Who said Avery Bradley's return could bolster the Celtics' perimeter rotations? For the Knicks, that didn't matter. They showed why they're the NBA's fourth-best team in 3-point shooting percentage (38.8 entering Monday night). In most of the first half, with Jason Kidd and J.R. Smith (14 points) in the backcourt, the Knicks moved the ball tremendously.
They finished 10-for-17 (58.8 percent) from beyond the arc, which helped them maintain their lead. Smith and Steve Novak had three long balls each. The Celtics caught up late in the second quarter with 3-pointers from Paul Pierce (15 points) and Jeff Green (nine).
Here are four other main observations at the half:
1. Carmelo Anthony's low first quarter. Melo entered tonight with a league-leading 9.9 points average in first quarter. Against the Celtics, he only scored one point in the opening period -- his lowest point total this season. But he did have two assists early on, both to Tyson Chandler on inside feeds. For the half, he had 10 points.
2. Tyson Chandler's slip 'n slides. One of Chandler's most underrated abilities is his timing with his slips to the basket off screens, and finishing around the rim. The starting center had seven points early on, including an above-the-rim, one-handed dunk.
3. Amar'e Stoudemire's activeness. Not only did he check into the game a little earlier tonight with 7:16 to play in the first quarter, but he appeared to move his feet better on offense and defense. Offensively, he ran the court well on a fast break opportunity and nearly finished a one-handed flush. He got fouled and made both free throws.
Then, in a halfcourt possession, when Kidd dribbled to the right, taking the defense with him, Stoudemire -- in one of his favorite off-the-ball moves -- floated from the left baseline corner to the corner for a jumpshot. Defensively, he didn't allow Brandon Bass to score, but he did make a big mistake leaving Pierce wide open from downtown late in the second period.
4. Pablo Prigioni's poor playmaking. In the upper part of the first quarter, the Knicks' perimeter rotations were on point, as they frustrated Bradley and Jason Terry to get deep penetration. So they had to resort to feeding Kevin Garnett in the post, and they were left playing at a slower pace. Outside of Garnett's eight opening-period points, none of his teammates could make a field goal -- until Prigioni checked into the game with 4:58 to play.
From then on, the Knicks only scored one field goal -- a Novak 3-pointer -- the rest of the first quarter. The biggest problem was that Prigioni could not get deep penetration, which then made Smith the main ball-handler. While Smith got into the lane better, the Knicks settled for too many jumpshots, which they missed.
Those long rebounds then turned into quick transition opportunities for the Celtics, who finished the first quarter with six fast break points. That's when other Boston players scored besides Garnett, making it a game. On the flip side, Kidd pushed the ball much better, attacked lanes stronger and made great skip passes to shooters in the corners.
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