Tag:2011 Knicks-Celtics
Posted on: April 24, 2011 8:56 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 10:09 pm
 

Celtics sweep sends Knicks to summer of questions

The Boston Celtics swept the New York Knicks in their first round NBA playoff series, sending New York into the summer with a host of questions. Posted by Ben Golliver.
celtics-knicks

The Boston Celtics sent the New York Knicks into the summer with a 101-89 victory in Game 4, sweeping the first round playoff series in relatively easy fashion. The series victory comes as no surprise, although New York's inability to pull out at least one win is a bit eye-opening. When your starting point guard goes down in Game 1 and your franchise player is dealing with back pain through Games 3 and 4, though, the sweep isn't crippling. That isn't rationalizing. That's reality.

The Knicks exited Madison Square Garden to cheers, and with their heads up. They chose to focus on the positive: the team made the playoffs for the first time since 2003-2004, and they're poised for countless return trips with Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony locked into long-term deals. Things could be a lot worse for the Knicks. Hell, things have been a lot worse for the Knicks.

But that doesn't make this a worry-free summer. Not by a longshot. Despite the level of certainty that comes with having two franchise players on the same roster, there are plenty of unanswered questions looming. 

Teams like the Celtics spend the summer dealing with questions like "Who should be our backcourt energy guy off the bench?" The Lakers ask themselves questions like: "Which veteran forward has the proven ability to dish out flagrant fouls and annoy people?" Those are the types of questions that contenders ask themselves as they prune their bonsai tree.

The Knicks have planted their playoffs seed, but that's about it. New York's questions, really, are huge. Starting with: "Who is going to be our GM next season?" Continuing with: "Is Mike D'Antoni the right coach for this job?" Those lead neatly into questions about the roster. "Are we totally sure that we want to pay Chauncey Billups $14 million next season after he broke down in the first game of the playoffs?" And, perhaps the most pressing of all: "We still don't have a center, do we?"

Even with all of those questions hanging unanswered, Anthony struck an optimistic tone with the New York Times following Game 4. ""Some happy times is ahead of us," he said. And he's correct. The Knicks are on the rise, their salary ledger is in fairly tidy shape and the Celtics are another year older while the Orlando Magic appear to be imploding. There's nothing stopping New York from being an elite team in the mid-term future. We could easily be looking at an Eastern Conference that is dominated by the Chicago Bulls, the Miami Heat and the Knicks over the next five years. This summer, however, will be crucial to making that a reality.

Aside from Stoudemire and Anthony, New York's cupboard is pretty bare. Landry Fields is a nice piece, Ronny Turiaf is a rotation guy and Toney Douglas is worth keeping around. That's five players. New York will need to add another 3-5 quality pieces if they're serious about contending.

New York's dream of chasing an elite center like Dwight Howard, or even an above-average big man like Marc Gasol, are unlikely to come to fruition. Without trade assets or the ability to outbid for a free agent, that top-level talent is likely to pass them by. The good news: there's room to compromise. The Knicks really only need half of a center: a defense and rebounding specialist to make Stoudemire's life a bit easier. Throw that player in with Turiaf and the frontcourt rotation is essentially set.

The tougher question is what to do with Billups. He's certainly not worth the $14.2 million he's on the books for next season, but the size of his partial guarantee ($3.7 million) makes that a tough bullet to bite. There has been some discussion about an extension for Billups that could alleviate some of next year's cap hit but he hardly seems like the player you want to commit to long-term if you're New York, given the age of your stars and the nature of his game. Committing to Billups is far more likely to be a salary cap anchor rather than roster stabilizer. Paying him his $14.2 million and then attempting to shop him in advance of next year's deadline might be the best solution. He's capable, if not spectacular, and his expiring contract would be one of the few available trade chips in New York's war chest.

But nothing gets done roster-wise until the Knicks make a decision on Donnie Walsh. The saga surrounding his future has been one of the most puzzling in the league. Retaining Walsh is a no-brainer, assuming he's interested. But if he isn't brought back -- either because owner James Dolan decides to go another direction or because age caught up with him -- it's imperative that the Knicks find a like-minded executive to carry out his franchise construction plan. Given the gigantic dollars already committed to Anthony and Stoudemire, an executive wielding a scalpel is far preferable to one toting a chainsaw.

As for D'Antoni, the trip to the playoffs should ensure his future for another season. He displayed progress and injuries and talent disparity are the causes of this sweep, not his decisions. He's well-regarded and solid enough, despite the questions on the defensive end, to take a deeper Knicks team further into the postseason in coming years.
Posted on: April 24, 2011 3:07 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 3:26 pm
 

D'Antoni: 'I'd like to see (Rondo) play on Minny'

Posted by Matt Moore with special thanks to Ken Berger

You know what I'd do if I were head coach of a team that was down 0-3 in a series and heading in to an elimination game against the defending Eastern Conference champs? I'd question the ability of the point guard who just dropped the second ever 20-assist playoff triple-double on me. Great idea, right? I'd question how he would play were he not surrounded by three Hall of Famers who also happen to be very protective of said enigmatic point guard, and also happen to be very capable of taking out their frustrations on the court. That's what I would do... if I were a masochist. 

Mike D'Antoni is said masochist. 

From Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, live from Madison Square Garden for today's Knicks-Celtics Game 4: 




Mike, it isn't like Rondo just had an okay game or series. He didn't just hit a double-double one night to help out his club. This is the guy who dropped 20 assists on you in a triple-double... twice! Of the eight times such a feat has been accomplished, regular season or playoffs, Rondo has done it three times. Two of them have come against New York.  

