BOSTON -- Diving for loose balls, deflecting passes in the paint, forcing turnovers.
It was a back-in-the-day kind of game for the Boston Celtics, doing all the little things that we’ve seen in the past that collectively added up to big victories as they pulled away for a 115-87 win over the New York Knicks.
CELTICS 115, KNICKS 87
- Carmelo Anthony ejected from Celtics' victory . . .
- . . . and La La Anthony goes off on Twitter
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For Boston (4-4), the win snapped a three-game losing skid while the Knicks (3-5) have now dropped four of their last six games.
Leading the way for Boston was Isaiah Thomas who had a game-high 29 points. Avery Bradley continued to be on double-double alert before finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double this season.
The Knicks got 14 points from Kristaps Porzingis as well as a dozen points from Carmelo Anthony in just 12 minutes before he was ejected after picking up back-to-back technical fouls in the second quarter.
Prior to the game, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens made a lineup change by inserting Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk into the first unit in place of Tyler Zeller and Jaylen Brown, a move that seemed to work for all players involved and the team as a whole.
The move was made to get the Celtics off to a better start, something that has been problematic of late.
A strong start by Boston gave way to a defiant New York Knicks team that nearly wiped out Boston’s 19-8 start with a strong finish to first which ended with the Celtics clinging to a 31-27 lead.
The second quarter was up for grabs until the 4:44 mark which is when Knicks all-star Carmelo Anthony picked up a pair of technical fouls from official Tony Brothers -- an automatic ejection -- for arguing a foul called against him.
Once the free throws were out of the way, the Celtics found themselves ahead by 10 points (48-38) which turned out to be the margin by which they took into the half.
Boston took its largest lead up to that point in the game following a lay-up by Avery Bradley that increased Boston’s lead to 70-55.
But New York bounced back with an 8-0 run of its own capped off by a Derrick Rose 3-pointer.
That would be as close as the Knicks would get as the third quarter ended with the Celtics ahead 86-73.
Boston continued to do all the little things that have become the foundation of this franchise under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens: hustle, rebound, play gritty defense and more than anything else, position themselves to win.
There’s no telling if the strong performance Friday night will carry over into Saturday’s game at Indiana.
But it certainly provides hope for this team going forward, as well as a much-needed jolt of confidence for a team that’s dealing with high expectations for the first time in years.