Don't look now, but the Knicks are 5-0

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Don't look now, but the Knicks are 5-0

From Comcast SportsNetORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- In their first four games, the New York Knicks surprised many by consistently performing above preseason expectations and jumping out to an unbeaten start.Another night and another victory later, the Knicks' breakout beginning doesn't seem to have an end in sight.Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points, J. R. Smith and Raymond Felton each added 21, and the New York Knicks held off the Orlando Magic 99-89 Tuesday night to improve to 5-0.The victory extended New York's NBA-best start. The Knicks have won their first five games for the first time since opening the 1993-94 season 7-0 on their way to the NBA finals. The Knicks remain the league's only unbeaten team."Defense, we buckled down," Anthony said. "We kind of slowed them down, kept them off the glass rebounding. Once we had a chance to rebound the basketball, get out and make some shots, we didn't turn back from there."J.J. Redick scored 18 points and Arron Afflalo added 13 for the Magic, who were stunted by 20 turnovers that led to 24 New York points. Orlando dropped its fifth consecutive game and continues to struggle without starters Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu."You have to want to win more, simple as that," Afflalo said. "There's not one man on this team that's going to do it, (we) pretty much have to want it more."New York coach Mike Woodson has made no secret of the fact that for the Knicks to continue their recent output long-term, keeping his older team well-rested will be a necessity.A three-day rest following their dominating win over Dallas on Friday was perfect timing for a Knicks squad that played its first three games in just four nights.It showed against and Orlando team whose younger players were fearless attacking New York early on.But so much youth on the floor also gave way to some careless mistakes late in the second half. Orlando pulled to 82-80 before the Knicks went on a 13-4 spurt to take a 95-84 lead with 2:36 to play and put the game away.New York led by just a point at the break, Knicks coach Mike Woodson said that kind of effort wasn't there early."We weren't playing hard enough," Woodson said. "You can't just roll the ball out and think because their record indicates that they may not be good or they're struggling as a team -- any team can beat you in this league ... We got a few stops, and scored a bucket and we were able to secure the win. But it was a tough victory tonight."The Knicks will have another break from game action Wednesday before playing at San Antonio Thursday night.Despite not scoring more than 75 points in none of their previous three losses, the Magic kept pace with the Knicks -- who came in as one of the league's top scoring teams.The Magic's younger players were right in the middle of the action, with rookies Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson knocking down several big shots and making key defensive plays in the third quarter as the Knicks inched back in front and took a one-point lead into the final period.The Knicks traded the lead with the Magic at the start of the fourth, with Orlando continually able to slip inside the paint.But along with Anthony's big night, the Knicks were also able to sustain the Magic's efforts as Smith continued his hot streak from the 3-point line, connecting on both of his attempts. He is 13 of 18 overall for the season from behind the arc.Even with the loss, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said there still some positives for a team that piecing together lineups at the moment."We can't afford to make mistakes, but for me at the end of this game I was pretty proud of our guys and their effort tonight," Vaughn said. "That's a good ball club on both ends of the floor and we made them earn a win tonight."Trailing 35-25 midway through the second quarter, the Magic used a 16-4 run to move ahead 41-39. Orlando carried that momentum into as 53-49 halftime lead.In his fourth game of the season since returning to action from offseason sports hernia surgery, Harkless provided a lift off the bench with 10 points in the half.It helped offset another big scoring half by Anthony, who topped the Knicks with 16 first-half points.The Magic also outrebounded the Knicks 25-16 in the opening 24 minutes, while getting 34 points in the paint against a larger Knicks front court.Orlando maintained its edge on the boards but didn't get nearly as many second-chance opportunities in the second half.Smith said the Knicks are enjoying where they're at right now."It's great. It's a great feeling," he said. "We want to keep it going. So we can't get too lackadaisical like we did in that first half."Notes: Nelson missed his sixth straight game with a strained right hamstring and groin. ...The game was stopped for about 10 minutes between the first and second quarter after Jamie Woode, a former college cheerleader and Magic Stunt Team member, fell during a routine and was wheeled off the floor on a stretcher. She was transferred to a nearby hospital where she was breathing on her own and moving her extremities, according to paramedics who attended to her.

Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

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Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

BOSTON – Success comes in many shapes and sizes, and is not always seen the same by NBA players – not even teammates.

That was certainly the case following Boston’s 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks which ended the Celtics season.

While Boston won more regular season games (48) than they did a year ago and put up a much better fight than last season's four-game sweep at the hands of Cleveland, having the season end the way it did at home on Thursday clearly left a bitter taste in the mouths of most players.

