Weeks before the All-Star break, I found myself watching the Celtics play and just not feeling comfortable with any lead they had, as too many times it appeared no lead seemed to be large enough to hold onto. After tonight's first quarter, with Boston playing some solid ball and up eleven points over New York, I still couldn't shake off that caution. Admittedly, that high-scoring first quarter (Boston 38, NY 27) was nice to watch.
Rondo had 7 of his 16 assists in the first 8½ minutes of the game, including an early alley-oop to KG. Marquis Daniels, who started for Paul Pierce tonight, was strong, Ray continued with some excellent play, and the Celts just looked good. Seamless. But it was only the first quarter, and we've seen too many third and fourth quarter implosions to feel too confident.
Eddie House and Bill Walker were back in the garden as Knicks, and when Eddie came onto the court, he received a huge round of applause. Nate Robinson made his debut with 49 seconds left in the first quarter and was warmly welcomed by Boston fans as well. Bill Walker played more on the parquet floor than he did his entire time with the Celtics, finishing the night with seven points.
By the end of the second quarter, the 'comfortable' Celtics lead was four points. With 7½ minutes still to go in that quarter, New York went on a 13-0 run, keeping the C's from scoring for over four minutes. At the end of the half, Ray Allen had 16 points, along with the Knicks' David Lee. At half-time, the score was Boston 64, New York 60.
So opened the second half of the game, with Boston repeatedly looking like they were just out of gas, and New York in their 9th consecutive losing season and shooting over 50%. We did see KG pull down a rebound early in the third quarter to become the 20th player in the NBA to have over 12,000 rebounds in his career, and Rondo saw his 26th double-double so far this season. Still, the Celtics were playing sloppy and throwing a lot of balls away, and it was a relief to see they were at least holding onto the lead by the end of the quarter: Celtics 94, Knicks 91.
As the game was nearing the end, it was still very uncertain if the C's would be able to hold onto the lead. At one point the camera went over to Tony Allen on the bench, who was peeking out from a towel to watch the action on the floor. In the last quarter, Daniels made a few key baskets and Ray Allen, who has been so consistent anyway, came up with a huge block with just 48 seconds left in the game. That seemed to be the spark the Celtics needed to finish the game. With 10 seconds left in the game, KG made one of two free throws to put Boston ahead by four, and that would end up being the final points scored in the game. I think there was a collective sigh of relief with the final buzzer tonight. I know I had one.