Tag:Carmelo Anthony
Posted on: April 20, 2011 4:06 am
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NBA Playoffs Knicks-Celtics Game 2 Reactions

Reactions from around the web on the Celtics' second close win over the Knicks in their first round playoff series. Is there a problem with Boston? Can the Knicks handle many more close losses? Are the Celtics worried at all?
Posted by Matt Moore




We begin with the Knicks' side: 
Once more, the closing moments were a matter of inches in either direction, and the team with the edge in seasoning, personnel, and home court (and, if you want, late-game coaching. D'Antoni has been mostly fine, in my opinion, but Doc Rivers has been wizardly.) seized those inches.

The inches thing is what's haunting me, I think. I've always been fascinated (and tormented) by the infinitesimal difference between triumph and heartbreak in basketball, and tonight's biggest moments were, in fact, practically atomic. Look no further than New York's ill-fated final play, in which Kevin Garnett's hand occupied exactly the same slot of airspace as that bedeviling Jared Jeffries pass and his dive for possession grazed the last of the unpainted grains on the parquet floor. Those of you crushed by some decision from any party involved all have your reasons. Me? I'm going to lose sleep because something uncontrollable and imperceptible could have rendered the Knicks winners, but it didn't. Again.

Those tyrannical minutiae governed the game's final moments, but it shan't overlooked, not by those of us that care, how incredible it was that the Knicks even got there. I'm proud of them. You don't have to be.
 via Celtics 96, Knicks 93: "I'm crushed, but I’m still really proud." - Posting and Toasting.

Put this into context. A woefully undersized forward-center was traded to Houston in order to make cap room to sign Amar'e Stoudemire which allowed for the team to become relevant enough to trade half their roster to acquire Carmelo Anthony, and in an effort to fill out the rest of the team, the same player traded to Houston was re-signed after a buyout was reached. That same player then scored the go-ahead bucket against one of the greatest defensive players of all time, off the dribble, at the rim, no less, then was backed down and summarily scored upon by said defensive player to surrender the lead. At which point this same castoff caught a pass from a violently doubled Anthony, and attempted to make the right play, passing to the cutting player behind him rather than going up and getting blocked by a longer, tougher, more experienced defender, again, the same defensive mastermind. In doing so, said defensive force manages to get his hand directly in the path of the ball, at once a brilliant stroke of defensive prowess and a terrifying example of just how wrong things can go when the simplest and best play is detonated by a single well-placed palm. 

That's why the Knicks lost. It defines both Boston's ability to harness that infinitesimal level of effort and focus that determinses champions and the running theme that the Knicks just can't seem to catch a break no matter how much they improve. The first two games of this series have been decided by six points and yet the result is the same. 2-0 Celtics. 
This one shouldn't have been anywhere near that close with Billups already out and Amare Stoudamire leaving the game early with back spasms.  The Celtics are a few clutch plays away from being 0-2 but because they are the Celtics and they (usually) make those plays when they matter most, we're sitting on a 2-0 lead headed to New York.

More notes:
  • One reason it was so close: Knicks outrebounded the C's 53 - 37
  • I was very disappointed in the subs for much of the game - they gave up a 10 point lead in the first half and only contributed 14 points as a unit.
via KG The Closer Shuts The Door - CelticsBlog.

This is the kind of thing that makes you question the validity of how close these first round series are, with the underdogs playing so well. The Celtics are a terrible rebounding team, have been all year. But the Knicks should not be killing them on the glass this badly by any means. And the bench? Glen Davis was a sixth man of the year candidate until about February 27th.  Did he just suddenly become a terrible player? Or is this a result of matchups, timing, and chance? Just as a few more things going their way would have meant a 2-0 series lead for the Knicks, a few things going normally for the Celtics would mean a more comfortable point differential for Boston in this series. 

That said, if you're getting out-produced by the Knicks' bench? You have issues. 
“I thought Rondo was aggressive,” Kevin Garnett said. “He was overly aggressive tonight. Rondo played excellent on both ends.”

In the opening quarter, Rondo repeatedly meandered his way through a thicket of Knicks the way a swift-moving river cuts through a mountain range. He went where he found the least resistance and, for a time, that was pretty much anywhere he wanted to go.

