Already awakened from Christmas slumber by a high-scoring game, the Madison Square Garden crowd was rocking. “Defense! Defense!” Knicks fans chanted after New York tied the game with a 16-3 run.
The Celtics beat the Knicks, 119-114, in the highest-scoring Christmas opener since the NBA expanded to a five-game Christmas schedule in 2008. The previous high-water mark in the early game, known for lethargic and sloppy performances, was New York’s 106-104 win over Boston in 2011. That was the only other time teams combined to score 200 in the first of five Christmas games.
“We got the win, so it was everything that I dreamed of,” said Thomas, who led Boston with 25 points in his first Christmas game.
The isolation-heavy Knicks just couldn’t keep up with the Celtics’ humming offense. Boston had 25 assists and eight turnovers. New York? Eleven assists and 17 turnovers.
Anthony scored 29, but hassled by Jae Crowder, he shot just 9-for-24 and fell short of 30 points for the first time in five Christmas games. Nice individual scoring by Derrick Rose (25 points) and Kristaps Porzingis (22 points) kept the Knicks in it.
New York (16-14) would’ve passed Boston (18-13) in the standings with a win, but the Celtics – who’ve won four straight and eight of nine against the Knicks – maintain the upper hand. Now, Boston moves onto challenging bigger fish – like the Cavaliers and Raptors.
“With that starting five healthy, we know we can be scary in the East,” Thomas said.
On the other hand, the Knicks – as competitive as they’ve been in years – must seek another source of validation after coming up short in this high-profile game.