BOSTON -- Two teams going in opposite directions. One’s getting healthier. The other is losing players left and right. One’s regaining it’s early-season form. The other is free-falling down the playoff standings.
Tuesday night showed the difference between a New York Knicks team that can shoot the lights out against any team in the NBA and a Boston Celtics team that relies on defense but didn’t have Kevin Garnett or Courtney Lee.J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony put on quite a show against their Atlantic Division rivals, combining for 61 points to lead the Knicks to their fifth straight win. They were simply too fast, too big, and too strong for the depleted Celtics and won the first match between these teams this week, 100-85.
New York improved to 43-26 -- and an impressive 31-6 mark when scoring 100 points -- while the Celtics dropped to 36-34 and their fifth straight game overall. One game shy of their longest losing streak of the season.
Both teams lacked their primary defender in the paint -- Tyson Chandler is still sidelined for Mike Woodson’s team -- so it was going to be a up-tempo game. The Celtics even shot better from the field (44.9 percent to 43.3 percent) and from behind the arc (30 percent to 28.6 percent) than the Knicks.The story was on the glass. New York corralled 15 offensive rebounds and scored 00 second-chance points while Boston managed just seven and 0. Consequently, the Knicks shot the ball 21 more times than the Celtics.
No one hit more shots than J.R. Smith. He made his way to the rim at will. He beat defenders off the dribble for drives and pull-up jumpers. He hit shots fading away and even out-jumped multiple, taller Celtics for put-backs in the paint. Heck, Smith even drilled a 30-foot three-pointer as the third quarter ended.
By the end of the night, he racked up 32 points on 13-24 shooting to go along with all five of his free throws.
After a tight first quarter -- the Knicks led 28-24 through 12 minutes -- Woodson said his goal is to keep teams to 25 points or less. Though not a lofty goal, with the kind of firepower on his roster, that’s usually enough. Boston scored 25 points just once and were held to 20 or less twice.
Tonight, the lack of Amar’e Stoudemire and Chandler created a wide open lane for Anthony (29 points, eight rebounds) and Smith to relentlessly attack the rim. The lack of Garnett paved the way for all those offensive rebounds.
The Celtics tied the game at 35-35 after a Brandon Bass layup with 7:47 left in the second quarter. The Knicks went on a 23-9 run to end the first half to take command of the game. Once the Celtics fought back in the third quarter, the Knicks pulled away again. Paul Pierce converted a layup with 5:20 left in the third quarter t0 make it 69-62 in favor of New York. The Knicks reeled off 15 of the game's next 22 points -- punctuated by Smith's deep trey -- to put the game out of reach for good.Another key for the Knicks was their ability to control the ball. New York leads the NBA with a league-low 12.2 turnovers a game. Tonight, they committed just seven while a guard-heavy lineup for Boston coughed up the rock 18 times.Jeff Green led Boston with 19 points, a game-high 10 rebounds, and six assists for one of his better all-around games this season. Five Celtics scored at least 10 points but their bench mustered just 19 points while New York's non-starters scored 47 points.The Celtics travel to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers tomorrow night at 7:00pm EDT and will play the Knicks on the road Sunday evening.