NEW YORK – The Knicks reverted back to their old ways from the Isiah Thomas era tonight in an ugly 101-90 loss to the defending champion Boston Celtics at the Garden. Despite the deceiving final 11 point margin of difference, it was the Celtics who completely dominated the game by every measure.
The Celtics led by 10 at the end of the first quarter (26-16) and by 24 at the half (58-34) as the Knicks, coming off a Monday night game in New Jersey, played as if they hadn’t recovered from the back to back games.
The Knicks shot a putrid 1 of 19 from three point range in the half and almost as bad, 11 of 39 from the field (28%) over the first 24 minutes.
It didn’t get much better for the home team as the visiting Celtics played as if they had a chip on their shoulder.
The Knicks new head coach, Mike D’Antoni was realistic about tonight’s performance.
“They are the World Champions and they didn’t like us going up there to their home court last week and beating them,” he said. “I think they were trying to send us a message and we got it loud and clear.”
Eddie House, who scored 20 points in 26 minutes made it clear that Celtic pride still exists, even during the exhibition season.
“We don’t like losing, period; especially to a team in our division,” House said. “At the end of the day, we have to play our brand of basketball and not get caught up in other teams.”
With only two exhibition games left before the start of the real games, the Knicks are a team with many unanswered questions. Still to be resolved is the situation with Stephon Marbury? Will he stay and be a happy camper as a backup player or will he demand a trade or release? Tonight, D’Antoni started him, a surprise move to most observers considering he’s been the fourth guard in D’Antoni’s rotation, thus far. Speculation was flying around press row that the Knicks were showcasing Marbury for a possible trade or possibly, to try to light a fire under Jamal Crawford, who has not played well as the starting shooting guard in this new system.
Crawford’s been averaging a paltry 9.0 points per game thus far and has seemed hesitant much of the time when the ball has been in his hands. Not a good recipe for the team’s leading scorer.
“He’s struggled but Jamal is a great kid,” said D’Antoni. “We have to have him. He’s important to us. I still think he will do it but he has to turn it on. He has to fight his way through it and he can definitely do it.”
Eddy Curry, the only true center on this team, is turning into a highly-paid benchwarmer as he didn’t get the call to play tonight as a healthy scratch. If the Knicks have any plans to trade him, his value is at an all-time low making the possibility of getting a good player or high draft pick in return almost impossible.
“He is going to have to play better than what he has shown me,” D’Antoni continued. “He is going to have to pick up his training. The door is never closed but we are not going to lower anything we do for any player. There is plenty of time for him to work and get back into the rotation but he has to make a heck of an effort.”
Another question mark has to do with whether Chris Duhon is truly the right point guard for this team and this system. He hasn’t been impressive on the stat sheets during these early games and he is not the offensive scoring threat Marbury is but D’Antoni seems to prefer his defensive skills and his pass-first attitude enough to keep him in the starting lineup.
Wilson Chandler, the second-year small forward, sprained his knee tonight, an injury that could be devastating in D’Antoni’s master plan to run and gun with athletic players. Chandler has been the most exciting player in camp with his slashing and shooting skills perfectly suited to this offense.
Knick Notes: Eddie House, the Celtics backup shooting guard and Marbury got into a shouting match during the first half. House, still on the bench in the first quarter, was screaming at Marbury in a manner not suitable for a family publication. Marbury, when asked about it afterward had a “no comment.” The Knicks finished 4 of 31 from three point range.