“Kevin and Paul (Pierce) got me great outlet passes and I attacked the rim,” Rondo said. “I think I tried to attack in Game 1 but my layups were getting blocked and I didn’t make a couple. Tonight I made them. I stayed aggressive and tried to expose them because I don’t think they did a great job getting back in transition. They made an adjustment in the second half and I tried to go to my guys, Paul, Ray (Allen) and Kevin.”
via Rajon Rondo drives this team - BostonHerald.com.

It was weird to see Rondo streaking out for catches of outlet passes, and that's a large part of what got the Knicks so off-guard about it. Rondo's almost always retreating to the backcourt to set the offense. He's usually patiently waiting for the right time to execute the play. But in the first quarter, he was just blistering guys in foot races and the result was a whole lot of layups. 

It's odd  that the Knicks can be so disciplined and well-conditioned in getting out in transition offensively, but can't translate those principles on the defensive end. It's one thing to struggle with half-court defense thanks to personnel, scheme and principles (like D'Antoni's forwards traditionaly leaking out early instead of pursuing rebounds which surrenders a lot of extra possessions which hurts the defensive numbers, an element often overlooked because we associate defense with effort). But transition defense whould be a point of proud and an easy translation for the personnel on D'Antoni's teams. They can at least hang with being bludgeoned to death. But letting the Celtics carve isn't going to work, not even in New York. 
You could look at that stat two ways: that the Celtics held one of the best offensive teams in the league to a poor shooting night, or that the Celtics barely eeked out a win despite the Knicks shooting so poorly.

Both are correct.

“It was really good to get the win, but we’re disappointed with the way we played tonight," said Paul Pierce. "We gave up a big lead and with the circumstances I thought we should have pushed the lead ... We shouldn’t be satisfied with the way we played today. We’ve got a lot of things to clean up but hopefully we can play better when we get to New York.”

Glen Davis put it simply, "We gotta play better if we want to be champions."
via Celtics blog - Boston Globe basketball news.

Maybe that's what's so confusing about Rondo's performance tonight. It was almost ineffective. It's easy to argue it won the Celtics the game, in terms of total effort, en masse. But you got the feeling that the Celtics were trying to send a message, to finish the Knicks early. Kick them in the stomach, throw them off the pier and be done with it for the night. But instead, the Knicks keep responding to Celtics' rampages with calm, cool, coollected responses. The Celtics have won two games on account of their ability to make the most out of a handful of possessions at both ends late, but they also need everyone they can convert. This series could go five games, but it's got the feel of a drawn out series in which the Celtics are trying to find themselves and keep coming up without answers. 
On Sunday, Anthony was criticized for shooting a deep 3-pointer over a double-team with time running out. This time, he chose to pass and still walked away with a loss and facing more scrutiny.

“I made the right play,” Anthony said. “The right play was to go to Jared.”

Jeffries, who finished with 10 points and 6 rebounds, said that Garnett closed on him too quickly to get a shot up. But, he added, “I should have went ahead and shot the ball.”
via Celtics 96, Knicks 93 - Anthony Gives His All, but It Isn’t Enough - NYTimes.com.

Easier said than done when Garnett's breathing down your neck. The better option in this situation from a set standpoint would have been for Melo to make the pass to Jeffries, but when the defense collapsed, to reset to Melo. By that time Davis would have had to started to rotate back to his man, which would have provided an opportunity for Melo to go one-on-one for a few seconds with Pierce, enough to get the shot off. In general, I'm a big proponent of always working to create a good shot, versus just giving it to your best player and hoping for the best. But with the Knicks' roster, especially without Billups or Amar'e Stoudemire? Melo should have been their one, last, and only hope. Getting him open would have been more difficult than just saying so, but that's the best scenario. Instead, New York faces a must win in the Garden in Game 3. 


Posted on: April 19, 2011 11:54 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 12:11 am
 

NBA Playoffs Knicks-Celtics: Rondo goes nova

Rajon Rondo scores a career-high 30 points in Celtics' win over the Knicks. Tough shots? Hardly. Light speed layups all night long. 
Posted by Matt Moore




Rajon Rondo's not a scorer, supposedly. He's a distributor and a defender, but not a scorer. He's scored 30 points or more in a game three times in his career . He had never scored 30 points in the playoffs until Tuesday night, when he dropped 30 points, 7 assists, and 2 steals in the Celtics' Melo-overcoming win .

