When you and your friends have a history of always getting beat up by the same group, you find a different set of guys. And if those new guys can change the outcome, then you have some new friends.
A large part of the credit goes to the new players they acquired for this season: one is an ageless point guard who seems intent on defying Father Time, and the other is a rugged, rebounding goon who is long in the tooth and long on tattoos — Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin, respectively.
It’s ironic that the Knicks would have to rely on the contributions of some old New Jersey Nets to get the edge against some old bullies, but that’s exactly what happened.
When Knicks Coach Mike Woodson pulled a hobbled Tyson Chandler in the third quarter for Martin, it changed the tone of the game. Chandler, who recently returned from a neck injury, looked like a husk of his old self, scoring zero points and only notching five boards with no blocked shots.
Woodson made the gutty decision to pull Chandler, his reigning defensive player of the year, when the seven-footer could not protect the rim against Celtics forward Jeff Green and point guard Avery Bradley.
Boston, which built a seven-point lead in the third quarter, saw it diminish thanks to Martin’s stalwart, interior defense. Those wide-open lanes that Bradley and Green exploited in the first half all but disappeared in the fourth quarter. Martin’s five offensive rebounds (he had nine total) helped close out the Celtics on Saturday.
Carmelo Anthony has a good argument for the league MVP award, scoring 36 points in this game. Yet, Kidd has been the team MVP without a doubt. As was the pattern the latter part of the regular season for the Knicks, guard Iman Shumpert started the game but Kidd came in and finished.
His grit, defense and timely passing keyed critical sequences in the fourth quarter. Looking like the cat from his Nets days, Kidd snatched three steals in the last five minutes of the game, and even notched the assist on a huge Anthony jump shot with 7:49 left. That possession put the Knicks up for good. Kidd controlled that game even though his eight points, five boards, three assists and three steals seemed pedestrian.
The chess match will continue Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden when the two teams meet for Game 2. What’s clear is that coach Woodson has some new guys to make that return trip down the alley and this time, that old bully looks imminently beatable.
Tacuma R. Roeback is a New York Knicks writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TacumaRoe, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google