Whether this was a successful season is open to debate.

But what’s abundantly clear for the Celtics is this team did indeed make progress from where they were a year ago when they were swept out of the playoffs by Cleveland in the first round.

“You go from 40 (wins) – under .500 and barely making the playoffs and kind of eeking  in at the end by winning six straight to being in the mix for being a top-four seed in the East,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And so yes, there’s progress.”

But as far as this being a successful season, that’s not nearly as cut and dry.

“Of course it’s only going to be one team to have a successful year and that’s’ when you hold that trophy up,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “So, until we do that, it’s not a successful season. We are going to keep building, keep working.”

Celtics guard Marcus Smart had a slightly different opinion on the matter.

“I don’t look at it as a failure, for sure,” Smart said. “We did a lot of great things this season. We’re a young team. That’s good for us coming back. We have a lot of work to do obviously, but I don’t look at the season as a failure. So I guess you can say it was a success for us.”

But looking at how this season ended, while disappointing, serves as a reminder as to how Boston remains a team with talent but plenty of room to grow.

“People have told me all along there’s two really tough tasks, right?” Stevens said. “One is getting to be a very good, competitive team at a top 10-15 level on offense and defense and give yourself a chance to be in the discussion we’re in right now. And that’s been a path in the last three years to get there. And the next one is tough. And that’s been communicated before to me and we’re learning a lot. We learned a lot through this playoff series, but one of the things that I’ve learned is we’ve got to get better. And you know what? That starts with me. I’ve got to get better, and then I think each of our players will look at that accountably as well and we’re all going to be better the next time we take the court.”

And in doing so, look to build off the progress made this season and inch closer towards having a successful season which around here more often than not, means competing for an NBA title.

That’s why for Jared Sullinger, one of the few remaining players from the Big Three era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen when deep postseason runs were an expectation and not a goal, he doesn’t see this season as being a successful one for the Green team.

“If we’re thinking making it to the playoffs is a successful season, then we’re going in the wrong direction,” Sullinger said. “If you look in this locker room, you see everybody’s down. We didn’t want it to end like that; we wanted to make a run. It’s tough losing like that.”

Sullinger added, “last year we were glad to make the playoffs. This year, we wanted to make a run, we wanted to make some noise. Unfortunately, our noise got cut short.”

C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

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C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

BOSTON – There are few guarantees when it comes to the NBA and the Boston Celtics, but one thing’s for certain: change is going to come next season.

This is especially true for the Celtics whose season ended with a 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, sending the C’s home for the season with a second straight first round exit.

“That’s just the business of the NBA,” said Isaiah Thomas who had a double-double of 25 points and 10 assists which were both game highs on Thursday. “One thing I do know, I ride with these guys until the wheels fall off; I mean this was a special group.”

But whether they stay together remains to be seen.

Among those who could be on the move is Evan Turner, an unrestricted free agent this summer.

He will be among the more heavily pursued Celtics this summer, in large part because of his versatility as both a playmaker and scoring guard off the bench.

Several teams will come hard after Turner, among them being the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic who are desperate to add talented, proven veterans to their young rosters.

The second year of Jonas Jerebko’s contract becomes fully guaranteed if he’s still on the roster after July 3. Considering the way he played in the postseason as well as his steady presence during the regular season, the Celtics are more than likely to keep him around for next season.

Boston has a pair of restricted free agents in Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger. It is unclear what the Celtics will do with them because it remains to be seen what type of offers (if any) they receive from another team.

“This season didn’t go exactly how I would have wanted it to,” Zeller told CSNNE.com. “But I like it here, I like the coaching staff and the players. So we’ll see what happens this summer. But yeah, I’m definitely open to the idea of coming back next season.”

There’s a certain amount of uncertainty surrounding Amir Johnson who could potentially become a free agent this summer if the Celtics decline to pick up the second year on his contract which is worth $12 million.

When I asked Johnson if he felt he had done enough to have to his second year picked up by the Celtics he told CSNNE.com, “I hope so.”

Johnson added, “We never quit even when we were down big at the end of the game. I feel there’s stuff we can clean up and be better, from the coaching staff to the players to the front office. But there’s something about this team, we don’t have no quit in us. I feel like we can definitely go far if we just put the right pieces together.”

And as far as his future in Boston, “I definitely want to here.”

Only time will tell just how many of Boston’s potential free agents will be riding with the Green Team next season, or be swept away and wind up on another roster in what will surely be an offseason of change.