'Hart On Hoops'
By Sean Hartnett
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Last April, the New York Knicks crashed out of the NBA Playoffs via a first round sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics. NBA history books recorded a 4-0 series victory for the Celtics that will appear lopsided to anyone who didn't witness it.
The finality of a sweep can sometimes obscure competitiveness demonstrated by both teams and the fortunate breaks that benefit the series winner. While the Celtics undoubtedly were the superior team and deserved to advance on to the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Knicks played tough during the opening two games in Boston.
Game One could have gone either way. The same could be said about Game Two but key injuries played a large part in New York's 96-93 loss and eventual first round playoff exit. Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthony was doing everything in his power to keep the Knicks alive.
Doc Rivers made an honest admission after the injury-battered Knicks nearly came away with a Game Two victory after losing Amar'e Stoudemire for the second half. The Celtics' head coach revealed to reporters post-game, "We were lucky to win."
Without Stoudemire for half the game and Chauncey Billups missing out entirely, Anthony appeared to pick up the slack of both absentees by scoring 42 points, grabbing 17 rebounds and contributing 6 assists.
Injuries eventually took their toll as New York was eliminated but Anthony was in a bullish mood after the Knicks' 2010-11 season concluded.
"Tonight was one of those games that we have to leave it all out on the court. Wasn't no need to take anything home with us, and we did that. So I'm pretty sure that we gained a lot of respect from a lot of people right now, but this is the first step of something great," Anthony stated to reporters after the series-ending Game 4.
As the NBA returned on Christmas Day, the shoe was clearly on the other foot for Carmelo and the Knicks. The Celtics entered Madison Square Garden without the services of one of their key men in Paul Pierce. What unfolded was a high-intensity game that could have easily been mistaken for a playoff battle.
This time, it was the Knicks who defeated a resurgent Celtics' team that made a fourth quarter comeback without Pierce, a renowned clutch shooter. The one constant when these two teams have met is Anthony lifting New York when the pressure is turned on the highest.
Carmelo matched pace with Boston in the fourth quarter as both Anthony and the entire Celtics team totaled 17 points during the final 12 minutes in regulation. His clutch game-winning free throws sealed an early statement victory for the Knicks.
Some basketball analysts have raised questions about the Knicks' supporting cast being able to contribute in late-game situations. As long as Anthony fills his nightly quota, any additional support from teammates at 'crunch time' will be an added bonus because Carmelo has the ability to take over in the fourth quarter on any given night.
The Knicks may not be a finished product but they're rallying around Anthony who declared post-game, "Most importantly for us, as a new team, we showed something. We came together as a team. Even when we got down, there wasn't no frowns. Nobody was down. Mentally everybody was still up about it, and we willed our way to this win."
Knicks fans – how encouraging was New York's Christmas Day victory over the Boston Celtics? Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.
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