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."

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Dustin Pedroia is out of the lineup again tonight after leaving the Red Sox game Thursday night with knee pain in the fifth inning.

Josh Rutledge will start at second base as the Sox open a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.  

The weather and sloppy field conditions were a factor in John Farrell deciding to get Pedroia out of the game Thursday and conditions haven’t improved significantly Friday. 

Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on that knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked the plunking war between the Orioles and Red Sox.

The full lineups: 

MARINERS
Jean Segura SS
Guillermo Heredia CF
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Danny Valencia 1B
Taylor Motter LF
Ben Gamel RF
Mike Zunino C

Yovanni Gallardo RHP

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Andrew Benintendi LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Josh Rutledge 2B
Jackie Bradley Jr CF
Christian Vazquez C
Deven Marrero 3B

Eduardo Rodriguez LHP


 

Source: Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

Source: Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

WALTHAM, Mass. – No matter how an NBA team’s season ends, change is inevitable.
 
And while there’s no doubt that the Celtics are on the right track in terms of their ascension in the NBA, it's too soon to tell how many players on the Celtics’ 15-man roster that Danny Ainge, the president of basketball operations, will bring back next season.

MORE CELTICS

 
“One thing I do know. He’ll make the best decisions for the team and if players don’t end up being back here, I wish the best for them,” said Avery Bradley.  “Those are my brothers. We all had a special year. I appreciate everything, all the time I had with them. I’d love for all those guys to be back. We’ll see.”
 
And with Boston coming off its first trip to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012, adding just any player won’t cut it.
 
The Celtics’ mindset now isn’t just to improve, but get good enough to where they can better compete with the likes of Cleveland, which just ended the Celtics’ season with a Game 5 thumping.
 
The most significant move made by the Celtics last offseason was the signing of Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract.
 
Like most of his Boston teammates this season, Horford is eager to see what changes are in store this summer.
 
“We just have to wait and see,” Horford said. “We had such a good year. A lot of positive things. It’ll be interesting to see what Danny, the organization feels is going to be the next step.”
 
Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.
 
That makes sense when you consider how guard-dominant the Celtics were this season and how that had a negative impact on the team’s rebounding and, to a lesser degree, their defense as a whole.
 
Gordon Hayward has emerged as a target, but all indications – for now at least – point toward him returning to Utah.
 
The Celtics may pursue Los Angeles Clippers big man Blake Griffin. Although like Hayward, he too is expected to re-sign with his current team for a max contract (for Griffin that would be five years, $175 million).
 
While trades are certainly in the cards for Boston, at this point the Celtics seem more inclined to improve their overall talent base via the draft and free agency.
 
“It’s always a good thing when you have the opportunity to add value to your team and don’t have to change your team too much,” said Celtics’ reserve Gerald Green, who will be a free agent this summer. “I’m going to be very interested to see what they do as far as building a team. We’re in a good place right now as far as being where we want to be organization-wise. I feel like we’re one or two steps away from actually being at the Finals. I think Danny has some things to think about, but I’m sure he’s going to do the job. I’ve seen Danny go to work in these situations. He always makes the team better. I’m pretty sure he’s got something planned that, at the end of the day, is going to make this organization better.”
 
Indeed, the Celtics could very well strengthen their position for next season by simply locking up some of their core players who may hit the free agent market soon.
 
Boston may look to work out an extension with Isaiah Thomas before the start of this season. Because if he hits free agency in the summer of 2018, he will be poised to command a salary that in year one would be worth more than the entire four-year, $27 million deal he signed with Phoenix in 2014.
 
“Boston’s changed my career, changed my life,” Thomas said. “I would love to be here long-term and win championships here. But as you guys know, it’s a business and anything can happen. I know that and understand that. But I would love to be here. This has been everything to me. This city, this organization … it’s been good.”