The psychological hold the Boston Celtics have had over the New York Knicks was strengthened this season after KG told Melo his wife tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios, and Melo proceeded to go ballistic and tank for the rest of the game.
The swelling belief around the NBA was — just like their scoring champion — the Knicks are temperamentally fragile. Despite winning the Atlantic Division, the playoff knock on NY was that it took defensive possessions off, couldn’t maintain emotions and was easily disrupted by savvy trash-talking vets.
The Knicks victory in Game 1 of their playoff series against Boston is a lesson in reverse psychology and the Knicks are mastering the craft. If winning 13 games in a row down the stretch didn’t convert non-believers, then Jason Kidd’s gutsy, performance, Kenyon Martin’s intimidating Tyson Chandler impersonation, and Melo’s composed shooting down the stretch should raise some eye brows.
This was a game the Knicks of old usually lose. Hell, the Knicks of last year would’ve blown this home game. They were down 53-49 at halftime. Melo was in “iso-mode,” hoisting up ugly shots and out of control. When that happens, the Knicks offense loses rhythm. Adding insult to injury, Jeff Green was cutting through the Knicks’ D like Chris Webber in a pickup game.
It looked as if the Knicks would squander a great opportunity because of their inability to get past that Big Green psychological wall.
Then all of a sudden something clicked. Those veterans Mike Woodson said would factor so heavily in the playoffs didn’t waste any time putting the heat to the hardwood. After Melo began shifting the psychology by hitting a jumper with about 33 seconds left in the third to cut a 70-63 Celtics deficit to 5, Martin and Kidd fell into perfect form, giving him the veteran leadership — and as Tyson Chandler calls it “the champion’s heart” — to pull out a much-needed opening playoff game.
“(Jason Kidd’s) 40 years old, diving on the ground for loose balls,” Chandler said in a radio interview after the game. “Plays like that wins championships.”
Chandler has Martin to thank for not being the ultimate goat. Martin, who has been a godsend, hustled 10 points and nine rebounds in big-dawg minutes for New York with Chandler struggling through a scoreless 20 minutes
In the crucial fourth quarter kid had a couple steals; one coming on a pass from Celtics guard Courtney Lee, which Kidd intercepted and found an exuberant Martin for an and-1 and the lead.
The defense put the clamps on Boston from then out, holding them to 25 points in the second half.
Every crucial steal and bucket was made by the Knicks who were mentally tougher. Kidd’s steal with 4:48 left, which sent Felton to the line, was the biggest crowd-pleaser. Chants of “Let’s go Kidd” reverberated throughout the Garden. The defensive onslaught continued from there, mixed in with a few Melo moments to lace the victory with a touch of redemption.
It was the Knicks who played the lockdown D, not the Celtics. It was the Knicks who seemed to fluster the opposition into cold shooting. It was the Knicks star who blazed the Celts for 36.
The Knicks added two more steals at the end, making an emphatic mental note to all that they plan to win this series with reverse psychology.