Boston Celtics draw first blood over Knicks in NBA
Carmelo Anthony takes his battle with Kevin Garnett and Boston past the full-time buzzer as New York push hard against Atlantic rivals
Associated Press in New York
Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett clashed verbally from baseline to mid-court, and Anthony still had more to say.
So the Knicks forward headed for the Celtics locker room after the game to keep shouting, taking his on-court frustrations with him, and perhaps risking an NBA suspension.
Paul Pierce scored 23 points, and Boston beat New York 102-96 in a heated first meeting of the season between the Atlantic Division rivals.
Anthony left without talking to reporters and the Knicks would not comment on Anthony's post-game trip in the wrong direction, but Celtics coach Doc Rivers did not deny it.
"I'm going to let you all figure that one out. I'm going to stay out of that," Rivers said. "If it was the play-offs I'd tell on him, but since it's not I'm going to just be quiet."
Rivers didn't need to. MSG Network reported the incident, in which security had to step in and send Anthony back in the right direction, as it went to its post-game show, The league is likely to investigate and could penalise the Knicks' leading scorer.
Garnett added 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, who even without the suspended Rajon Rondo won their third straight and are finally playing like the team that have ruled the division for the past five years.
The Knicks want that title now, but Anthony and his teammates were reminded how tough the Celtics can make it.
Anthony had 20 points but shot six of 26 while battling his temper, Garnett and foul trouble.
Garnett denied the post-game altercation. "Listen, heat of the battle, man. Guys go 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, not to mention that it's the Knicks and the Celtics," Garnett said. "Just what it is, man."
JR Smith led the way for the Knicks with 24 points, while Tyson Chandler had 13 points and 17 rebounds.
Rondo was suspended for making contact with a referee in a game against Atlanta on Saturday and failure to co-operate with an NBA investigation. Without the NBA's assist leader, the Celtics relied on the kind of defence that has been absent too often this season.
They allowed 78 points per game in their past two wins, then held the Knicks to 40 in the second half.
Pierce, who was also in foul trouble in the tightly and sometimes inconsistently called game, put it away with a jumper with 45 seconds to go, blowing a kiss toward the crowd he loves to torment after putting the Celtics up by six.
The trash talk didn't just stay on the court, or between players. Pierce tried to throw the ball in from the sideline shortly after, only to have movie director Spike Lee standing and yelling in his ear.
"I've been tuning Spike Lee out for years," Pierce said. "That's just common noise now."
The Celtics have won the past five Atlantic Division titles, starting with their NBA championship season of 2007-08. But while Rivers often says he never talks to the players about winning the division, Knicks coach Mike Woodson has made it a priority since becoming interim coach in March last year.
They couldn't catch Boston last season but had opened a 4½-game lead over Brooklyn and were seven games up on the third-place Celtics entering Monday's play.
"Our goals are bigger and so are the Knicks', I'm sure, but maybe that's part of their goal and that's their first step," Rivers said of the division title. "But our goal is always bigger than that."
The New Yorkers only recently begun to play like they could attain it.
Rondo had his second triple-double of the season on Saturday to rally the Celtics to an 89-81 victory in Atlanta, but his actions during the game kept him from the arena on Monday. Avery Bradley, recently back from shoulder surgery, helped the Celtics overcome his absence.
Anthony and Pierce both picked up two fouls in the first 4½ minutes, Pierce getting a technical as well on his way to the bench.
The early fouls, and some extra intensity, kept either team from getting in much of a flow, although New York did build a 10-point lead that Boston wiped out on its way to a 22-21 lead after a period in which they combined to make 13 of 35 shots.
The Knicks had the lead back to nine in the second, but Pierce scored 15 points in the period as Boston got within 56-53 at the break.
Boston scored seven straight late in the third quarter to open a six-point lead, held the Knicks to six-of-17 shooting in the period and led 76-72 headed to the fourth, when the fireworks started.