Before last nights game, Carmelo Anthony sounded like a man who was beyond the Boston Celtics. Like a man with nothing to prove against the five-time defending Atlantic Division champs and a team barely removed from the Eastern Conference Finals.
Honestly, we dont even think about them, Anthony told reporters at yesterdays shoot around. No disrespect or anything. We focus on ourselves. Just happens the Boston Celtics are the next game on our schedule.
No disrespect? OK, fine. But not much respect either. At least not compared to what his teammates had to offer:
Theyre not done at all, Jason Kidd said. Theres a lot of basketball left. They have a great coach and know what it takes to win.
Boston is a veteran team, Tyson Chandler added. They do things late in the season. Theres not much of a sense of urgency as far as the regular season goes, because they know theyve been together a long time and can turn it on.
Once again, here's Melo: Honestly, we dont even think about them.
Twelve hours later, he was standing out in the cold, wearing an awesome red hat and locked in a staring contest with a bus. He was so consumed by the Celtics that he didn't even shower or talk to the media. That he reportedly needed to be restrained by Rasheed Wallace (Ha!), and even before that, had come dangerously close to getting himself thrown out of the game.
What set him off?
In an abbreviation: KG. But it had to be something more than that, right? Something above and beyond Garnett's typical trash talk. Did he drop another cancer line? Make another joke about Bin Laden? Did he say something about sweet La La, Anthony's wife?
Whatever it was, he was irate. Way past angry. In the kind of volatile state that typically leads to overly emotional and idiotic decisions like, say, trying to pick a fight outside the opposing team's bus.
It will be interesting hear what 'Melo has to say the next time he meets with reporters. You figure by then, once he's done standing on KG's front lawn screaming "Cowwaaaaaaard!" at the top his lungs, Anthony will want to discuss what happened. And I hope he gives us the full story. But in the meantime, here's one thing we know for sure: Carmelo Anthony will be thinking about the Celtics.
He came into the game acting like it was nothing. As if two months of solid Knicks basketball had already erased five years of Celtics dominance. It was basically: "Oh, Boston's in town? That's cool. Just another speed bump."
The Celtics turned out to be a brick wall. And I think it caught 'Melo by surprise. I think he was looking past the Celtics to begin with, then they lost Rondo, then the Knicks jumped out to an early 10-point lead and Anthony was flying high. Like LeBron, he had officially cleared the green hurdle, and was ready to leave the Celtics in his dust.
But then Boston fought back. Playing without Rondo, they delivered the most entertaining and spirited performance since last year's playoffs. Pierce and KG were in post-season form. Avery Bradley was all that he can be. Jason Terry found ways to contribute (five assists, four rebounds) despite missing his jumper. Courtney Lee played defense like the Courtney Lee we all expected. Jeff Green took perfect advantage of Steve Novak. Brandon Bass had the jump shot working. Jared Sullinger continued his crusade to become every single Celtics fan's favorite player.
As the game went on, and the Celtics continued to click, Pierce and KG started having some fun. And why not? How many more chances will either of them have to play in a game like that at Madison Square Garden? Can you imagine how great it must have felt to play on that stage after everything's that's happened this season? Of course they're going to get fired up.
For Pierce, that means doing stuff like this. For KG, that means talking. And he clearly said something to get under Melo's skin. And I imagine Anthony, already dealing with the shock of defeat, was thinking: "What he hell? I thought I was done with this. I thought I was done with these guys. They've got no right to talk to me like that and . . ." Scene.
I don't know. Maybe that's just my romanticized version of it.
But either way, from here on out, the Celtics are no longer just another game on Carmelo Anthony's schedule. He's going to start taking notice. After the events of the last five days, a lot of people will.
And with a 10-day, five-game home stand set to kick off tomorrow night against Phoenix, the Celtics have a serious chance to run with the hype and finally start making an impact on this 2012-13 season.
Now if they can only do it with Rondo.