Usually, when a player drops a 30-point line in the playoffs, it means someone hit a barrage of three-pointers, or had the pull-up mid-range jumper moving. But then, most times in the playoffs, a player isn't facing Toney Douglas in Mike D'Antoni's system. Rondo's attack was not a perimeter barrage. Take a look. 



For more on Tuesday night's Knicks-Celtics Game 2, check out our GameTracker

That nice square right in the center of the paint? That represents 20 of his 30 points. Rondo had a parade of layups in the first quarter, with Douglas at one point literally running the opposite direction on a break. Well, maybe parade isn't a fair term. A parade only passes through once, not five times. Rondo did have seven assists as well, putting in close to half the Celtics' total offense by himself either scoring or producing. 

Rondo's speed looked back to where it was early in the season, a gear that was mostly missing during the last half of the year. Post-game, Rondo told TNT the rest in between games helps. That could be a huge factor going forward, not just in this round, but in future rounds should the Celtics advance. Considering how close these first two games have been, and how close the Celtics have come to falling to the Knicks in both contests, Rondo's production is crucial. 

Just another point guard leading the way for his team in the 2011 playoffs with brilliant play after brilliant play. 
Posted on: April 19, 2011 10:12 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 3:01 am
 

Carmelo does his best LeBron impression in defeat

Carmlo Anthony does his best LeBron James impression during a loss to the Boston Celtics. Posted by Ben Golliver.
carmelo-knicks-2

Stop me if this sounds familiar: A do-everything forward carries a cast of castoffs against a more talented opponent, knocking down shots from everywhere, pounding the glass when necessary and reading the defense brilliantly once the defense over-commits to stopping him. For years, that was the LeBron James biography in Cleveland, a series of spectacular and single-handed postseason performances that wound up just short due to the incompetency of his teammates.

With Amar'e Stoudemire nursing a sore back and Chauncey Billups out with a knee injury, the newest Knick, forward Carmelo Anthony, suddenly found himself in James' shoes. Facing the Boston Celtics in a must-win Game 2, Anthony found himself putting the likes of Roger Mason, Shawne Williams, Bill Walker and Anthony Carter on his back, turning in an eye-popping line of 42 points, 17 rebounds and six assists. Those are numbers, according to Basketball-Reference, that haven't been put up in a playoff game in more than 25 years.  (James is the only other player to go 40/10/5 in the last two years in the playoffs.)

Anthony scored in every way that you can score: knocking down threes, knocking down threes with a hand in his face, knocking down threes after being bumped, finishing at the rim, finishing at the rim in traffic, hitting the elbow jumper, hitting the elbow jumper with a hand in his face and, most importantly, he got to the free throw line (where he shot 10-11), something he had failed to do with any regularity in Game 1. Immediately, his shooting performance drew comparisons to Knicks legend Bernard King, and for once the reference wasn't a gross overstatement. 




The rebounds piled up because someone had to step up in Stoudemire's absence and Anthony wasn't going to wait around to see if any of his teammates were up to the challenge. In the end, the Knicks rebounded exceptionally well, killing Boston on the glass, 53-37, and grabbing 20 offensive rebounds. 

It was Anthony's passing, though, that will be the overlooked part of his masterpiece. Much like James has for years, Anthony threw some great, well-timed looks to cutting teammates once Boston started sending hard double teams his way. With just under six minutes, Anthony notched his last assist to Jared Jeffries, for a lay-up that put the Knicks up 86-84 and made the upset possibility feel very real.

Unfortunately, just like James, Anthony trusted his teammates just a little too much in the critical game-deciding sequence. Trailing 94-93 with 13 seconds to play, Anthony tried to force another pass to Jeffries after Celtics forwards Paul Pierce and Glen Davis double-teamed him. Unfortunately, Jared Jeffries is Jared Jeffries, and he bumped the ball underneath the hoop as Celtics forward Kevin Garnett converged. The pair hit the deck, Garnett emerged with the ball and Boston called timeout. The Knicks never even got off a potential game-winning attempt.

