Celtics beat Knicks in final tuneup for season
NEW YORK (AP)—The Boston Celtics had one final piece of preseason business to take care of before turning their thoughts to the real games.
The Celtics were disappointed in their performance in a loss to New York last week, and Kevin Garnett and the rest of the NBA champions wanted to send a reminder that they don’t mail in games—even ones that don’t count.
Garnett had 14 points and nine rebounds, Ray Allen scored 12 points and the Celtics tuned up for the start of their NBA title defense with a 101-90 win over the Knicks on Tuesday night.
“I’m not going to say it was a statement, but we definitely came in and let them know that what happened in Boston is not going to happen too many times,” Garnett said. “We do take a lot of pride in how we play and we’re not going to come out here and take you lightly.”
The Celtics finished 6-2 in the preseason and are now off until hosting Cleveland next Tuesday night in the NBA opener, when they will raise the banner celebrating their 17th NBA championship and receive the rings they earned for beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA finals.
“I feel like the last couple of games we’ve been playing the way we want to play and it starts with our defense,” Boston forward Paul Pierce said. “I think that’s what we’ve been able to display and hopefully we can just carry it into the season.”
Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni put Marbury, the longtime starter at point guard but now a reserve, into the starting lineup along with fellow subs Robinson and Wilson Chandler. All three have been among the Knicks’ best offensive players in the preseason, but the lineup left the Knicks with a small frontline, forcing a guard to defend forward Pierce, the NBA finals MVP.
Pierce was 0-for-7 and scored only six points, but the Celtics didn’t need him. Garnett and the Celtics’ bigs punished New York inside, and the Knicks were out of sync offensively, with shots off the side of the backboard and passes thrown into the stands.
Marbury, who some speculated would be waived or traded by now, replaced Jamal Crawford, last season’s leading scorer who was averaging just 9.0 points on 41 percent shooting. Crawford struggled again, missing the rim on his first shot attempt, and finished 3-of-8 for seven points.
The Knicks were averaging 109.6 points in the preseason and had won two in a row, including a 104-97 victory at Boston last Friday. But their offense that had looked so fluid was bogged down against the Celtics, who held teams to the lowest field goal percentage in the league last season.
“They’re the world champions,” D’Antoni said. “They didn’t like us going up there and beating them last time and I think they were trying to send us a little message, and we got it pretty loud and clear.”
D’Antoni sent his own message, benching former starting center Eddy Curry, even though his size could have been useful against the Celtics’ forwards. Curry missed the first week of practice with an illness and apparently hasn’t worked hard enough to catch up.
“He is going to have to pick it up,” D’Antoni said. “The door is never closed but at the same time we are not going to lower anything we do for anybody. They are going to have to come up to us.”
Making matters worse, Chandler sprained his left knee in the second quarter and didn’t return. He was knocked out with the same injury the last time Boston was here, in April.
Boston held New York to 30 percent shooting in the first quarter and opened a 26-16 lead. A 17-2 spurt over a span of more than 5 minutes gave the Celtics a 43-20 lead, and they were up 58-34 at halftime after Garnett’s layup with 5.9 seconds remaining.
The lead grew to 25 in the third and was still 20 entering the fourth before the Knicks, with starters on the floor against the end of Boston’s bench, cut it to single digits late in the period.
The Knicks (3-3) finish their preseason Friday night at home against New Jersey.