NBA scores: Knicks, Celtics tussle in Madison Square Garden

Bruce Bennett

Tempers flared in the Knicks-Celtics game, but what happened in the third quarter that allowed the Celtics to gain control before all that bickering happened? That and more in Monday's NBA scores roundup.

Celtics 102, Knicks 96

This game will obviously be remembered for all the off-court histrionics between Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony. To review: during the fourth quarter, they did this to each other.

Then, after the game, Anthony tried to stake out Garnett by the team bus. That'll clearly be the story of this one.

But in terms of the game itself, this game turned in the third quarter. It was one of those contests that make you wonder if Celtics fans aren't actually crazy about Avery Bradley. He had just 13 points in the game and struggled with his shot in the first half, but his ball pressure was unbelievable in the third quarter. The Knicks' offense was rolling as usual, but then Bradley and Courtney Lee got into the Knicks guards' faces and made it impossible for them to get into their sets. This is exactly the kind of team Danny Ainge envisioned when he signed Lee and drafted Bradley.

So, is Bradley really as indispensable as Celtics fans think?

We have to think in two different terms here. I think we have some evidence to show that Bradley, for whatever reason, completely injects new life into this Celtics team. There's something to be said for having a guard that can succeed that well at disrupting a team's offense at the point of attack. Offense in the NBA is all about timing. Every cut is choreographed; every action is supposed to fold seamlessly into the next. When the first part of a play is disrupted by intense ball pressure, it throws the entire sequence off. In those terms, Bradley is invaluable.

At the same time, a lot of this is team-dependent. Could Bradley play the way he does if he didn't have Kevin Garnett protecting the rim? Would his limited, but effective offensive game work well without several other stars to occupy defenders' attention? These questions are the ones any team should ask if they ever get the chance to trade for him.

That makes Bradley the rare player that is actually more valuable to his current team than any other. This is a cliche that coaches spout, but it doesn't really ring true in a lot of cases. It does, though, with Avery Bradley.

Wizards 101, Thunder 99

Bradley Beal's game-winner was fantastic. Watch the video, then read Beal and coach Randy Wittman taking you through the play.

Oklahoma City's guards sometimes have issues leaving open shooters. In this game, Martell Webster and Beal went a combined 9-13 from three-point range. This is going to be a big issue against a team like ... say ... the Clippers.

Hornets 95, Spurs 88

For a supposed lead scorer, Eric Gordon can be maddening with his inconsistency and poor decision-making. At the same time, the guy can make shots and create offense for himself and others. The Hornets needed those traits to hold off a Spurs team that is always elite in the fourth quarter.

Greivis Vasquez: 14 points, 11 assists, three turnovers. He's growing into a very good point guard before our eyes.

Jazz 100, Mavericks 94

Gordon Hayward had his best game of the season in leading the Jazz to a fourth-quarter comeback win. He was fantastic.

A question I wonder about a lot: if a little-used young player balls out like this, then goes on to earn more burn, does the coach get credit for his development or criticism for not using him more in the first place? Consider that question as you think about the way Alec Burks played in the fourth quarter.

Blazers 125, Magic 119

If the Blazers could play their five starters the entire game, they'd be one of the league's best teams. All five guys had big performances, allowing the Blazers to make up the time when they had to go to their bench.

Orlando is competing like it did in December, but it is finally experiencing what it's like to not have a lot of talent.

Bulls 118, Cavaliers 92

Shame on the Bulls for not doing their part on Close Game Monday.

Grizzlies 113, Kings 81

Extra shame on the Grizzlies for doing the same. Can't these guys show some teamwork?

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