Celtics-Knicks review: What we saw

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Celtics-Knicks review: What we saw

BOSTON Kevin Garnett probably said it best in describing Boston's 91-89 win over New York on Friday night.

"It don't have to be pretty to win," he said.

Garnett's words rung loud and true on Friday night as the C's fell behind by as many as 12 points before rallying for the victory which puts them at 12-10 - the first time they have been more than one game above .500 all season.

There were a number of factors that came into play, some of which we outlined prior to Friday's game.

We'll take a look at those areas and see how the Celtics and Knicks fared in those respective areas.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Much has been said about New York's woes stemming from not having a true point guard in the regular rotation. With Baron Davis still out with a back injury - he hasn't played in an NBA game since April 10 of last season - that's not going to change anytime soon. The point-guard problems are evident when you look at a Knicks team that's middle-of-the-road in scoring with 95 points per game (that ranks 14th in the league), but is ranked No. 23 in assists off made field goals.

WHAT WE SAW: The Knicks kept true to form, with a relatively low percentage for field goals that come by way of an assist. Coming into Friday's game, 55 percent of the Knicks' made baskets came by way of an assist. On Friday, New York had 19 assists on 34 made baskets. That breaks down to 55.9 percent of their baskets on Friday coming via an assist.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Paul Pierce vs. Carmelo Anthony: Pierce's right heel injury prevented this matchup from occurring on opening night. Pierce is indeed back to playing like himself. In Boston's last seven games, he's averaging 22.8 points, 7.7 assists and 6.4 rebounds per game. As for Anthony, he's just getting back into his All-Star form after missing two games with sprained right ankle, sprained left wrist and sprained right thumb. Keeping him under control, especially in the fourth quarter, will be huge for the Celtics.

WHAT WE SAW: Without question, Pierce had the edge in this matchup. He finished with 30 points compared to 26 by Anthony. Even more telling was how the C's essentially took Anthony out of plays and forced the Knicks to rely on other players to come up with baskets in the game's final moments. "We knew what we had to do," said Boston's Chris Wilcox. "We went and pressured him and got the ball out of his hand and make somebody else make plays." Clearly that didn't work for the New York, as rookie Iman Shumpert was among those who had opportunities to put New York ahead late in the game, but he was unable to make the clutch play.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Without question, it has to be Rajon Rondo. After participating in the team's morning shootaround, all indications are that Rondo will return to action after missing the previous eight games with a right wrist injury. In addition to Rondo, it'll be worth keeping an eye on what his return means to Avery Bradley who has filled in for him with the first unit, and E'Twaun Moore who seems to keep improving the more he plays. In the season opener against the Knicks, Rondo had 31 points, 13 assists and five rebounds.

WHAT WE SAW: No one believes the Rajon Rondo we saw on Friday is going to be who we see moving forward. His wrist injury was further complicated by a black eye that was swelling up. He finished with seven points, seven assists and five rebounds. "I thought he played well," said coach Doc Rivers. "He was rusty, obviously."

STAT TO TRACK: Rebounding will once again be an issue with tonight's game featuring two of the league's worst. The Knicks are ranked No. 21 in rebounds with 49.9 per game. The C's are once again near the bottom of the NBA standings, averaging 46.1 per game which ranks 29th in the league.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston's ability to crash the boards not only allowed the Celtics to control the game's tempo, but ultimately positioned them to take over Friday night's game. At the half, the Celtics were minus-4 on the boards only to reverse that and go plus-six which would put them at plus-two on the boards. For the game, Boston had 40 rebounds compared to 37 for New York.

Stars, studs and duds: Olynyk finding his stride off Celtics bench

Stars, studs and duds: Olynyk finding his stride off Celtics bench

BOSTON – It’s easy to forget that Kelly Olynyk went several months without doing anything basketball-related as he was on the mend from shoulder surgery.

His return had its share of ups and downs, but it seems the 7-foot center has found his stride and he’s making opponents pay for it.

For the second time in as many games, Olynyk came up big for the Celtics as Boston continued on its winning ways with a 108-98 win over Charlotte.

Olynyk, who scored a season-high 26 points in Boston’s win at Atlanta on Friday, had an efficient 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting against the Hornets on Monday.

Assertive. Aggressive. Contract year.

It doesn’t matter how you describe what or why Olynyk is ballin’ so hard lately.

The point is he’s doing it a better job of recognizing opportunities to make plays and executing whatever role he’s being asked to play.

“Just feeling good with the second unit,” Olynyk said. “I’m just trying to be aggressive and help the starters out.”

In the past, teams have mixed up their defensive coverages on Olynyk which frequently left him being guarded by a quicker but smaller player, or a big man with limited mobility.

Often Olynyk settled for long range shots and 3’s, regardless of the defender.

But as we’ve seen the last couple of games, he has hurt teams with his scoring around the rim which has in turn opened things up for his teammates or himself.

“We need him to play like that all the time,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “When he’s aggressive, looking for his shot, shooting open shots, even getting in there getting rebounds, offensive put-backs, that only helps us as a unit. And he’s done a great job of that the past couple games. We need that from him.”

And as he gets further removed from his offseason surgery, opportunities for him to be an impactful player for Boston will only grow.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Monday’s game.

 

STARS

Isaiah Thomas

The Celtics win, and Isaiah Thomas has another offensive flurry in the fourth quarter. So what else is new? He led all scorers with 35 points which included 17 in the fourth quarter.

Kemba Walker

He’s still playing at a level that puts him in the All-Star conversation, but it’s not going to happen with the Hornets continuing to struggle. They’ve lost five in a row now despite Walker’s 24 points on Monday.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

Boston is playing more inside-out basketball of late, and that’s opening things up for both Horford and his teammates. Against the Hornets he had 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting along with six rebounds and four assists.

Kelly Olynyk

For the second straight game, Olynyk had a strong, impactful performance for the Celtics utilizing his strengths as a perimeter threat and a 7-footer who can take advantage of smaller defenders around the rim. He finished with 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting to go with nine rebounds, four assists and a steal.

Marvin Williams

He was the only other Hornet besides Kemba Walker who really impacted the game significantly. Williams had 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting which included 3-for-6 shooting from 3-point range.

Jae Crowder

The 6-foot-6 Crowder continues to have a sneaky-good season for the Celtics, particularly with his 3-point shooting which ranks among the league leaders. On Monday he had 15 points which included a trio of 3-pointers to go with seven rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.

 

DUDS

Nicolas Batum

Avery Bradley put most of his effort and attention into defending Batum and man, did it ever pay off. Batum grabbed 10 rebounds, but wound up missing nine of his 11 shots from the field to finish with just four points.