At first glance, you would think that the Celtics wouldn’t have much of a problem with a Knick team missing Amar’e Stoudemire. While you’d be wrong, the Celtics did prevail, winning 97-84 (it was closer than the score would indicate).
The opening quarter featured a flurry of defensive miscues by the Celtics. They were often late on their rotations, and let the Knicks hit too many jumpers. Offensively, they fared much better. Their ball movement was great, and they often ended their possessions with strong, high percentage shots. Of course, when you’re giving up a lot of jumpers on the other end, decent/good offense isn’t going to get it done.
Fortunately for the Celtics, this was a pre-season game and sometimes your level of play doesn’t necessarily lead to a win or loss. Sometimes, your success is directly linked to how the coaching staffs decide to handle their rosters. Once D’Antoni started putting in his bench, you could see the level of play drop significantly for New York. In pro sports, depth is huge. You can win in the youth rec league with one or two stars surrounded by garbage, but in the pros you need a strong 1 through 9. The Celtics have that, the Knicks don’t. With that said, the Knicks are getting close.
I made that last point because, well, it’s true. The Knicks ARE close. Not to being a title contender, but to being a perennial playoff attendee. They already should make the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference (Celtics, Heat, Magic, Bulls and Bucks are definitely better. Knicks are right on par or better than everyone else.). With Randolph, Gallinari, Felton, and Stoudemire (most importantly), the Knicks have a solid core. They just need another superstar to slot in with those guys. I wonder if there was a big-time small forward available this summer that they could have added to complete their lineup?
All kidding aside, can New York land Carmello next summer? If so, pencil them into the Eastern Conference playoffs, with a top three seed, for the next 5 years.
To avoid turning this into a stale recap article, let’s do a quick aside on Mr. Stoudemire, since he was simply hanging out on the sideline rather than playing on the floor. The dude was practically invisible out there. He sat there in his own corner, quietly, slapping hands with guys if he felt necessary, and reacting to plays half a notch below everyone else. If the bench was jumping and yelling, he was clapping. If they were shouting encouragement, he was sitting there with his hands clasped, and so on. He even wandered onto the floor during a timeout and just, well, wandered. He walked about twenty steps, and then walked back. Ronny Turiaf stopped him to say/ask him something, Stoudemire looked like he was trying to think of the quickest way out of the conversation, and that was that. Now, I’m not trying to paint Stoudemire as a bad guy. He might have simply been bored by the notion of sitting on the bench for a pre-season game in Hartford, CT. But man, if that’s what he’s like all of the time, then no thanks.
Luke Harangody is the offensive inverse of Brian Scalabrine. Other than that, they are basically the same guy. Both white, both with some bulk but not in the ripped, muscular sense. Both offer over the top encouragement after a teammate draws a foul from the other team. Both are borderline NBA talents. If Harangody sees more than 10 minutes a game this year, either the Celtics are setting an NBA record for blowouts, or they are going to set an NBA record for injury minutes. Because he isn’t getting that type of playing time because of his play.
An example why small ball simply doesn’t work in the NBA. The Knicks took Gallinari out of the game in the first, and obviously didn’t have Stoudemire, and they were instantly abused. The Celtics’ first two possessions featured three offensive rebounds and an up-and-under by Erden, respectively. The Celtics went small against a bigger Knick lineup and they struggled in the paint as well. You need bigs and you need to win the battle in the paint if you want success. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to go small on occasion. It’s just that you have to pick your spots and go small when it makes sense.
I still don’t know how I feel about the Celtics’ depth. They have a strong starting five, plus throw in Jermaine O’Neal, Perk, Marquis Daniels, and Big Baby. That’s a great nine. But after those guys, you worry about having to play Harangody too much, Erden is a big question mark (no pun intended), and the other guys are unproven and look like they’d be overmatched if given too many minutes. For now, the Celtics seem fine. If injuries hit, all bets are off. You can say the same for a lot of teams, so it’s not a concern, but just something to think about considering the age on this team.
Overall, a decent win for the Celtics. They weren’t exceptional offensively, but they hit the boards hard and their hustle picked up as the game progressed. It’s not always easy to step up your energy level on a night like this, but the Celtics did. Quality win for Doc’s boys.
- Semih Erden…proof that white men can’t jump. The guy is 7 feet tall and epically failed on an easy alley-oop from Rajon Rondo. It was embarrassing for the Caucasian population. I would know, because I’m a member of that community.
- Hopefully the Celtics understand how much support they have in Hartford and start scheduling some regular season games here. Why not schedule a throw away home game on a Wednesday night in Hartford against the Raptors, Pistons, or Warriors? Perfect example of why they would draw regardless, is the crowd’s enthusiasm from opening tip to the final horn. With a fourth quarter lineup of Nate Robinson, Harangody, Von Wafer, Stephane Lasme, and Mario West, the crowd was acting like it was Game 7 of the NBA Finals (sorry, too soon?).
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