Here's a look at the sequence.



The Knicks now fall behind the Celtics 2-0 in the series after dropping Game 2, 96-93. Stoudemire's status is uncertain, Billups is heading for an MRI and Anthony's royal effort was wasted. Despite the fact that the first two games both game down to the final seconds, it's difficult to imagine the Celtics failing to advance. James knows that feeling well.
Posted on: April 19, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 2:22 pm
 

Series Reset: Knicks cope without Billups

We reset the Knicks-Celtics series with Game 2 on tap for Tuesday night. Is New York in trouble without Chauncey Billups? Posted by Ben Golliver.
ray-allen-winner

The Narrative:

A breathtaking Game 1 came down to a pair of potential game-winning threes : Celtics guard Ray Allen made his, Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony didn't. The result was disappointing for Knicks fans, but the level of effort wasn't. Amar'e Stoudemire got his numbers, the bench showed up and a more efficient night from Anthony would have meant a Game 1 win. For Boston, point guard Rajon Rondo didn't shoot particularly well but he did put together a near triple-double, which is a good sign for the Celtics, as they are only going as far as Rondo pilots them.

The Hook:

One huge Game 1 sticking point that shakes things up for Game 2: the availability of Knicks point guard Chauncey Billups, who went down with a knee injury late and isn't expected to play on Tuesday. Knicks guard Toney Douglas, a second-year player out of Florida State, is expected to start in Billups' place, and will have his hands full checking Rondo. The numbers on Douglas do offer some hope. The Knicks play better when he's on the court than when he's off, although that's generally come against second-unit players. He's also upped his production during the nine games he started this season (he averaged 13.9 points and 5.7 assists as a starter, compared to 10.6 points and 3.0 assists overall). The issue, as Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni pointed out to SI.com , is how many minutes Douglas will be required to play. It could be a lot. The next guy on the depth chart is aging vet Anthony Carter, who shot 1-4 in 14 minutes during Game 1. In case you were wondering, Douglas averaged 7.5 points and 3.3 assists against the Celtics during the regular season.

The Adjustment:

carmelo-shot-chart One look at Carmelo Anthony's shot chart to the right tells you everything you need to know about what New York hopes to do differently on Tuesday. The breakdown: 5-18 from the field, 2-8 on three-pointers, 4-15 overall on jumpers, just three shots in the paint and a paltry four free throw attempts.

Anthony, one of the league's premier all-around scorers, simply must do better. Attacking Boston's solid interior defense isn't an easy proposition but there really is no alternative. Unless Anthony is able to get to the free throw line, New York will be hoping and praying that its bench shows up big for the second night in a row, a possibility made more difficult by Douglas's move to the starting lineup. 

The X-Factor:

Brilliantly laid out in video form at Posting and Toasting, Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal had a monster Game 1 defensively, blocking four shots and contesting countless others, while looking very agile in Boston's halfcourt defense. On top of all that, he made all six of his shot attempts in 23 minutes. That's the definition of quality minutes from the man tabbed to pick up the slack in Shaquille O'Neal's absence. Can he repeat, or at least approximate, that performance in Game 2?

The Sticking Point:

While all five Boston starters scored in double figures during Game 1, the bench was pretty bad. Delonte West, Nenad Krstic, Jeff Green and Glen Davis combined to shoot 4-15, scoring just eight points and grabbing eight rebounds in a combined 59 minutes. Boston doesn't need all of those guys to step up; really, they'd probably settle for just one. Asking Jeff Green to be that guy feels like a stretch these days, so let's tab Glen "Big Baby" Davis, who started some trash talking  prior to Game 1. Davis has to do a better job than his 1-8 night, since he's being asked to give big minutes behind O'Neal. He's too talented to lay an egg like that twice in a row.
Posted on: April 18, 2011 12:00 pm
 

NBA Playoffs: Knicks-Celtics Game 1 Shootaround

Reactions from around the web to the Celtics' Game 1 win over the Knicks...

