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.
Why we’ll miss him: A video compilation of Rasheed Wallace yelling “Ball Don’t Lie”
But we’re still going to miss him, one of the great unconventional personalities of the game. And we’re going to miss him complaining about every foul ever called on him then yelling “Ball Don’t Lie” if the guy missed the free throws, as if instant Karma ruled basketball. Take care of yourself ‘Sheed, you will be missed.
Coach Mike Woodson basically begged Rasheed Wallace to come out of retirement and play for the Knicks this season — and for 20 games it worked. He averaged 7.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in 14.6 minutes per game giving them solid play off the bench and letting Tyson Chandler and other bigs get some rest. He yelled “ball don’t lie” and picked up technical.
But then came the foot surgery and it looked like he was done for the season. As the Knicks made roster moves throughout the season they continued to say Wallace was safe and he was — they never waived him even as they sent Kurt Thomas out to sign Solomon Jones to provide some depth for the front line.
But it didn’t work out.
Wednesday morning the Knicks announced Rasheed Wallace is retiring from the NBA. Again.
But this time he means it. This was his call, not the organization pushing him in any way.
Wallace had an impressive career, one that included a ring as a key player for the 2004 Pistons He was one of the NBA’s more entertaining and unpredictable personalities.
As for the Knicks, nothing really changes as they have been without him for a while. They have signed center Earl Barron, who started with the Wizards this season but was waived a couple days before Christmas and has been out of the league since. He’s just a body, however.
They just need to get Chandler, Kenyon Martin and ideally Marcus Camby back for the playoffs and they could make a deep run this season.
Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Jazz win keeps playoff dream alive
Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while watching the news out of Boston with horror and yet were reminded of the heroism of both first responders and everyday Americans who did what they could to help….
Jazz 96, Timberwolves 80: Utah needed to win to keep its playoffs hopes alive, so it played with a level of energy (particularly defensively) the Timberwolves ultimately could not match.
This was a game where the Jazz would pull ahead then Minnesota would make a push to close the gap. It happened in the first half, but Utah stretched the lead up to nine at halftime. Then Minnesota started the second half shooting 1-of-10 and the Minny lead got up to 14. Again, the Timberwolves closed the gap, down tow 3 at 61-58. But then center Greg Stiemsma picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench, meaning the smaller and not as good defensively Dante Cunnungham and he could not contain Al Jefferson — Utah’s bug man had 22 on the night and led the charge as the Jazz pulled away.
Utah needs to beat Memphis Wednesday and hope the Rockets beat the Lakers that night for Utah to slip into the eight seed.
Nuggets 112, Bucks 111: Denver pulled out a victory that kept them in control of their own destiny in terms of securing the three seed for the playoffs, which would be monumental for the team with the best home record in the league in any first round matchup.
Ty Lawson hit the game-winner with 9.3 seconds remaining, a pull-up jumper in the lane that was an exceptionally wide open look given the circumstances.
The Bucks put up a fight, however, and Monta Ellis did all he could personally to try to get his team this win. Ellis finished with 38 points, and scored 19 of those in the fourth, including a four-point play on the possession before Lawson’s game-winner briefly gave his team the one-point lead.
Milwaukee is on a huge slide heading into the postseason, having won just three of its last 15 games, while currently riding a nine-game road losing streak. —Brett Pollakoff
Suns 119, Rockets 112: The Rockets allowed the Suns to score season highs in the first quarter (39) and the first half (67), and also let P.J. Tucker score a career high 21 points in dropping this one in Phoenix, which also likely dropped Houston’s position in the playoff picture.
A loss to the Lakers on Wednesday would give the Rockets the eight seed in the West, based on L.A. owning the tie-breaker should the teams finish with identical records.
Houston would be the seven seed if they beat the Lakers and the Warriors win as expected in Portland, and could still get to sixth with a win and a Warriors loss.
James Harden finished with 16 points on 5-18 shooting, but had only four after his 12-point first quarter. Harden had a collision with Luis Scola that appeared to affect his right knee, which may have been the reason for the decline in production. Kevin McHale said afterward that Harden told him he was fine (which is why he played 34 minutes). Harden left without speaking to reporters. —Brett Pollakoff
Bulls 102, Magic 84: Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson returned from injury, and though they played just 35 combined minutes, their presence could be very important against the Wizards on Wednesday. Chicago is just a half game back from the No. 5 seed behind the Hawks, who finish the season hosting the Raptors and playing at the Knicks. Carlos Boozer (22 points) and Luol Deng (18 points and eight assists) kept the Bulls within striking distance, but their defensive bigs might need to do a little more in the finale. — Dan Feldman
Grizzlies 103, Mavericks 97: It was a tale of two halves for Memphis. In the first half they put up only 38 points, in the second half it was 65 and the Grizzlies came back to win (keeping alive their hopes of home court advantage in the first round.
