The plan was to make Carmelo Anthony uncomfortable. The Celtics knew they couldn't shut down the Knicks' MVP candidate, so the plan was to get physical, get under his skin and force him into having to take some shots he wouldn't usually take.
And the plan apparently worked to perfection, both on and off the court.
Minutes after one of his most frustrating games of the season, Anthony's frustration bubbled over off the court at Madison Square Garden, according to reports by MSG Network. After shooting 6-for-26 Monday night in the Knicks' 102-96 loss to the Celtics, Anthony went straight to the Celtics' locker room yelling and had to be held back by teammates.
Although the Celtics declined to say exactly what had occurred, it was clear from coach Doc Rivers' postgame comments that something had happened.
"I'm going to let you all figure that one out. I'm going to stay out of that," Rivers said. "If it were the playoffs, I'd tell on him. But since it's not, I'm just going to be quiet."
It's a pretty fair bet that Anthony's frustration was aimed at Kevin Garnett, a former MVP who went back and forth with Anthony all night. The referees had to intervene and administer double technical fouls with 9:03 remaining, which seemed to fire up the visiting underdogs.
"It's the heat of the battle, man," Garnett said. "It's guys going back and forth. He's trying to get his team to go. I'm trying to get my team to go. Both teams are colliding. It's just what it is."
When asked if Anthony had come to the Celtics' locker room and started yelling after the game, Garnett shrugged and said, "Man, it's just basketball."
Rivers, who played for the Knicks, recalled times when he let his on-court feelings carry over off the court.
"There's nothing wrong with getting heated," he said. "It happens. It's a fun game. It's competitive. It's a rough game at times. That's good. I think it's all good. It should never carry past that. I've had my moments as a player as well. It does carry over. But you don't want it to. But whenever it does, you feel terrible later."
No one can be too sure how Anthony felt because he left the building without talking to reporters. It's clear, however, that the Celtics felt pretty good about being able to hold him to 20 points.
"Carmelo is a great player. He's going to make shots," Rivers said. "We did a better job in the second half. He had to make the shots that we wanted him to make instead of the ones he wanted. I thought that made the difference."
Enough of a difference that the Celtics (17-17), who entered the night seven games behind the Knicks, got the kind of win that could send their season in the right direction after a difficult start.
At least for one team, it was.