Knicks edge Celtics in exciting opener

Carmelo Anthony celebrates after hitting jumper against the

Carmelo Anthony celebrates after hitting jumper against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks defeated the Celtics, 106-104. (Dec. 25, 2011) Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Now, where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?

Oh, right: April 24, Madison Square Garden, Knicks vs. Celtics, the latter sweeping a first-round playoff series and extending their overall winning streak against the Knicks to eight games.

Eight long, post-lockout months later, the teams reconvened at high noon Sunday to tip off the 2011-12 season on national television, the Knicks showcasing a new-look roster in a new-look arena.

One thing hadn't changed since the last time the teams met: Carmelo Anthony was an offensive force. One thing did change: The Knicks won, 106-104, going ahead on a pair of free throws by Anthony with 16.3 seconds left.

In the fourth quarter alone, Anthony scored 17 of his game-high 37 points, shooting 4-for-5 from the field and 7-for-8 from the line.

It was a rousing, rugged victory, made more satisfying because of the opponent.

"It's going to be a rivalry now because I think we can get up to the same level they are,'' said coach Mike D'Antoni, who before the game half-jokingly hoped the aging Celtics might have hit a plateau.

"It's going to be knock-down, drag-out, and there are going to be some tempers.''

That was evident after the game's final play. The Celtics inbounded with 3.9 seconds left, with Rajon Rondo passing to Kevin Garnett, and as the Knicks' Tyson Chandler tried to guard Garnett, Walker ran into him and knocked Chandler out of the play.

Walker made a quick recovery and contested Garnett's shot from 14 feet, which was off-target. After the final horn, Garnett and Walker jawed at one another, and Garnett put his left hand on Walker's throat.

"The intensity level was very high,'' Anthony said. "We expect that.''

The Knicks surely benefited from the absence of Celtics star Paul Pierce, who sat with a heel injury. But the home team suffered two blows, losing rookie guard Iman Shumpert from its already thin backcourt for two to four weeks with a sprained right MCL and forward Jared Jeffries for one to two weeks because of a right calf injury.

As he did during the playoffs, Rondo tormented the Knicks with his quickness, getting 31 points, 13 assists, five rebounds and five steals.

Fortunately for the Knicks, their frontcourt lived up to expectations. Amar'e Stoudemire shot 8-for-11 and had 21 points and six rebounds. Chandler, their new center, had six blocked shots, keying a defensive effort that was pretty good other than the third quarter, in which Boston scored 35 points.

After trailing by 17 in the first half, the Celtics scored 13 in a row in the third quarter and led by 10, 89-79, early in the fourth. Part of the problem was defensive breakdowns. Part was that Anthony played less than four minutes in the third because of foul trouble.

Anthony said he tried to get others involved early in the game, a point of emphasis this season. "I don't really have to show everybody I can score the basketball,'' he said. "I think that's self-explanatory.''

It was down the stretch, to the point that Celtics coach Doc Rivers second-guessed himself for his team's lack of defensive aggressiveness against Anthony.

The Knicks were pleased to make a positive first impression on their fans, especially because their next three games are on the road against the Warriors, Lakers and Kings, beginning Wednesday night.

"The energy tonight was out the roof,'' Stoudemire said. "I think the fans were so ready for the season because of the long offseason and the new acquisitions and all the hype behind us. Today was a great start for us as a team and also for the fans.''

Subscribe to Newsday’s sports newsletter for stories, photos and videos about your favorite New York teams plus national sports news and events.

Comments now uses Facebook for our comment boards. Please read our guidelines and connect your Facebook account to comment.

You also may be interested in: