PROVIDENCE – The Boston Celtics played so-called “host” to the New York Knicks at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence on Wednesday evening, and they provided the Rhode Islanders with some truly great entertainment.
Unfortunately, they couldn't give the fans a win, as the Knicks narrowly squeaked by with a 103-102 victory which came down a Chris Babb drive and missed layup.
“Babb had the hot hand,” Brad Stevens told reporters after the game. “We were going to Babb or (Vitor) Faverani.”
Hot hand is right. Babb ignited the third unit by stroking four three-pointers in the final stretch, helping Boston erase a 22-point fourth quarter deficit. The Celtic hopeful finished with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting (4-of-5 from three) with two assists in just eight minutes. He posted a plus-20 points differential.
Youth was the word of the night for the C's, or at least the word of the second half. The Brazilian force known as Vitor Faverani had a strong performance, posting 11 points and six rebounds (two on the offensive glass) in 20 minutes. He was a plus-9 for the game and, remarkably, only committed one foul.
And Phil Pressey joined in on the fun as well. Commandeering that impressive third unit, he pushed the ball relentlessly and drove the lane despite his 5'11” frame, making himself a frontrunner for the backup point guard role behind Avery Bradley to start the season. He finished with 13 points, a game-high seven assists, three rebounds and two steals. He even gave Boston its first lead in two quarters at the end of the fourth, taking it to multiple Knicks on a strong drive.
Unfortunately, the lead failed to hold, as Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a clutch jumper from about 18 feet on the Celtics' baseline with eight seconds remaining. His father, Tim Sr., looked on with prideful chuckles in the stands of the Dunk. Kid's got it, he must have been thinking.
Despite some sloppy frames and periodically huge deficits, the Celtics played a totally better game than their preseason opener against the Toronto Raptors two nights ago. They won the rebounding battle 36-34 and racked up seven more assists than the Knicks (28-21), two glaringly disconcerting weak spots for this rebuilding team.
They also limited turnovers for the most part, giving it away 16 times as a team. And 40 of their 102 points came in the paint. Oh, and they got to the line 14 times, connecting on 12 of them.
The only starters in double-digits, Avery Bradley (12 points, three assists, two steals) and Gerald Wallace (10 points, three rebounds, two assists) continued their respectively strong starts to the preseason. Jeff Green came off the bench and pitched in a fairly quiet 10 points.
For the Knicks, Iman Shumpert was literally perfect. He shot a staggering 7-of-7 from the field, including three from long-range, and added three rebounds and three assists. Metta World Peace also had an impressive showing—the new Knick had 13 points, four rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes.
Hardaway Jr. finished with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting (3-of-5 from three), joining Shumpert, World Peace, Andrea Bargnani (12 points) and Raymond Felton (11 points) as the only Knicks in double-digits.
The Celtics will play the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday evening in Newark, Del., where Stevens will likely once again test out his squad and determine which units are most effective (and which third-stringers deserve to make the cut).
Remember, fans. This is a process. That's why Stevens was clapping at the end of a one-point loss.