Kevin Garnett was sent to the bench for good with 5:47 left in the third quarter last night, having scored only 8 points. No, he wasn't hurt, nor did he foul out. In fact, the unselfish Celtics couldn't have asked for anything better than this.
Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen got much-needed rest because the Celtics put away the Knicks very early before demolishing them, 104-59 in front of a sellout crowd at TD Banknorth Garden and a national television audience. Boston (12-2) improved to 8-0 at home, its best home start since an 8-0 beginning to the 1957-58 season. The big win and rest were welcome since the Celtics play at Miami tonight.
For the woebegone Knicks, it was their second lowest scoring game in team history, and the franchise's third worst loss of all-time. It was the sixth largest margin of victory for Celtics (45).
New York guard Quentin Richardson was the latest player to question the Celtics after they acquired Allen and Garnett to join Pierce during the offseason. The difference was that the other naysayers said something before the Celtics started 11-2. And the Knicks came to town 4-9.
"They're not that deep of a team," said Richardson, who added that the Celtics didn't intimidate him. "After those three, there's a significant drop-off."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers responded to Richardson's comments before the game by saying, "I don't get into that crap." Pierce said, "Obviously, everybody knows there is more than just me, Ray, and Kevin on this team. And I'm going to leave it at that."
Allen elaborated much more.
"I know what we have in this locker room and what guys are capable of doing," he said. "Our ability to go out there and do something every night and do something with this regular season, we haven't proven anything to anybody.
"That's why there are so many naysayers out there and critics about this team. Until we do something worthy of respect, people are going to question what we do, what we are, what we have."
One member of the Celtics' supporting cast who made Richardson eat his words was guard Rajon Rondo. He scored 8 quick points and gave the Celtics a 12-3 lead on a lay-in with 7:41 left in the first quarter. Another reserve, Brian Scalabrine, nailed a 3-pointer to push the lead to 23-8 with 2:08 left. The Knicks finished the quarter with an 8-4 run to slice the deficit to 27-16.
New York shot 26.1 percent from the field (6 of 23) in the first. Rondo had 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting, and Garnett had seven rebounds. Fifteen Celtics points came from players not named Garnett, Allen, or Pierce.
The Celtics opened the second quarter with a 10-2 run and took a 37-18 lead on a fast-break lay-in by Allen at 6:26. A Jamal Crawford jumper ended a Knicks drought of nearly 3 1/2 minutes, by which time Boston held a 43-20 lead.
At haftime, the advantage was 54-31. New York shot 31.7 percent from the field before the intermission, missing 28 of 41 shots. The Knicks set a team season low for points in a first half, and it matched the lowest total against the Celtics, who similarly stifled Toronto Nov. 14. Boston's supporting cast scored half the points before the break. Pierce had a team-high 12.
With Boston up, 69-35, Garnett exited with 11 rebounds in 22 minutes. After two 3-pointers by Pierce were followed by 5 points from Allen, the Celtics' lead was a dizzying 82-37 with 2:44 remaining in the third. Allen and Pierce then joined a comfortable Garnett on the bench.