Bad trend for Boston: Knicks’ veteran bench mattered, Celtics’ didn’t

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Tyson Chandler, looking rusty after missing a lot of time with a bulging disc in his neck, wasn’t himself. The New York Knicks count on him to be a defensive force that owns the paint and get a few points off pick-and-rolls, but he wasn’t really doing either.

So Mike Woodson turned to his bench and found Kenyon Martin, who the Knicks picked up off the NBA free agent scrap pile a few weeks before. Martin provided the presence in the paint the Knicks needed (two blocked shots), capped off by stopping a Jeff Green layup late then catching a pass from Carmelo Anthony at the other and making a dagger layup.

Doc Rivers needed help from his bench as well and he got 0-of-7 shooting. He got arguably Jason Terry’s worst game as a Celtic. Which is saying something.

That was a key difference in Game 1 — a New York win — that could become the story of the series.

While we all had a good time poking fun at the Knicks age on the bench, enough of those senior citizens came though to help fuel the Knicks playoff win. That bench gives Mike Woodson options that Doc Rivers just didn’t have in the other locker room.

The age of the Knicks bench has shown this season — they let 40-year-old Kurt Thomas go and 38-year-old Rasheed Wallace retired. Then there is 35-year-old rookie Pablo Prigioni who had started to play a key role for this team but is out with a sprained ankle.

But Woodson still had Martin and Jason Kidd he could count on for quality minutes. Kidd played 35 solid minutes off the bench, scoring eight points and making a couple big plays, particularly anticipating on the defensive end. Even Doc Rivers was singing his praises after the game, via John Schuhmann at NBA.com.

“He beats everyone with his brain,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said afterward. “If you think quicker than a guy can move, you’re still quicker. That’s why he’s there first, because he thought what the guy was going to do before he did it. He’s just a valuable player to have on a basketball team.”

Rivers could have used a guy like that.

Rivers only went to three guys off his bench — Courtney Lee, Jordan Crawford and Terry — and none of them produced. They had four points, all on Lee free throws. They had six rebounds, zero assists and one turnover. And notice there is not a big man among that group — Rivers had to go small. He misses Jared Sullinger (out for the season with back issues) a lot.

Rivers simply doesn’t have game-changing options off the bench. Woodson has a few guys who could step up on any given night.

And that may be the key difference in this series.

Watch Hassan Whiteside beat the Pistons at the buzzer with tip-in (VIDEO)

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The Miami Heat took until the final moments on Tuesday night to beat the Detroit Pistons, but it was worth it. With just a handful of games left to play, the Heat need to stave off the Chicago Bulls for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Thanks to a tip at the buzzer by Hassan Whiteside, they’re one step closer to achieving that goal.

The play came with just seconds left in the fourth quarter. James Johnson missed a shot with six seconds to go, and the Heat grabbed the rebound. Goran Dragic then tried his hand, but he couldn’t get it to go, either.

That’s when Whiteside came back with a tip at the buzzer that ended the game.

Via Twitter:

Miami now sits at 36-38, a game above the Bulls for the No. 8 seed.

Whiteside, meanwhile, is never going to wash that hand again:

Kobe Bryant says LeBron James has earned the right to take a rest (VIDEO)

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Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was a pretty consistent player in the NBA. Save for his final injury-laden seasons and the lockout year of 2011-12, Bryant played in no fewer than 65 regular season games in a single season.

Coaches also had no reason or want to ask Bryant — a notorious worker — to sit out in order to rest. That wasn’t really on the menu, and Bryant knew that.

Speaking to ESPN’s First Take, Bryant said no coach really asked him to ever take a rest, “I’ve never been approached by a coach and asked to rest.”

Bryant remarked that he took queues from Michael Jordan during tough stretches of the season — back-to-backs or four games in five night scenarios — where he could switch his game up, floating from perimeter to post, in order to save energy during those matchups.

Bryant also said during the same interview that he understands the complexity of the modern game, and that players like LeBron James deserve to take a rest if they’ve earned it.

“LeBron has done so much for the game. He’s earned the opportunity to take a rest,” said Bryant.

The debate on this subject will continue, it seems.

Phil Jackson’s reaction to Kristaps Porzingis getting turned upside down feels about right

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New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the franchise, so any time he’s upended and nearly lands on his noggin it’s a cause for concern. To say the least.

That’s what happened on Monday night, as Porzingis got turned upside down during a play near the basket during a game against the Detroit Pistons.

Porzingis was OK on the play, and Detroit big man Andre Drummond did his best to help catch him so nothing too scary happened.

Still, Knicks president Phil Jackson had a pretty hilarious reaction to the whole thing. I guess that’s what happens when you watch your basketball life flash before your eyes.

Porzingis was unhurt and played a full 37 minutes. New York beat Detroit, 109-95.

Jimmy Butler won’t pick LeBron over Durant as toughest matchup in NBA, and for good reason

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Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is a smart dude. He’s spent years of offseason work turning himself into a max-level player, and that shows he knows not only how to work but how to attack the game of basketball.

He’s also smart enough to know he shouldn’t go poking the bear when it comes to two future Hall of Fame players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

When asked whether the Cleveland Cavaliers star or the Golden State Warriors scorer was the toughest matchup in the NBA, Butler made sure he wasn’t adding any kind of blackboard material to rile up either player.

Via Twitter:

The best way to defend LeBron or Durant: don’t make them angry.

Smart move, Jimmy.