This wasn’t a very memorable offensive performance from Jeff Green, but he was there when the Boston Celtics needed him, scoring a tough, slightly lucky shot to grant them a 90-86 win over the New York Knicks, who couldn’t get to avenge their humiliating loss only a week earlier to the same team.
The Knicks didn’t play that bad of a basketball game this time. The problem was the awful basketball from their second unit. Amare Stoudemire did score 18 points, but he created more than 80% of the points off the bench. The Knicks did well with Anthony and Bargnani on the court, but the other guys kept helping the Celtics back in the game, eventually being too much to counter in the final minutes.
Not a great game from Boston, but there’s no one relying on individual talent with this team. It’s all about team, passing and an attempt at defense, which isn’t that difficult against what the Knicks have to offer. Jared Sullinger had a strong performance, even though it came with some very lazy moments on defense. He scored 19 points, finishing with 6 rebounds and 3 assists, showing some nice vision when he got the ball around the perimeter, enjoying the open looks the Knicks’ defense gives so many players across America.
Courtney Lee was the real spark plug off the bench, leading the excellent second unit with 18 points in only 19 minutes, connecting on all of this 3 point attempts. The New York Knicks are a team that seems devoid of energy when they really need it, something a bench usually provides. Once the shooting of Anthony and Bargnani disappears, there seems to be practically nothing to hold them in the game. Anthony scored 26 points on 9-of-24 from the field; Bargnani scored 22 on 9-of-22. At some point, the predictability of this offense becomes quite comfortable to defend for capable teams.
I wouldn’t want to go through it again, but that’s exactly what our team needed. We needed to have a lead, lose it, be backed up against the wall and figure out a way to win. Carmelo got going like Carmelo can get going, and it didn’t really matter who was guarding him. But Jeff went to a different level in the last eight minutes. And that was encouraging to see, because I really thought he did a great job.
At 11-14, the Celtics make for very unlikely leaders of the Atlantic division, which becomes very interesting amid the talks among NBA officials of scrapping the division format (about time!) in favor of something a little bit wiser. Only 3 teams in NBA history have led a division with a losing record through 25 games: The 1956-57 Hawks went 34-48 while both the 1971-72 Baltimore Bullets and 1975-76 Milwaukee Bucks went 38-44. Right now, the Celtics aren’t playing consistent, playoff-worthy basketball, but it really doesn’t matter in the Eastern conference, which rewards teams that are plain bad, and not awful.