It was flashback time at Madison Square Garden Saturday afternoon, a flashback to a bygone team, arena and era.
Former Nets teammates Kenyon Martin and Jason Kidd -- the two biggest names on the last team to make any playoff noise around here -- summoned their inner 20-something selves circa turn-of-the-century Meadowlands. The result was a series of gutty fourth-quarter plays that helped the Knicks defeat the Boston Celtics, 85-78, at Madison Square Garden in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
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Martin, who did not play a single game this season until the Knicks brought him in on a 10-day contract in early March, stepped up to play a critical role in the fourth quarter when starting center Tyson Chandler was struggling. Chandler played only 6:11 in the half, none in the fourth quarter, and Martin finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 28:26.
Martin's highlight moment came when he leaped to catch Carmelo Anthony's pass over the top of the Celtics' defense, came down and hit a layup with 40.6 seconds left that basically sealed the win.
Kidd, who turned 40 in March, played 35:22 and finished with eight points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals, with all of his thefts coming at crucial moments in the final quarter.
"It's just a great feeling because we've been here before," Martin said. "When I was out on the court with Jason in crunch time, it felt like old times."
It didn't feel too good for Celtics coach Doc Rivers, but as a former point guard, he couldn't help but be wowed by Kidd.
"He's just great. I love watching him. I didn't like watching him today, but he knows how to play," Rivers said. "He says it all the time: 'I'm 40 years old and half the league' -- I told him not half, 90 percent -- 'is faster and quicker than me.' And he beats everybody with his brain. He really does. I don't know what that says, but he really does it. He's in the right place.
"It's a great example. If you can think faster than the guy can move, you're still quicker. You know, that's why he's there first. He thought what the guy was going to do before he did it. He's just a valuable player to have on a basketball team."
Kidd attributed his success to being "around the game too long" and "understanding tendencies." As much as he enjoyed being on the court in in the fourth quarter, he also enjoyed seeing Martin make some big plays down the stretch.
"He was huge," Kidd said. "I don't know if he wants to be called Dez Bryant, but that catch he made from Melo was incredible. That was a big play for us. He's a guy who's been through these battles and we all appreciate he's on our side."
Kidd and Martin went to the NBA Finals twice as Nets teammates in 2002 and 2003, and Kidd won an NBA title with Dallas two years ago. Knicks coach Mike Woodson said their experience is the reason they come up so big in playoff games.
"That was the whole reason for bringing them aboard," Woodson said. "They've been through enough systems. Kidd has won pretty much everywhere he's been. Kenyon's been on winning teams. To me, it's a plus having veteran guys."