It certainly wasn’t pretty basketball at Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon, but the Knick faithful lapped up every second of it. On a day where their two most potent scorers, Carmelo Anthony (36 points on13/29 shooting) and J.R. Smith (15 on 7/19), just couldn’t get their points efficiently, it was two veteran guys brought into the fold last summer and late this season respectively, that set the tone for what is sure to be a bruising series. Both Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin – who played heavy minutes in the place of Tyson Chandler – both showed that their presence alone will inspire the Knicks to grind out wins when their offensive game is not as sharp as it can be.
Martin may have missed the past 5 Knicks’ games with a sprained ankle, but when his number was called by Mike Woodson to sub in for Chandler (who just didn’t have it going) Martin answered the bell.
He finished with 10 points and 9 rebounds in 28 minutes of court-time, but most importantly, he played the entire final quarter and helped contain Kevin Garnett to just 2-points in the second half. After the game Woodson praised the effort of Martin, and explained why he went with him in crunch minutes.
“Tyson didn’t have it tonight, and that’s no knock on him,” Woodson said. “The next game might not be Kenyon’s game. It might be Tyson’s game. I think if guys understand that and play the minutes that are given to them and make them the most productive minutes, then you have a chance.
“Kenyon kept balls alive, [he was] battling with Garnett inside. He had a couple of nice finishes.”
New York turned a 4-point deficit at the half-time break into a lead very quickly in the third quarter as they began to suffocate the Celtics. In a way, they turned the table on their longtime foe and began playing Boston basketball themselves. Another former Net, Jason Kidd (8 points, 3 assists), was the most active of the perimeter guys leading the team with 3 steals. The Knicks set the franchise record for fewest points allowed in the fourth quarter in the playoffs (8) and tied the second-half playoff mark (25).
He played 35 minutes off the bench; a high number, but minutes that were critical for the Knicks, especially in the absence of Pablo Prigioni. Kidd says he’ll do whatever is necessary for the team.
“I am going to play as many minutes and as hard as I can when I am out there,’’ said Kidd. “It doesn’t matter if it is 30 or 10 or 35. My job is to help the team win.”
Kidd also forced more than his fair share of Boston turnovers by cutting off passes in the lane. Woodson says that’s part of the reason why he was brought into the fold last summer.
“Jason has been doing it all season,” Woodson said. “What can you say. Loose balls, strips and he keeps the ball alive. He seems to be in the right place at the right time.”
The potent Knicks proved they can win games even when their best scorers are not on their ‘A’ game, perhaps sending a scare through the rest of the Eastern Conference as well and further reiterating Woodson’s belief that when they play as a total team unit, they are as good as anyone in the league.
Doc Rivers is one of the best coaches in the league at making adjustments throughout a series, on Saturday the Knicks gave him that much more to think about.
Image via: Barton Silverman/The New York Times