On Monday night the Celtics faced the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden. This was the teams first meeting of the year and was certainly going to be one of their toughest tests are the Knicks hold one of the best records in the NBA. Prior to the game bad news hit Celtic nation as the league suspended Rajon Rondo for one game after making contact with a referee in their last game against the Atlanta Hawks. The Celtics looked to rally without their all-star and leader at point guard and did just that with a all around team win 102-96.
With Rondo out Doc Rivers elected to go with a starting line-up of Jason Terry, Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass, and Kevin Garnett. Of the starters Kevin Garnett logged the most minutes with 37 and was clearly emotionally invested in the game. He finished with 17 points on 6-11 shooting and 10 rebounds. Paul Pierce was "The Truth" per usual at MSG going for 23 points 6 assists and 3 rebounds. This marked the teams third straight win and was without a doubt their best so far.
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 7: Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics shoots against Amar'e Stoudemire #1 of New York Knicks on January 7, 2013 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
We finally got to see the depth this team has as every player found a way to contribute both offensively and defensively. In intensity between teams and the atmosphere of the game overall was unbelievable. Simply said this was another classic installment in a long time rivalry. The Celtics trailed by 10 points at one point early on but managed to come out strong in the second half and won the third quarter 23-16.
One of the most promising takeaways from the game was the performance of our younger players Bradley, Lee, Sullinger, and Green. Avery Bradley has been nothing but sensational since he returned and tonight he really was a difference maker. He finished with a stat line of 13 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds while playing suffocating defense the entire night. Courtney Lee too had a solid night as a utility man helping out defensively and contributing as needed offensively.
Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett (5) dunks against New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) in the first half of their NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Jeff Green pieced together a great performance as the high scorer off the bench with 16 points. He also grabbed 6 rebounds and 3 assists while battling defensively against Carmelo Anthony. One could argue Green was the difference maker as Paul Pierce was forced to sit down early in foul trouble. He stepped up to the task and showed his toughness.
Finally there was Jared Sullinger who looked nothing like a rookie tonight. Sully also faced a very tough match-up battling against Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire all night. He too stepped up to the challenge and clearly was getting under Chandler's skin at times. In 19 minutes Jared finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds and led the team with a +9 rating.
Thanks to a great defensive effort from the Celtics, the Knicks shot just 41.9% on the night and committed 13 turnovers. Their franchise player, Carmelo Anthony, struggled shooting tonight going just 6-25 for 20 points. Luckily, as he became frustrated with his performance he attempted to shoot his way out of the slump and certainly hurt the Knicks down the stretch. The high scorer of the night was J.R. Smith. Smith has really played well this year and tonight was no different. In 38 minutes off the bench he scored 24 points but also struggled in the fourth quarter.
Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) defends as New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) drives to the basket in the first half of their NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
So many positive takeaways tonight I could go on for hours. To come into MSG against the second best team in the Eastern Conference without Rajon Rondo and get a win was huge. This was certainly a test of this team's determination and strength and they shinned through. Hopefully this team is here to stay as we've been consistently inconsistent. The come back win against the Hawks was good, this was great.
The team returns home and will play again at TD Garden Wednesday facing the Phoneix Suns. This will be their first of a five game home stand and hopefully will continue the win streak.