HANG TIME, Texas — It was a two-point game with three minutes left to play. There was all the set-up for another contested and contentious finish.
After their squabble from 17 days earlier, would either Kevin Garnett or Carmelo Anthony wind up down on the floor?
As a matter of fact, K.G. did hit the parquet at T.D. Garden. But there was a pleasantly accommodating ‘Melo to lend a helping hand to get a brother back onto his feet.
The only thing missing was a chorus of “Kumbaya” in place of the national anthem as the Knicks-Celtics blood feud tip-toed quietly into the night, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:
“There’s no grudges between myself and KG,” Anthony said. “He fell, and I helped him up.”
No one knew exactly what to expect, but an outbreak of politeness and a tepid home crowd were not on the menu. Other than a few benign shoves between Garnett and Tyson Chandler in the midst of the fourth quarter and a handful of rogue heckles referencing Garnett’s supposed infamous insult, there was nothing extraordinary.
“I was expecting it to be a hostile environment,” Anthony said. “It was kind of quiet.”
Said Amar’e Stoudemire: “I was thinking the crowd was going to be a little more rude.”
This could be either the city of Boston rejecting hundreds of years of reputation or — and this is much more likely — a fan base and a Celtics team that had bigger worries than meting out retribution for a guy who stood half-menacingly in a loading dock surrounded by a dozen security guards as Anthony did back on Jan. 7.
In other words, rather than the anticipated clamor of a Melo-K.G. Showdown II, was this the sighing sound of the Celtics running into reality while the Knicks gallop onto bigger things?
At this point, these are two teams circling in different orbits. Boston lost its fifth straight game, is under .500 and walking with one foot in the gutter of the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
So much for the effect of coach Doc Rivers flipping his usually cool lid and threatening to buy one-way tickets out of town for any of his players who didn’t buy into the program and start playing better.
A lot of us have been looking at that storied name across the front of those green-and-white jerseys, read the famous and accomplished names across the back and been trying to convince ourselves that it was only a matter of time before Boston shifted into gear.
But maybe this is as good as it gets for the Celtics. While Rajon Rondo put up a triple-double and Paul Pierce played showed some of the old fire, the reason that the Garden was so quiet — dare we say it, so meek? — was perhaps the fans understand that there is no torch to be passed. It has already been extinguished.
On the other hand, after four losses in six games, the Knicks could be out of their funk and back in the business of resuming their chase of Miami for the role of top dog in the East (while holding off the charging Nets).
Even with a loss on Monday night, the Knicks still split the season series with Brooklyn and got their best game to date from Stoudemire. They could get Raymond Felton (broken finger) back in the lineup as soon as Saturday at Philly.
Coach Mike Woodson’s new challenge could be finding time and space for all of his healthy players and, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:
Felton’s return will result in the Knicks having all their guards healthy for the first time all season.
Shumpert is expected to remain in the starting lineup, and Woodson hinted that he may play Shumpert at small forward and start Felton and Kidd in the backcourt.
“I don’t know,” Woodson said. “I’ll have options when Raymond comes back. And I’m not saying that Kidd’s possibly going to go to the bench.”
The original plan was to use Kidd as the first guard off the bench while limiting his minutes. In all likelihood that’s what Woodson will do, because a starting lineup with Anthony, Shumpert, Kidd and Felton makes the rebounding-challenged Knicks small.
“I’m killing Kidd in terms of not having Raymond in a uniform, playing him a lot of minutes,” Woodson said. “We need Kidd for the long haul.
“If it means starting him or coming off the bench, Kidd’s going to play.
“I don’t care if he starts or if he comes off. I don’t think it really matters to him either. He’s going to play because he’s a big piece to what we do.”
Of course, those are the good kinds of problems to have in New York. Plus, it’s far different from what’s going on in Boston, where the sounds of silence speak volumes.