Posted by Matt Moore



Last night started off like the regular season ended but ended like it started.  It is almost as if the bad habits developed over the last several weeks carried over.  But sure enough, when they needed it most, the switch came on and the team rallied and won.

Credit Jermaine ONeal for creating transition offense with his defense.  Credit Ray Allen for being patient enough to let the game come to him and knowing just what to do when it did.  Credit Doc Rivers for drawing up exactly the right out-of-bounds plays in the final moments.  And credit the whole team for not giving up on game 1 and showing just what kind of team they can be.

Now they just have to leave that switch locked into the on position for the rest of the playoffs and well do just fine.
via The Switch Flickered - CelticsBlog.

If this were a 4-5 matchup, it would be one thing. Or a second-round matchup. But I'm a little surprised that so many Celtics fans are so "well, there they go again, flipping the switch" in this one. I loathe the "one team lost it more than the other team won it" angle in most circumstances. Spurs fans are saying a lot of that Monday morning without taking notice of the fact that Marc Gasol did earn all 24 of his points. But here? The Knicks didn't have a shot to win this thing. They had about nineteen. Their failure to execute wasn't based off of personnel, it was based off of decision making and shooting. Which, yes, you can credit the Celtics' defense for, as always. It just seems like in a series where the Celtics should overwhelm their opponent to such a considerable degree, there would be more uneasiness regarding "the switch." But then again, it was Game 1. The Celtics were in a tight series with Miami in the beginning and then a series of dramatic events last year lit a fire under them. Perhaps the same thing is happening here.   
It has to make you wonder why they can't figure out a way to get him the ball more. He's only shooting career highs in field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage this season. Ho-hum.

Allen could hang his head and pout about the lack of shot attempts, but instead he just continues to play his game, take what's given, and look for the best option.

"I wasn't worried about it (not getting shots early)," Allen said. "Offensively we got so many great weapons out there on the floor. Here in the playoffs I knew what my matchup was and defensively I knew what I had to do to help keep Carmelo (Anthony) from having big nights and (Amar'e) Stoudemire. Offensively when we got stops early I got a couple of layups, a couple of shots at the hoop. For the most part I wasn't worried about shooting the ball. Once we settled in and played the type of basketball that we are capable of playing, I knew I'd find our comfort zones.
via Ray Comes Through Just in the Knick of Time - CelticsBlog.

Having someone like Allen to rely on is such a huge advantage. He's that player where, when he shot the game winner against the Knicks, every Knicks fans is screaming "how can you let him get open?" But in reality, it's his abily to get open, and to knock down those shots when he should be triple-covered that makes him so good. Well, that and a good Kevin Garnett illegal screen/trip.  The Knicks answered with their player who has that ability to kill you with last second shots, he just didn't work to create a good opportunity for himself. 
And then there's Melo. When he received the ball with a few seconds left and a chance to tie or win, I was all like "wow, it would be VERY Melo to sink the big shot after sucking the whole second half", but he didn't. It ended up being a pair of quarters in which Anthony hit just one field goal (a put-back) and scored just three points. He was cookin' soup from outside in the first half, but it didn't feel sustainable and wasn't. Anthony attacked the basket only in spurts, and seemed hesitant to do so as the game progressed, perhaps because of several plays in which he was stripped and didn't get the calls he felt he deserved. 5-18 on the night, 2-8 from downtown, and just 15 points. He defended Paul Pierce decently, but got a bit lost when screens and switching took place. Nothing unusual there. I'm verrrrrry intrigued to see how he responds to this in game two.
via Game One: Celtics 87, Knicks 85: "Everything hurts." - Posting and Toasting.

Knicks fans can't be frustrated with Melo, this is who he is. Well, kind of. He's usually a very good clutch shooter, he was just off that game down the stretch. But they shouldn't be (and Posting and Toasting wasn't) surprised with him taking jumpers and not going to the rim. That's his game. Even jump shots are okay if you're working to get open shots. Use a pick. Work off-ball. Create some space. But no, instead, Melo literally worked to create the most difficult shot he could, and then was disappointed when it didn't work. Amar'e Stoudemire opted for some tough shots down the stretch, but they were tough because of the probability he was going to get fouled. And instead, he didn't get a chance to save the team he was the first to join last summer. That's a huge tactical mistake on the part of the Knicks, Mike D'Antoni, and Melo. 
"I think we were doing everything in our power to get Amar'e the ball," Anthony said. "He had it going. He was the horse we were riding tonight. Tonight was his night. We tried to go to him, we were going to him, and he was producing. Toward the end, I think the Celtics made some adjustments."

