregious of the numbers, and a far larger problem was exposed as the Knicks scored just six points to Boston's 20 in the final five minutes of Brown's debut game, a 114-100 overtime loss Wednesday night to the Celtics.

"I think we got discouraged a little bit," Brown said in the hallway outside New York's locker room moments later. "In overtime, they made every hustle play."

Discouraged only begins to tell the story. Discombobulated, disheveled, disheartened, disgusting. How many dis words does one need to display to properly diss a team that completely crumbled when it came time to assert themselves?

Most troubling for the Knicks was the way their best players were outshone by their counterparts.
The best center on the court was Mark Blount, not Eddy Curry. The best point guard was Delonte West, not Stephon Marbury. The guys making the big plays in overtime were Paul Pierce, Ricky Davis and Raef LaFrentz, not Matt Barnes, Davis and Jamal Crawford.

Especially not Crawford.

The shooting guard who learned before tipoff that he had lost his starting job to Quentin Richardson found himself playing in crunch time because Richardson was too sore to be fully effective. Crawford threw away a pass and had a shot blocked during a 39-second span of overtime in which Boston's lead went from seven to 13, ending all doubt. But those poor plays were only a sampling from Crawford, whose out-of-control shot selection and slipshod decision making will have to be one of the first things Brown tries to rein in.

Crawford ended up with six turnovers, while Marbury had five and shot just 5-for-12 from the foul line. Curry also missed seven free throws, and he repeatedly failed to step outside and guard Blount as the Celtics' center kept hitting jumpers.

Crawford acknowledged that Boston had made all the hustle plays, while Marbury defended the Knicks by saying all their mistakes were correctable.

But it came down to this: A win was within the Knicks' reach, and it would have been a tremendous ego boost if they had started the season by bringing something positive back to New York for the home opener. Instead, they are already saddled with a losing record that seems befitting -- at least at this point -- for a team that simply broke down when confronted with its first tough test. That's why Brown was so stonefaced as he made his hasty retreat, perhaps becoming even more aware of the fact that he's now in charge of a team so accustomed to losing that it seemed to come naturally to them in overtime.

Chris Sheridan, a national NBA reporter for the past decade, covers the league for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.