November 3, 2005
Conventional wisdom says all the young Celtics need is time to realize their potential. Well, they got more minutes than expected last night at the TD Banknorth Garden as the season opener headed into overtime. The extra time together paid off as Boston struck first in OT on the way to a 114-100 win over the Knicks.
Ricky Davis provided all the cushion and energy the Celtics would need when he hit a 3-pointer with 2:57 to go, then converted a reverse layup off a steal, propelling his team ahead, 105-96.
Nursing a slim lead, Celtics coach Rivers put Davis, Al Jefferson, Justin Reed, Brian Scalabrine, and Orien Greene on the floor to start the fourth quarter. It was an interesting choice, but not a combination that worked. New York tied the game early in the period as Boston could not get shots to fall. It wasn't long before Rivers went back to his starters. Now, that combination worked.
Delonte West rattled in a hoop that was initially ruled a 3-pointer from the left wing, bringing Boston within a basket (82-80). Then, Paul Pierce zipped a pass inside to Raef LaFrentz for a layup that tied the game, 82-82, with 5:56 remaining. A LaFrentz 3-pointer with 5:30 left returned the lead to Boston, 85-82.
With the game tied, 86-86, West snatched an offensive rebound out of the Knicks' hands on a missed 3-pointer from LaFrentz. It proved a big play as Boston used the second chance to kick the ball out to Davis in the right corner for a 3-pointer. The basket pushed Boston ahead, 89-86, with 2:24 remaining. Crawford came back and hit a 20-footer, bringing New York within 1 (89-88) with 2:24 to go. Boston had a chance to stretch its lead with Pierce at the line, but he missed both free throws. But to the Celtics' credit, they battled for the rebound on the second miss and Mark Blount got to the line and made both foul shots.
But the Celtics did not make the Knicks work for the next basket as Matt Barnes scored on an alley-oop dunk. Blount came through at the other end with an 18-footer from the right wing, and the Celtics went ahead, 93-90, with 1:01 left. Marbury went in for a layup and once again the Knicks pulled within 1. The Knicks sent Pierce to the line, where he made the second of two foul shots and gave the Knicks one last change to tie the game. Antonio Davis tied it, 94-94, with a 10-foot fadeaway from the lane and the game was headed to overtime.
Despite foul trouble sidelining LaFrentz and Jefferson, the starting lineup, with Kendick Perkins as a power forward substitute, erased an 8-point deficit. But the scoring of Pierce coupled with the rebounding of West could not keep the home team ahead as Boston entered halftime trailing New York, 54-53, after Stephon Marbury beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer. The fact that Marbury could put the the Knicks ahead on the final possession of the half only underscored the Celtics' defensive shortcomings. Boston allowed New York to shoot nearly 60 percent in the first quarter. There was marginal improvement in the second, when the Knicks shot 52 percent.
The newly-formed tandem of Marbury and Eddy Curry led New York, combining for 24 points in the first half, though that was only slightly more than what Pierce poured in singlehandedly. And therein lay part of the problem. The Celtics got hardly any production from their bench in the first half (5 points), while Jamal Crawford and Maurice Taylor filled in ably off the bench for the Knicks. Crawford was none to happy when he learned at shootaround yesterday morning that he would be coming off the bench in favor of Quentin Richardson. He appeared to use the slight as motivation, which may have been just what coach Larry Brown had in mind.
Boston trailed, 39-31, with 7:14 left in the second quarter after Crawford found Davis for a 3-point play. The Celtics used an 11-3 run to tie the score, 42-42, when Pierce converted from the line with 5:08 left in the quarter. Although Pierce struggled from the floor in the first half (4 for 10), he more than made up for that by staying aggressive and getting to the line (13 for 15).
In a reversal from last season, the Celtics also stayed aggressive on the glass, outrebounding the Knicks, 27-14, in the first half. Surprisingly, West led Boston with seven rebounds at the break. As the first half wound down, West was everywhere, getting the most out of his 6-foot-2-inch frame on defense, as well as picking up the pace on offense when he could. He played a key part in the Celtics' second-quarter run by injecting energy.
The last of the starting lineup exited late in the first quarter with the Celtics trailing, 27-22. It was a shaky start for everyone except Pierce and West. But as the game stayed close throughout the first and second halves, the Celtics knew it would come down to which team finished the strongest. The Celtics' challenge was to sustain their energy and aggressiveness on both ends.