This didn’t feel like a preseason game from the very beginning. The Knicks and the Celtics played an intense game that featured both benches standing down the stretch, screaming things at each other and urging on their teammates.
Kevin Garnett really was the catalyst for that. Garnett was up screaming, 'Here we come,” after back-to-back Celtics’ baskets late in the Knicks’ 98-95 overtime win. It got guys like Tyson Chandler to stand up and scream things in the Celtics’ direction.
“It was fun,” coach Mike Woodson said. “Both teams didn’t want to lose.”
They certainly acted that way, and there probably is something behind that. The Celtics have ruled the Atlantic Division for a long time and the Knicks have been chasing them the last couple of years.
The Knicks have a chance to catch or surpass Boston this year – a chance. There has been plenty of talk about the Knicks being title contenders – coming from the Knicks.
That probably adds fuel to Garnett’s fire.
But it could also be that the Celtics know the Knicks have closed the gap. But until they or anyone beats the Celtics, they’re still the top team in the Atlantic Division, and they may have gotten better with the additions of Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and a healthy Jeff Green. They still have Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo.
All of that said, it was a preseason game and the Knicks were without six players who you would expect to be a regular part of the rotation, including starting power forward Amar’e Stoudemire to a bruised left knee. So the biggest things you take from this performance were how they fought - erasing a 12-point third-quarter deficit - and how they executed late.
We repeat something we have said over and over – the Knicks are so much better at point guard with Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni than the collection of “floor generals” they had last year, including Jeremy Lin.
Felton is running the team well. The high pick-and-roll was working for him with Chandler. Felton threw a few lobs that Chandler dunked.You have to believe the Knicks will run that with Felton and Stoudemire since they were so effective together two seasons ago.
Kidd and Prigioni were on the floor at the end of the game, leading the Knicks to the win. Down the stretch, it was mostly against players who won’t be in the Celtics’ rotation, but you can see Kidd’s leadership and will to win and Prigioni's poise from being in big games in Europe.
It could be a big advantage for the Knicks playing the two of them together..
Kidd is 39 years old, a champion, Gold medal winner and a future Hall of Famer, and he played 34 minutes. You have to figure Kidd would come out of the game before then, but he didn’t want to, he said.
“No, I wasn't coming out,” Kidd said. “I wanted to win.”
Kidd and Prigioni were sparkplugs defensively. They also ran pick-and-roll with Chris Copeland, who had a great finish to this game.
Copeland didn’t show much in the Knicks’ preseason win at Washington Thursday. But he was active last night, calling for the ball and he came through with 21 points in 19 minutes. Copeland had 18 in the final quarter and overtime, including two foul shots with 11.3 seconds left to put the Knicks up three.
Copeland also made a big defensive play to end the game, blocking Jamar Smith’s three-pointer as time expired. Copeland finished 6-of-11 from the field and 9-of-13 from the line.
“He probably wondered why he didn’t play the first half,” Woodson said. “I somewhat forgot he was over there. Coaches got on me at halftime and said you forgot Cope. I got him in there and he played his [butt] off.”
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 23 points in 24 minutes. Chandler was 6-for-8 with 16 points and Felton had seven points, seven assists and six rebounds.
Along with Stoudemire, the Knicks were without J.R. Smith (ankle), Marcus Camby (calf), Rasheed Wallace (conditioning), Iman Shumpert (knee) and Ronnie Brewer (knee).
Smith looked fine, by the way, jumping up and down and spinning around in the fourth quarter and overtime.
The Knicks' next preseason game is Friday in Montreal against the Raptors.