Celtics

Celtics

It became clear early on during Tuesday night's game that the three-ball was not going to save the Celtics.

The Knicks jumped out to a 9-0 lead on Boston, which took its first three shots of the game from beyond the three-point line. Three bricks.

In fact, the C's had missed five three-pointers before cutting into the Knicks 9-2 lead with three free throws at the 7:27 mark.

It got much worse before it got better, too. At halftime, the Celtics had missed all 13 of their three-point attempts.

That was a big part of the reason they were shooting just 38.6-percent (17-for-44) at the half. The shots weren't falling, and therefore the assists weren't piling up, either. But even so, just six assists at the half on 17 made baskets is not the Celtics we know.

And on the defensive end, Boston was getting worked on the glass. Robin Lopez had nine offensive rebounds in the first half alone. Nine! Carmelo Anthony had eight rebounds at that point, too.

The adjustments at halftime became clear. Get physical, get active on both ends, and work the ball.

"We were down two [points] and 0-for-13 from three at the half, so you felt pretty good about that," Brad Stevens told reporters. "But I think that once we felt like we were getting rebounds, we felt like we could do some good things. Once we start getting rebounds, we start making shots. It's kind of funny how the game rewards you in that way."

Boston hit 11 shots in the third quarter, nine of which came on assists. Believe it or not, they hit a couple three-pointers too - one from Jae Crowder and the other from Isaiah Thomas. But they weren't hoisting them up at the rate they usually do. Instead, seven of the 11 baskets came at the rim on either dunks or layups. And six of those seven were assisted. The C's also had seven fast-break points in the quarter to the Knicks' zero, which included a great rebound and pass from Thomas to Crowder.

"I thought we made some better plays," Stevens said. "I thought we made some drives and dishes. Obviously Jae's two threes kind of got us feeling better about life (note: it was actually one three-pointer and one long two). But I thought we had some drives and dishes at the rim that were huge. When you're not scoring, those transition baskets are big. Tyler [Zeller's] rim run and Kelly [Olynyk's] rim run can stem the tide."

There was plenty more of Zeller and Olynyk in the fourth quarter, too, as the bigs combined for 19 points. Boston scored 18 more points in the paint in the fourth, on their way to 58 for the game. That tied them for their second-highest point total in the paint this season. When compared with the Knicks' 28, the 30-point differential is the largest this season for Boston, and ultimately the reason they won this game.

And just as they picked it up offensively at the hoop, they did the same defensively. Lopez was limited to just four rebounds in the second half. He grabbed just one rebound after Zeller entered the game in the third quarter with 5:33 remaining.

"Yeah, I think Robin was doing a great job of hanging around the basket and getting a lot of second shot opportunities, so we had to have our guards come in and help us rebound over the top," Zeller told reporters. "They did a great job of helping me out. I was just trying to get him off the boards. We slowed him down a lot more than we did in the first half."