Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept.
For the second game in a row, the Celtics made life as difficult as possible for Carmelo Anthony, deploying waves of tough-minded defenders against him and forcing an extended shooting drought.
And for the second game in a row, Anthony shrugged it off, stuck it out and found his touch at just the right time, only this time he did not wait until the fourth quarter, as he did Saturday in Game 1 of the teams' first-round playoff series.
In Game 2 Tuesday night at the Garden, Anthony scored 13 points in the Knicks' game-turning 32-11 third quarter, and he made eight of his final 12 shots from after a 3-for-12 start.
He finished with 34 points after scoring 36 Saturday.
Does Anthony ever allow himself to think it's just one of those days when things don't go well early? In a word: no.
"I can't tell myself that 'I don't have it tonight' in these playoffs," he said. "Throughout the course of a game for me my mentality is: If something's not working, just make adjustments.
"Maybe it's an adjustment to the shot I'm taking or not using my legs enough or not keeping my follow [through] enough, just certain adjustments I make within myself when I'm coming out for the second half."
Hey, whatever works.
"In the playoffs, it's not going to always be perfect for any player," coach Mike Woodson said. "Melo struggled but at the end of the night, he was still there at the end making the plays that we needed to be made from an offensive standpoint.
"He figures it out. The great ones do that. It wasn't anything special that we did. He just kept playing and things started to fall his way."
Then, when the Celtics briefly made it interesting in the fourth quarter by twice drawing within nine, Anthony twice made baskets to stem the tide.
The pattern was similar to what happened in Game 1, when Melo started and finished well, sandwiching a difficult stretch in the middle in an 85-78 victory.
"I'm just playing basketball and trying to take advantage of what they've been throwing at me," he said. "I have to make some shots. I've been missing some shots that I feel like I can make in both games, missing shots I normally make."
Anthony credited his teammates for the defensive effort that fueled the turnaround. Raymond Felton orchestrated the third-quarter spurt, J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin provided their usual energy and the Celtics faded down the stretch again.
"My guys know I trust them a lot, especially when things are not going well for myself," Anthony said. "I rely on my teammates more than a lot of people see . . . That's something we've been building on since training camp, trusting one another, believing in one another and that's what we're doing right now."
In the secon half, Anthony missed a baseline jumper, but soon was drawing another foul on a drive at Pierce, resulting in two more free throws.
Then, in quick succession, he made a three, a tough baseline jumper over Pierce and a shot from the lane, and the Knicks and their star were on the way to Boston firmly in charge.