Rivers said he instructed Garnett to start fronting the high post after Stoudemire had unleashed those two dizzying drives, and it worked. He picked his poison -- inviting Anthony to beat him -- and he won that test of wills and wits in Game 1.

"We feel comfortable with Carmelo shooting the ball there at the end," Stoudemire said. "He's been doing that his whole career."
via Melo, Knicks miss opportunity in tough loss to Celtics - NBA - CBSSports.com Basketball.

 Yes, Melo. The Celtics made some adjustments. By willing you into going hero mode.

Hot-hand, no hot-hand, you should go with the guy who "has it" that night versus the guy who has been a popsicle for two quarters. Amar'e was decisive, strong, composed and downright physically terrifying. And instead the Knicks wound up with a jumper. Yeesh. 
This New York team may not have Boston’s playoff experience or consistent defensive intensity but they made great improvements over their regular season selves last night. They defended with gusto, particularly on the interior where they turned away multiple Boston layups (the Celtics, like the Knicks, shot only 50% at the rim, pedestrian figures compared to the regular season league average of 64.1%). As well, the Knicks proved they could hang with Boston during a slow paced game. And they have at least one player the Celtics had no answer for. So, we’ve got a series here.
via Boston Celtics blog — Celtics news, analysis, commentary from CelticsHub.com.

The pace thing is certainly interesting. This team is so poorly fit for D'Antoni's style after the trade. Slow, shooter point guard, gunning ISO wing, no real versatility at postion, and no real element of speed. Does that help in the playoffs? It did for most of the game. The ground out a game against the Celtics. They weren't going to be able to do that against the Celtics before the trade. Didn't have the personnel. Which is doubly weird considering Carmelo Anthony's been on high-pace teams for much of his career. 

The Celtics actually had more success when they got out in transition. This was a weird game. 
O’Neal did his best work during the Celtics’ third-quarter surge, as they worked their way back from a 12-point deficit. He scored 6 points, blocked Anthony twice and kept alive numerous possessions.

“We won the game because of Jermaine O’Neal,” Coach Doc Rivers said. “That’s it. Forget his offense. His defense, his presence, his shot-blocking, his rebounding, his toughness.”
via Knicks Leave Opening, and Celtics Slip Past - NYTimes.com.

Everyone assumed the Celtics would be sunk without Shaquille O'Neal. J.O. gave the kind of performance you have to have from role players in the playoffs. If the Knicks' lack of talent at center gives J.O. life, the rest of the East will have a bone to pick after a mediocre regular season from him. 

Posted on: April 17, 2011 10:50 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 1:57 pm
 

Chauncey Billups (knee) 'expected to miss' Game 2

New York Knicks guard Chauncey Billups is day-to-day with a strained knee and doesn't know whether he'll be able to play in Game 2. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Monday update: The Associated Press reports that New York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said that Chauncey Billups is not likely to play in Game 2 on Tuesday due to the knee injury suffered during Game 1, 
Chauncey Billups is expected to miss the second game of the New York Knicks’ playoff series against the Boston Celtics because of a left leg injury. Coach Mike D’Antoni said Monday the starting point guard was “very questionable” for Tuesday night’s game in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series.

Original post:

With just minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of New York's Game 1 loss to the Boston Celtics, Knicks point guard Chauncey Billups left the court for the locker room with an injured left knee. Replays showed that Billups fell to the ground awkwardly after attempting a driving lay-up attempt that was challenged by Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal

The MSG Network reported that Billups suffered a "strained left knee" on the play and there there would be an "update [Monday] from practice." Game 2 of the series is scheduled for Tuesday night in Boston.

CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reported on Twitter that "Billups says when he took off on his left leg, it 'buckled. ... It just kind of gave out on me.' He has 'no clue' whether he'll play Game 2."

