Recap: Celtics keep the 8th spot, beat the Knicks 96-92

NEW YORK — Friday night was the second time the Celtics played in the Big Apple in a week's time with this match-up against the Knicks — aka the team with the fewest wins in the league. Boston started the night clinging onto the eighth spot in the East and tied for fourth in the league for wins (15-10) since February 4th. On Friday, they took their second win in New York since Monday and held onto that spot in the playoff race.

Brandon Bass had a double double for the Celtics and led all players in rebounds, taking down 10 to go along with his 16 points. Avery Bradley performs well in NYC on the regular and kept his consistently good looking stat line in New York area codes alive with 10 points, 3 boards and 2 assists. Isaiah Thomas was coming off a disappointing return to the court on Wednesday night after an 8-game hiatus. Pre-game Friday night, Isaiah said he's feeling better.

And he looked it. Isaiah far exceeded Wednesday night's return at the Garden with a remarkably different performance on Friday. We still saw some shots coming up short but there was an overall rewind to the Isaiah Thomas we want and — without question — need.   He definitely appeared to be elevating more on his drives and was characteristically putting the ball into guys’ hands, leading Boston with 4 assists at the half and finishing the game with 6 assists and 18 points.

Jae Crowder’s energy brought the Celtics alive from a seemingly sluggish state in the first half. Tonight, he was one of five Celtics in double digits, shooting 5/12 -- 17 points and 9 boards.

Evan Turner shot 50% on the night with a well-rounded 15 points, 7 boards and 5 assists.

The Knicks nagged the Celtics and stayed in this one all night.

Friday night’s starting line-ups:

CELTICS Bass, Bradley, Smart, Turner and Zeller
KNICKS Admundson, Bargnani, Galloway, Larkin and Thomas

1st Half By the 10-minute mark of the 1st quarter, the two teams were a combined 0-6. The opening points of the contest came from New York's Lance ThomasAvery Bradley provided Boston's first bucket. The Knicks took a lead with the score 10-9, on an 8-0 run. Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas came into the game at the halfway point of the quarter. New York was shooting 58% and having no problem scoring in the paint (despite averaging the league's fewest points in the paint at 33.3) and getting several open looks. Kelly Olynyk entered the game at the 4 1/2 minute mark replacing Tyler Zeller who picked up his second foul. Down five, the Celtics caused a Knicks shot clock violation. With 2:10 to go in the 1st, the Celtics trailed 18-15. Boston tied up the game at 20 a-piece with an Isaiah 3-pointer, off the glass and the foul. Boston reclaimed the lead with Isaiah's made foul shot but it was quickly followed by him committing an offensive foul. The Knicks convert and the quarter ends with the Celtics trailing by one, shooting 42% and 10 bench points. Knicks shot 56% in the 1st quarter.

Brad Stevens goes with an all-bench line-up to start the 2nd quarter: Crowder, Datome, Jerebko, Olynyk and Thomas. Jerebko hitting a three meant nine Celtics players had scored. However, by the 9 ½ minute mark, no Celtics had scored two field goals. Halfway through the quarter, the Celtics’ pace picked up behind the efforts of Jae Crowder. With the team shooting just 37%, a 16-foot jumper from Crowder put the C's up by 7. A pair of made free throws by Bass bumped the lead to 9 with five minutes until the half. Off a loose ball Knicks turnover, the Celtics went up by 11. Bargnani and Larkin contributed to a push by the Knicks and the half ended with Boston up 8, shooting 10/10 from the line and both teams having shot a mirroring 17/39.

Bass and Crowder led the Celtics in the first half with 8 points and 4 rebounds each. All players seeing the floor thus far – minus Datome – had scored for Boston.

At the half: Celtics 47, Knicks 39

2nd Half Boston's 2nd half line-up reverted to the starting crew. First points of the half came from Bass, making him the first Celtic in double digits. Andrea Bargnani logged the first points of the 3rd quarter for New York and at the 10 minute mark, he had 15 points. After the ninth Boston turnover of the game, New York had cut the lead to six. A Ricardo Ledo three and Lance Thomas jumper cut the Celtics' lead to one during a Knicks' 7-0 run. Turnovers by Boston and second-chance points for New York meant a 3-point lead for the Celtics half way through the quarter. More gritty play by Crowder on both ends with five minutes to play in the 3rd. He was leading Boston with 12 points and 6 boards. The same way Crowder seemed to be everywhere, Bargnani was making a similar impression for New York. With just over two minutes to go in the quarter, two made free throws by Thomas put the C's up by five. A pull-up jumper from Isaiah pushed the Celtics lead to 7. Marcus Smart drew his 9th charge of the season on an awesome defensive effort during a 9-2 run by Boston. Isaiah Thomas had tallied 15 points and 6 assists. Crowder had 14 and 8 boards. 3rd quarter ended with Celtics 70, Knicks 63. 

Celtics started the 4th with Jerebko, Olynyk, Smart, Thomas and Turner. Smart had the first points of the quarter on a dish from Evan Turner, his 5th assist of the night. At the 10-minute mark, the Celtics were up five. With 5 minutes still left to play, Isaiah had made an official return to grace with 17 points and was 7/7 from the foul line. Celtics put together another 9-2 run with the Knicks going 1-6. New York cut the lead back to five with under 2 minutes to go. A four-point possession by the Knicks paired with a Galloway 3-pointer kept things uncomfortably close straight through to the final buzzer. Two Brandon Bass free throws put Boston up by six but a Knicks' Smith three-pointer shrank the Celtics' lead to just 3 points with only 1.2 left on the clock. Celtics would hang on to win.

Final score: Celtics 96, Knicks 92

Box Scores:

Steph sidebar: Two NBA veterans (and one-time rivals) made "appearances" over the course of Friday night's game. Walt Frazier was serenaded by the Four Tops for his 70th birthday at Madison Square Garden and Tommy Heinsohn called into the broadcast to share his thoughts on the team, the mental capacity needed to finish out a season strong and the pace of the game at hand. Get well soon, Tommy!

Photo Credit: Brian Babinueau

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