If a time traveler were to appear in our kitchen this very moment, it would not be the least bit surprising if he or she were to tell us that in 2032, everyone has jet packs, the president is Katt Williams, and Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and the Celtics are still tormenting the future Knicks, dropping three-pointers over young Carmelo Jr. and making everybody crazy. The Knicks can have their best team in fifteen years and the Celtics can be bouncing back and forth over and under .500 ... but when the Celtics play the Knicks, it's always 2008.
The Celtics beat the Knicks 102–96 last night at the Garden, and it was pretty much like every Celtics-Knicks game of the past five years. The Knicks played hard but not well, the Celtics were all chippy and frustrating, and Paul Pierce hit a crushing shot in the final minute to destroy the Knicks' hopes. We have seen this game so, so many times. Each game ends up with a different dent in the wall next to the television.
It really did feel like a throwback night, in ways the Knicks would rather it not. Garnett, as always, successfully made a nuisance of himself, to the point that he and Carmelo Anthony almost came to blows in the fourth quarter. Garnett spent a lot of the second half guarding 'Melo — well, "guarding" — and after Anthony's rough start to the game, it was the worst thing that could have happened. As Seth pointed out on Posting and Toasting and has become a trend all season, when the Knicks lose their composure, they turn petulant and sloppy. And the Celtics, even in their advanced age, are brilliant and making teams lose their composure.
So, Carmelo ended up 6–for–26 from the field, JR Smith was off (and bloodied by the end), the usually chill Pablo Prigioni got a technical, and it ended with Pierce taunting the Knicks crowd like he has so many times before. The Celtics did it without Rajon Rondo; they did like it was nothing.
And the Knicks were so off their game that by the end, Carmelo — hardly a growling, fighting, scratching beast — was so angry he went to find Garnett after the game was over. It was a big enough deal that police were called to break it up. Anthony was also screaming outside the Celtics' locker room and, in a nice touch, was waiting for Garnett at the Celtics' team bus afterwards. (A Boston TV station has video; Carmelo looked cold out there.) This is as angry as we've ever seen Carmelo, and while there's a temptation to call it a good thing — killer instinct! he wants blood! rivalries! — Carmelo tends to play his best when he is in rhythm and comfortable. He certainly doesn't look rhythmic and comfortable in that video, and he sure as heck didn't look that way in the game.
So it's just one loss and not a huge deal: The Knicks are still comfortably in first in the Atlantic Division. (Also, Amar'e Stoudemire seemed to get a little more of his step back.) But this fun season so far, until last night, hadn't featured one game against the Celtics yet. Now we know what we already expected: Any success the Knicks have is going to have to come through Boston. (Right now, they'd face each other in the first round of the playoffs. Gulp.) There are three more games left with Boston this year, the next one in Boston in a couple of weeks. Yep, they're going to be a pain in the ass this year too. They're going to be a pain in the ass forever.