On the season, Billups is averaging 16.8 points and 5.8 assists. If he isn't able to go in Game 2, the Knicks will have to turn to reserve guards Anthony Carter and Toney Douglas. As Billups (10 points, two rebounds, four assists) was already losing his match-up with Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (10 points, nine rebounds, nine assists), that would take things from bad to worse for New York. 

Here's a look at the play. 
Posted on: April 17, 2011 9:57 pm
Edited on: April 17, 2011 10:02 pm
 

Celtics G Ray Allen hits game-winning 3 video

Celtics guard Ray Allen hits a game-winning three-pointer to send Boston past the New York Knicks in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first round series. Posted by Ben Golliver.

It's been an incredible opening weekend of NBA playoff basketball, filled with plenty of incredible performances, but Celtics guard Ray Allen takes the cake with his game-winning three-pointer to close out Game One for Boston over the New York Knicks.

With the Celtics trailing the Knicks at home 85-84 with less than 20 seconds left, Boston forward Paul Pierce began his team's final possession with the ball near halfcourt. After sustaining a bump from Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, Pierce waited for Ray Allen to set a pick on Anthony and then flare to the three-point line, where Celtics forward Kevin Garnett set a second pick on Knicks guard Toney Douglas. Douglas went crashing to the court, which freed Allen for an open look from the left angle. He buried it, giving Boston an 87-85 lead with 11.6 seconds remaining.

The Knicks, who were out of timeouts, pushed the ball up the court and found Anthony, who settled for a deep three-pointer with Allen and Celtics guard Rajon Rondo contesting. Anthony's potential game-winner was short, giving Boston an 87-85 victory in Game One of the first round playoff series.

Here's a look at the bang-bang sequence.

Posted on: April 14, 2011 9:44 am
Edited on: April 15, 2011 2:13 pm
 

Knicks-Celtics preview: tomorrow meets today

A preview of the first round playoff series between the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics. Posted by Ben Golliver.

knicks-celtics

I. Intro: No. 6 seed New York Knicks (42-40) vs. No. 3 seed Boston Celtics (56-26)

This series is the undisputed darling of TV executives everywhere, featuring two storied franchises from major East Coast markets who will face each other when the favorite – Boston – appears to be at the peak of its vulnerability. There’s a past/present vs. future tension at play too, as the Celtics’ Big 3 looks to be approaching its final stand while the Knicks story is clearly still unfolding: Who will be the third star to team up with All-Star forwards Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony?

This one boils down to: "Digging deep for one last push" versus "We did it! we're in the playoffs!" That puts the pressure and expectations squarely on Boston's shoulders. 

II. What Happened: A look at the season series

The Celtics swept the season series, 4-0, averaging 107.8 points per game while allowing the Knicks just 101.3, making for a dominant 6.5 point average margin of victory. However, two of the games came before the trade deadline and one came on Wednesday night, in a meaningless game in which both team sat many key players.

This season, the Celtics have had their way on both ends of the court, averaging nearly 51% from the field in four meetings with the Knicks while out-rebounding New York, on average, 45-37. In general, the numbers from the season series aren't going to be comforting to Knicks fans, although Stoudemire did average 24 points and eight rebounds against the Celtics.

III. The Easy Stuff: Rajon Rondo is the X-Factor

What is going on with Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo? Not since the Where’s Waldo? books have so many people spent so much time wondering about one man whose name ends in a vowel. 

It’s always been easier to talk about Rondo as a talented enigma, a brilliant loner who dances to his own beat. Lately, his numbers are off, Boston’s scoring is way down since the trade deadline and steady veterans like Ray Allen are left wondering why their touches have evaporated.  That combination has left Celtics fans queasy and concerned. No one ever really understood him and suddenly that feels like a huge problem.

In three appearances against New York this season, Rondo has been big: averaging 11.0 points, dishing 16.7 assists and grabbing 6.0 boards per game, while shooting 40.5% from the field.  If he manages 80% of that output, the Celtics should cruise.

