Celtics fall to Knicks in season opener, 106-104

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Celtics fall to Knicks in season opener, 106-104

NEW YORK Most would agree that the Boston Celtics' reign atop the Atlantic Division is near its end.

But before you call in the pastor to read the Celtics their last rites, they have a message for you they're still very much alive and kicking.

Still, their fight was not enough as the New York Knicks rallied in the fourth for a 106-104 win.

Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 37 points, including a pair of game-winning free throws with 16.3 seconds to play.

The down-to-the-wire finish was a bit surprising when you consider the Celtics trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half before rallying to take control in the third and most of the fourth quarter.

"We were as soft as we could be in the first quarter, and then I thought we joined into the 2011-2012 season," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "From that point on, I was pretty happy with the way we played. I thought we competed well."

So well, that even after the Knicks gave up a big lead and the Celtics in turn did the same in the fourth, the C's were well positioned to still escape with the victory despite not having their leading scorer, Paul Pierce (right heel), available to play.

After Anthony's free throws gave the Knicks the lead with seconds remaining in the fourth, Marquis Daniels launched a potential game-winning 3-pointer that was off the mark.

Fortunately for Boston, Rajon Rondo -- the best player on the floor for Boston all game -- was able to haul down the loose ball and call a timeout with 4.4 seconds to play.

He finished with a team-high 31 points to go along with 13 assists, the most assists by a Celtics player on Christmas Day.

The previous record holder?

That would be Rondo, who set the mark of 12 assists in 2008 at the Los Angeles Lakers' Staples Center.

Boston had one more shot at forcing overtime or winning it with a 3-pointer.

Kevin Garnett, defended by former Celtic Billy Walker at the time, pulled up for a lightly contested jumper that was off the mark as time expired.

Garnett and Walker exchanged some words after the game, and Garnett grabbed Walker's neck briefly as players separated the two.

It is unclear if the NBA will fine or suspend Garnett for his actions, but they are expected to review the incident on Monday.

"Next question!" was Garnett's response after the game when asked about the incident involving him and Walker.

As for the actual game played, the Celtics almost came up with a Christmas Day miracle if they were able to win without Pierce.

Keeping the Celtics in the game was Rondo, who proved the Celtics don't need a 'Paul' -- Pierce or Chris Paul -- to at least compete.

Rondo led all Celtics with 31 points. He also tallied 13 assists and five steals.

Boston also got a strong game from Brandon Bass, who was making his Celtics debut.

The 6-foot-8 forward finished with a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds.

But the Knicks, having squandered a lead that peaked at 17 points in the first half, were on the comeback trail in the fourth.

Leading the way was Anthony, who was limited in the third quarter because of foul trouble.

He scored the first five points of the fourth, which cut the Celtics' lead to 89-84.

But the Celtics countered with a 3-pointer from Ray Allen to give them some added cushion.

The Knicks continued to surge back into the game, and went ahead on a running jumper by Anthony that gave New York a 104-102 lead.

Sunday's loss was Boston's first to open a season since 2006. And the schedule doesn't get any easier with road games at Miami on Tuesday and New Orleans the following night.

"We're not gonna go down because we lost," said Celtics forward Sasha Pavlovic, who got the start in place of Pierce. "It's just gonna make us stronger."

Avery Bradley (Achilles) will not play vs. Knicks

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Avery Bradley (Achilles) will not play vs. Knicks

BOSTON – Both New York and Boston will take to the floor tonight minus a starter courtesy of a sore Achilles injury.

For Celtics guard Avery Bradley, tonight will be the fifth time in the last six games that his right Achilles injury will keep him sidelined.

Meanwhile, New York’s Kristaps Porzingis will miss his fourth straight game with a sore left Achilles injury.

The 7-foot-3 Porzingis averages 19.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

Porzingis’ absence tonight was established well before tip-off.

“I’d say I’m 90 percent ready; still not there yet,” Porzingis told reporters prior to the game. “But I’m getting closer … hopefully the next game or after the next game.”

As far as Bradley is concerned, he was a last-minute matter.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was asked about his roster earlier tonight, and indicated Tyler Zeller (sinus) and James Young (ankle) would be on the inactive list tonight with injuries.

Without Bradley, the Celtics are expected to start Marcus Smart who has filled in as the team’s starter previously when the 6-foot-2 Bradley was unavailable.

 Bradley is the Celtics' second-leading scorer with 17.7 points per game this season, along with a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game and 2.4 assists. 

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez elected to Hall of Fame

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez elected to Hall of Fame

NEW YORK - Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Wednesday, earning the honor as Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero fell just short.

Steroids-tainted stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were passed over for the fifth straight year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. But they received significantly more votes this time and could be in position to gain election in coming years.

Bagwell, on the ballot for the seventh time after falling 15 votes short last year, received 381 of 442 votes for 86.2 percent. Players needed 75 percent, which came to 332 votes this year.

In his 10th and final year of eligibility, Raines was on 380 ballots (86 percent). Rodriguez received 336 votes (76 percent) to join Johnny Bench in 1989 as the only catchers elected on the first ballot.

Hoffman was five votes shy and Guerrero 15 short.

Edgar Martinez was next at 58.6 percent, followed by Clemens at 54.1 percent, Bonds at 53.8 percent, Mike Mussina at 51.8 percent, Curt Schilling at 45 percent, Lee Smith at 34.2 percent and Manny Ramirez at 23.8 percent.

Players will be inducted July 30 during ceremonies at Cooperstown along with former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta Braves executive John Schuerholz, both elected last month by a veterans committee.

Bagwell was a four-time All-Star who spent his entire career with Houston, finishing with a .297 batting average, 401 homers and 1,401 RBIs.

Raines, fifth in career stolen bases, was a seven-time All-Star and the 1986 NL batting champion. He spent 13 of 23 big league seasons with the Montreal Expos, who left Canada to become the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season, and joins Andre Dawson and Gary Carter as the only players to enter the Hall representing the Expos.

Raines hit .294 with a .385 on-base percentage, playing during a time when Rickey Henderson was the sport's dominant speedster.

Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star who hit .296 with 311 homers and 1,332 RBIs, was never disciplined for PEDs but former Texas teammate Jose Canseco alleged in a 2005 book that he injected the catcher with steroids. Asked whether he was on the list of players who allegedly tested positive for steroids during baseball's 2003 survey, Rodriguez said in 2009: "Only God knows."

Bonds, a seven-time MVP who holds the season and career home run records, received 36.2 percent in his initial appearance, in 2013, and jumped from 44.3 percent last year. Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, rose from 45.2 percent last year.

Bonds was indicted on charges he lied to a grand jury in 2003 when he denied using PEDs, but a jury failed to reach a verdict on three counts he made false statements and convicted him on one obstruction of justice count, finding he gave an evasive answer. The conviction was overturned appeal in 2015.

Clemens was acquitted on one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements to Congress and two counts of perjury, all stemming from his denials of drug use.

A 12-time All-Star on the ballot for the first time, Ramirez was twice suspended for violating baseball's drug agreement. He helped the Boston Red Sox win World Series titles in 2004 and `07, the first for the franchise since 1918, and hit .312 with 555 home runs and 1,831 RBIs in 19 big league seasons.

Several notable players will join them in the competition for votes in upcoming years: Chipper Jones in 2018, Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay in 2019, and Derek Jeter in 2020.