The Celtics beat the Knicks 111-103 to end the first half with 5 straight victories and a 41-9 record. The All Star Break couldn't come at a better time as the Celtics have just one big still standing after last night's game. It is like an Agatha Christie mystery as the Celtics bigs have been knocked off one by one until only Leon Powe was left standing. It is ironic that the reason that Leon dropped to the 49th pick was that they were afraid of his surgically repaired knees and he is the last healthy Celtic big left standing at the break.
Scott Pollard has missed most of the first half with ankle problems. Kevin Garnett missed his 9th straight game last night with an ab strain. Kendrick Perkins missed his 3rd game with the strained shoulder. In the first quarter of last night's game with a groin strain. Then, in the second quarter, Big Baby went down holding his knee. He was helped off the floor and left the Garden on crutches with what has been initially diagnosed with a left quad strain. That left Leon Powe as the only big on the Celtics facing a Knicks team with a plethora of bigs. But it didn't matter as the Celtics finished off the Knicks in spite of a couple of lapses that led to some tense moments, especially for Tommy who was beside himself calling for the Celtics to take the ball inside.
This game had a bit of everything. There were the two injuries to the Celtics bigs. Rondo got poked in the eye in the 4th quarter and after the game looked more like a prize fighter than a basketball player as his eye was partially swollen shut. There was a double lane violation on a free throw, something I don't recall seeing before, and possession was decided by a jump ball. There was the irate Isiah Thomas picking up 2 technicals in less than 2 minutes and being ejected. Before he left, though, he gave Doc Rivers a hug. Then there was Crawford getting fouled not once, but three times while shooting a 3 in the 4th quarter. On the third foul, they awarded him 3 free throws. After the first, they changed it to 2 free throws and then changed it back to 3. The Celtics allowed the Knicks 103 points, only the 8th time all season they allowed a team to get to 100. The Celtics built a 27 point lead and then allowed the Knicks to cut it to only 7. It definitely wasn't one of the Celtics better efforts and would be better suited to show what not to do rather than what a team should do.
Leon Powe was terrific right from the start. He started the game by taking two charges in a row from Curry and Randolph in spite of giving up about 40 pounds a piece to NY's two very big bigs. He finished the game with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 1 block and only 3 fouls. He played great defense keeping NY's bigs away from the basket. James Posey came off the bench to supply some much needed rebounding and finished with 5 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists. Posey is a player who does whatever it takes to win.
Rajon Rondo is certainly scoring well for a player who can't shoot. He has been hitting his jumpers as well as getting to the basket on a regular basis. He finished with 18 points on 9-14 shooting to go with 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks. It is so exciting to see Rondo improving and growing into a top point guard before our eyes this season. Ray Allen found out at half time that he was chosen to replace Caron Butler in the All Star game and played befitting an All Star with 21 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Pierce had another Pierce-like game with 24 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals to go with 6 turnovers. Tony Allen also had a strong game bringing a spark off the bench and scoring on several drives to the basket along with a 3 pointer to stem the tide of the Knicks comeback. He finished with 14 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, and 1 block. He also played in your face defense and on a couple of plays caused turnovers because he smothered the other player completely.
The Celtics shot only 42% in the first quarter but picked up the pace and finished the game shooting 51%. In spite being extremely undersized, the Celtics won the battle on the boards with 39 rebounds to 37 for the Knicks. Turnovers were even at 15 with the Celtics committing the bulk of theirs in the second and third quarters as they got sloppy after building a big lead. They turned it over just once in the 4th quarter. The Celtics have a lot to feel good about going into the break. They have the league's best record at 41-9 and finished the half with 5 straight wins in spite of all the injuries. Best of all, they have 5 days off to get healthy as the two toughest months of the season are coming up right after the break. It feels very good to be a Celtics fan right now.