IV. Secret of the Series: Will elite defense trump elite offense in the playoffs?

Clearly, this series is a match-up of opposing strengths and styles. Boston enters the series with the No. 2 defense in the league from an efficiency perspective, barely trailing the league-leading Chicago Bulls. The Knicks bring the No. 5 offense in the league to the table, and boast the second most efficient offense in the Eastern Conference, trailing only the Miami Heat. The contrast in styles continues as Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni also has his team playing the fastest pace of any playoff team while the Celtics are the fourth slowest of the 16 teams to make the postseason.

One of the NBA’s long-held commandments – correct or not – is that defense almost always trumps offense in these situations. The problem for New York, a point that’s been pounded home relentlessly over the last few months, is that Knicks are extremely imbalanced because of their struggles on the defensive end of the court. The Knicks are the least efficient defensive team to make the playoffs and will struggle mightily to stop the Celtics, even though Boston has been a slightly below average offensive team on the season.

Sure, it’s possible that top-flight offense overcomes solid defense, but rarely does a team as indifferent to stops as New York make any noise in April or May.

V. The Dinosaur Narrative: “Trading Kendrick Perkins was a death sentence for Boston’s title hopes”

At least for one series, we should get a respite from all the hand-wringing over Boston president Danny Ainge’s decision to ship his long-time center to Oklahoma City for reserve forward Jeff Green. Against the Knicks, Perkins would be helpful as an off-ball defender and rebounder but the Celtics should be able to match-up and clean the boards just fine if they go to a smaller ball lineup given New York’s general indifference to rebounding (the Knicks have the lowest rebound rate of any playoff team).

As has been often pointed out, the post-trade problem for the Celtics has been their offense, anyway, and not their defense or rebounding. Who better to get back on track against than the Knicks, who allow 105.7 points per game (third most in the league) and openly admitted as recently as March that they aren’t all on the same page schematically since trading for Anthony?

The Perkins trade – and what Green does or doesn’t give you – will be a huge factor down the road in potential later-round match-ups against the Miami Heat and/or Chicago Bulls. Against the Knicks, though, it really should be an afterthought.

VI. The Line-Item Veto: Who wins each match-up?

PG: Struggling or not, zombie Rondo does far more, on both ends, than an aging Chauncey Billups.

SG: The overachieving, do-the-little-things-rookie making his first postseason appearance versus the NBA’s all-time leading three-point shooter and a tested, tough veteran with more than 100 career playoff appearances? Ray Allen all day over Landry Fields.

SF: To see just how close Carmelo Anthony vs. Paul Pierce is, check their career playoff numbers. Anthony: 24.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists. Pierce: 21.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists. Anthony gets the nod, but barely.

PF: Stoudemire – brash, confident, offensively overwhelmingly -- vs. Garnett – brash, confident, defensively overwhelming – might be the best individual match-up in any first round playoff series. In these situations, it’s best to expect a push.  

C: Boston expects to get perpetually injured senior citizen Shaquille O’Neal back in time for the start of the first round and will pair him with Jermaine O’Neal and Nenad Krstic; the undersized Knicks turn to Jared Jeffries and Ronny Turiaf. It’s impossible to call anyone in this group on either side a winner.

Bench: Glen Davis, Glen Davis’ hijinks and Jeff Green should have the advantage over the make-do scraps on New York’s bench that survived the trade for Anthony that sent half the roster to Denver.

Coach: Players like to play for (read: score for) Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni while the Celtics have shown over the year a devotion to and respect for Doc Rivers rarely seen in the NBA. That, plus the ring, gives Doc the edge.

VII. Conclusion

Given how much the midseason trade for Anthony compromised New York’s depth, there’s a sense that the not yet fully formed Knicks are just happy to be in the postseason for the first time since 2003-2004. The Celtics, meanwhile, aren’t playing their best basketball but they do enter the postseason with a greater urgency, given the age and mentality of their core players. The Garnett/ Pierce/ Allen/ Rondo core has defeated far better all-around teams than this year’s Knicks, and a B- or better performance from Boston should be enough to see the Celtics through to the second round and a likely dream match-up with the Miami Heat. Prediction: Celtics in 5.

VIII. CBSSports.com Video Preview

Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics are prepared to square off against Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs. Who will come out on top? Ian Eagle and Ken Berger preview this matchup.

 
 
 
 
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