KNICKS 98 CELTICS 95 OT | XL CENTER – HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT
How it happened:
Let’s just say the 14 thousand fans in Hartford, Connecticut got their money worth on Saturday night.
The Knicks traveled without Amar’e Stoudemire for the second straight game and J.R. Smith was sidelined with a sore left ankle but the team thrilled the crowd in an Atlantic Division overtime battle. A mixed lineup of young players competing for a roster spot and veterans combined to lift New York to a 98-95 victory in the extra frame.
After the starters for both teams moved to the bench, head coach Mike Woodson featured a lineup of Pablo Prigioni, Jason Kidd, James White, Steve Novak, and Chris Copeland. Boston utilized a group led by Jamar smith, Dionte Christmas, Micah Downs, Kris Joseph, and Jared Sullinger. The former Ohio State standout, Sullinger eventually fouled out of the contest.
Prigioni was all over the floor in the final quarter and overtime session. The newly acquired point guard harassed the Celtics backcourt on the defensive side while setting up Copeland for countless pick-and-roll opportunities late in the game. Running next to Prigioni in the backcourt was the 39-year old Kidd, who nailed a deep jumper to hand the Knicks a 94-93 lead at the 1:47 mark of overtime. Copeland then snatched a big rebound, hit two free throws, and blocked Smith’s potential game-winner at the buzzer.
Despite constant pressure in the first half, Carmelo Anthony found a way to score 23 points in 23 minutes to lead all scorers. Copeland finished with 21 off the bench and Tyson Chandler scored 16 points and grabbed seven boards. Raymond Felton went toe-to-toe with Rajon Rondo, finishing with seven points, seven assists, and six boards. Throughout the first half, Felton penetrated the opposing defense and tossed high alley-oops to Chandler for easy two-hand slams. The chemistry between the backcourt and frontline members continued to grow in the second exhibition outing this week.
Smith was held out for precautionary reasons and Woodson said the staff wants to give Stoudemire more time to heal from a bruised knee he suffered at practice earlier in the week.
Boston is known for frustrating its opponents star players by executing a suffocating trap-style defense. On Saturday night, the Celtics would not allow Anthony a free shot at the rim. New York’s All-Star continued to fight and hit 7-of-16 shots from the floor and 8-of-9 buckets at the charity stripe. He added four boards to the box score, which is impressive considering the minimal court time.
In the first quarter, the Knicks scored 16 points in the paint as opposed to Boston’s four in the box. New York outscored the Celtics 44-34 and will have a clear advantage in the frontcourt when the two teams collide in the regular sesason.
The Knicks traveled back to New York City on Saturday night and will have Sunday off to rest. On Monday, the squad will return to practice with four days to prepare for a matchup against Toronto in Montreal on Friday.