Memphis wins with defense and that’s what they did in the second half — they forced 11 Dallas turnovers and used the easy points in transition to fuel their run. Jerryd Bayless led the way on that charge with 19 for the Grizzlies. It was a great win.
After the game, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was clearly frustrated with another bad O.J. Mayo performance (1-of-6 shooting, with 4 turnovers) and said to Jeff Caplan of NBA.com about Mayp;s inco, “The good news is there’s only an opportunity for one more.” —Bret Pollakoff
Thunder 104, Kings 95: While every other team seemed to Oklahoma City wasn’t resting its two big stars — Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook played. Well, Westbrook played until he got ejected in the second half, but he played.
Durant was his usual self — he scored 29 points on 10-for-16 shooting. Westbrook added 21 and the Thunder pulled away in the second quarter and got the lead as large as 24 before the end of the Kings’ bench outplayed the end of the Thunder bench to get the score down to something respectable when the final gun sounded.
The scary part for the Kings was Tyreke Evans having to leave the game after a fall in the first quarter. He did not return and the team described his injury as a strained quad muscle.
With the win Oklahoma City got its 60th win of the season and secured the No. 1 seed in the West. The Thunder have home court advantage up to the finals.
Warrriors 116, Spurs 106: San Antonio rested all its big names (Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Boris Diaw) and yet their reserves hung around with Golden State. San Antonio got 18 first-half points from Gary Neal, another 10 from Patty Mills, and they just hung around. That was, until the fourth quarter when Stephen Curry started doing Stephen Curry-like things — he scored 11 in the quarter and sparked a 19-0 Warriors run that gave them a comfortable winning margin. Curry finished with 35 points on the night.
Heat 96, Cavaliers 95: Everyone makes a big deal whenever LeBron James returns to Ohio, even when he’s sitting out, as he did last night. But what about Norris Cole, who’s from Dayton and attended Cleveland State? In his return to Cleveland, Cole nearly broke LeBron’s run of five straight Heat triple-doubles. Cole finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, but he compensated for the missing assist with a game-clinching block of Kyrie Irving on the game’s final possession. — Dan Feldman
Bobcats 106, Knicks 95: Chris Copeland (47 minutes), James White (43 minutes), Pablo Prigioni (42 minutes) and Steve Novak (41 minutes) each received career-high playing time. Even Rasheed Wallace came back to play four minutes. The Bobcats didn’t take the game as a joke, and Gerald Henderson (27 points on 16 shots) and Kemba Walker (23 points, 13 assists and one turnover) have Charlotte one game from avoiding the league’s worst record. — Dan Feldman
Nets 106, Wizards 101: With nothing to play for in terms of playoff seeding, Brooklyn sat four of its five starters and gave Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Reggie Evans, and Keith Bogans all the night off.
The Nets found a way to win anyway, thanks to 20 points apiece from Kris Humphries and Andray Blatche, and seeing seven players in total score in double figures.
Brooklyn trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half, and had to rally from an eight-point deficit with just under 10 minutes to play to get the win, behind 11 fourth quarter points from Tyshawn Taylor and eight in the final period from Mirza Teletovic — both of whom would be household names if they got meaningful minutes against this dreadful Wizards team on a regular basis. —Brett Pollakoff
With nothing left to play for — the Knicks have locked up the second seed in the East and will face the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs starting this weekend — some key players are going to get rest.
Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin will all be out for the Knicks, reports ESPNNewYork.com. None of this is really a surprise and it’s the right thing to do heading into the postseason.
Because the Knicks don’t want to incur the wrath of David Stern Anthony is officially out with a sore left knee. But this is about getting rest.
While both will be ready to go come the playoffs, both Chandler and Martin are legitimately injured. Chandler has been out the last five games and 15 of 19 because of a bulging disk in his neck. Martin has a sprained left ankle and has been out three games.
You could see some Rasheed Wallace for the Knicks, but you’re going to see a lot of reserves against Charlotte, the team with the worst overall record in the NBA.