The Boston Celtics and New York Knicks started off the 2013 NBA playoffs with a hard-fought game in Madison Square Garden, and the Knicks walked away with a 85-78 win over the Celtics to take a 1-0 series lead.
Carmelo Anthony started off red hot for the Knicks and carried the scoring load for the Knicks with a game-high 36 points on 13-29 shooting. Jeff Green led the charge for Boston with 26 points and seven rebounds.
In what everybody expected to be a slugfest, the Knicks and Celtics came out firing, playing in a fast-paced, entertaining first quarter.
Eventually the pace predictably slowed as the physicality ramped up. Believe it or not, it was 12-year veteran Kenyon Martin who defined the defensive game for the Knicks.
For the first quarter, New York and Boston were playing very little effective defense. Anthony was able to get loose and score on his first four shots, but he soon went cold when the Boston defense started to buckle down.
Luckily, J.R. Smith was able to help out a bit with three quick buckets, including this huge dunk down the lane.
Anthony stayed relatively cold, and New York's defense had yet to wake up, but he was continually attacking the rim and getting to the free-throw line.
Martin's defensive effort turned the game in the Knicks' favor as he was able to take control of the post, use his body viciously to get in position for rebounds and slow down the Boston penetration.
Boston went scoreless for five minutes in a stretch between the end of the third quarter and a few minutes into the fourth, mostly because the Knicks were able to get additional possessions thanks to offensive rebounds galore from Martin.
Martin had five offensive rebounds in the game, four of which came in a seven-minute stretch, and Raymond Felton did a little bit of work on the offensive boards as well, grabbing an offensive rebound on two straight possessions.
With five minutes left in the fourth, Boston turned the ball over four times, scored once and missed a shot at the end of the shot clock to give the Knicks a five-point lead.
Despite a horrible three-minute stretch, Boston still had a chance to get back into the game, but they were unable to generate second-chance opportunities, leaving each possession a must-make.
New York held Boston to just 17 points in the third quarter, and then just eight in the fourth.
Anthony didn't have his best game from the floor, but very few players in this game were efficient enough to go to. Anthony did what the Knicks needed from him, and it worked out in the end.
He finished with 36 points, and he was able to add in seven rebounds, four steals and a late, game-clinching assist to Martin.
Jeff Green had a playoff career-high to lead the Celtics with 26 points, though he did have six turnovers and had just six points after halftime. Paul Pierce added 21 on 6-of-15 shooting, Avery Bradley had 15 and Kevin Garnett provided eight points and nine boards. The Celtics committed 20 turnovers.
The New York Knicks got out to a hot start, thanks in part to Carmelo Anthony, but also J.R. Smith's early explosiveness, giving us the first huge highlight of the playoffs.
After a 29-26 first quarter in favor of the Knicks, everybody ran to check each team's roster to make sure that they hadn't made blockbuster trades in the last few days. These two teams have averaged just 188 combined points per game in their four regular-season meetings.
This was a really fun quarter.— Noam Schiller (@noamschiller) April 20, 2013
The story for the Celtics in the first half was Jeff Green, who was able to rack up 20 points on just 10 shots.
If you're a Celtics fan, there's no better site than Jeff Green calling for the ball right now. Need him to be assertive to have a chance.— NBA Guru (@NBAGuru) April 20, 2013
Meanwhile, the Celtics got some spectacular defense out of Brandon Bass on Carmelo Anthony, who started out 4-of-4 from the floor but finished the first half on a 2-of-11 stretch.
Boston has been comfortable with Bass guarding bigger wings for a while now. No surprise he's getting time on Melo and doing well.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) April 20, 2013
The Knicks picked up the defensive effort in the third and started putting a body into Celtics shooters, and the momentum started to flow their way with some solid ball movement.
The passing created space for Melo to work the middle, he kicked out to Kidd and a touch pass to Felton for 3. Awesome.— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) April 20, 2013
While Carmelo Anthony continually made shots, it wasn't his effort that gave the Knicks the lead and eventually the win, it was the total team defense, as Ian Begley notes.
Carmelo has missed 15 of 20 shots after hitting his first four. Credit goes to BOS defense. Prigioni absence has also affected ball movement— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) April 20, 2013
Boston coughed the game up down the stretch, turning the ball over four times in the final five minutes of the game.
Ah, the Celtics committing horrific turnovers. Feels like 2009-2012 again.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) April 20, 2013
The Celtics definitely had a chance to win this one, but New York's defense turned on the heat as Boston's offense just completely fell apart.
Jeff Green seemed to lose his assertiveness, and the Knicks gained a bit. The result was a New York victory.
New York will take their 1-0 lead into Tuesday, as the two teams will do it all again in Madison Square Garden.