D'Antoni may need to spend more time in the countryside. The expression, "You mess with the bull, you get the horns?" It has a literal meaning which might help him avoid tweaking players who have the proven skillset to totally dismantle his club on the hardwood, and, this time, send them packing into the longest NBA layoff in 12 years. 

D'Antoni's point isn't without merit, though. We have never seen Rondo without the three Hall of Famers. Rondo's ball-fake, slip-pass, lightning fast whip passes wouldn't produce as many points if he were slinging to Michael Beasley, Travis Outlaw, Sasha Vujacic, Donte Greene, or any of the other casts of the lotto squads. But Rondo's learned so much with his time among the Big 3 that it's not like he'd fall off the cliff. We'll get a chance in a few years to see what Rondo looks like when he's the best player on the team from a career perspective, and whether that translates to the same kind of success he's had among the greats in Boston. 

D'Antoni did tell reporters, "But Rondo's a very, very good basketball player. Really good. There's no doubt about that." But does he think that part of the quote is what's going to get put on the bulletin board in the Celtics' locker room, or pasted on highlight reels before clips of Game 4? D'Antoni's greater philosophical point may be worth examination, but within the context of the series, and in its timing, it was a poor decision. 

Horns, Mike. Horns. 
Posted on: April 24, 2011 2:22 pm
 

NBA Playoffs: Amar'e Stoudemire will play Game 4


Posted by Matt Moore

From Ken Berger of CBSSports.com before today's Game 4 between the Knicks and Celtics, an elimination game for New York:




If the Knicks are going to have any shot at making this a series, they need a great Amar'e. Stoudemire will give it a go. Without Billlups, Toney Douglas will go again. We'll see if it's as amusing as it was last time. 

For more on today's Knicks-Celtics Game 4, follow Ken Berger on Twitter
Posted on: April 24, 2011 2:52 am
Edited on: April 24, 2011 3:47 am
 

Series Reset: Celtics at another level than NY

Can the Knicks get one for their pride? Or will the Celtics make another statement in the Garden? Either way, this series is over. 

Posted by Matt Moore





The Narrative: Were the Knicks exposed in Game 3? Even without Billups, it certainly felt like it. The Celtics hit the gear we've been waiting for them to hit for months. They looked every bit the team that most thought would contend for the title in June, with or without Perkins. The Knicks? Well, they looked like a team that traded half their roster for a high-usage scorer with questionable defensive ability and never addressed their gaping, vaccumous hole at center. The Celtics are unlikely to play that well again. But the Knicks had two winnable games in Boston, and blew both of them. The Celtics woke up, and look like they're ready to end things quickly, quietly, and mercifully for the Knicks. This game feels more like a chance for the Celtics to make another statement than the Knicks' last stand. 

The Hook: Amar'e Stoudemire is "iffy" for Game 4. Which means the Knicks have to run more, which they've completely forgotten how to do. A Mike D'Antoni team that doesn't know how to run the break? So it's basically a bad defensive team that doesn't do anything well offensively. Yeah, this should end well. Stoudemire wasn't very effective in Game 3; you could tell the back spasms were really hurting him. Without him, it means the Knicks' forwards have to step up. If you can name them, enjoy your tickets to the game. Shawne Williams, Bill Walker, Ronny Turiaf, Jared Jeffries? Yeah, this just isn't working out too well. Maybe Melo will score 100, though. That would be pretty cool. The Knicks might still lose, but hey, it would make for good headlines. 

The Adjustment: Toney Douglas has to be more aggressive. In Game 3, Douglas pulled up on transition opportunities while his coach begged him to push. Against a better defensive team, you cannot operate in the half-court set and hope to win. Douglas has to be hyper-aggressive in every opportunity they're blessed with, and push the ball. If Douglas can't get it done, give Anthony Carter a try. Trying and failing is better than not trying at this point. The Knicks' half-court offense is entirely ISO sets at this point. The Knicks have to try and open that up by pushing the ball and getting some of their scorers some confidence, and firing up the crowd. The half-court set just means more plays Rondo can make and more Allen 3-pointers. The Knicks have to play to the team D'Antoni assembled ... or what is left of that team after James Dolan gutted it to get a scoring forward. 

The X-Factor: Jermaine O'Neal. O'Neal has been huge in this series, which tells you a lot about where the Knicks' center rotation is at. O'Neal has had the mid-range going, has worked the glass, has defended at the rim, and has given the requisite hard fouls. If O'Neal keeps up this play, and stays healthy, this could be a huge factor in the playoffs going forward. And as long as he plays decently in Game 4, the Knicks will have lost the positional matchup at center. Again. 

The Sticking Point: The Celtics are awake, now. And the gap between the two franchises, the two rosters, the two teams was evident in Game 3. How do the Knicks respond to that kind of face-kicking? The problem is that it doesn't matter, nor does the great atmosphere of the Garden. The Knicks could win Game 4 in a special combination of elements, but barring an outright miracle, this series isn't going further than five games. The Celtics struggled in the first two and the Knicks still couldn't get a win. Now, the Celtics are motivated and ready to contend for a title. And, after a frustrating couple months, the Knicks are the first team they're taking their frustrations out on. Even if the Knicks win, they don't win. The future's exceptionally bright for New York, and that's why the trade was made. But, right now, in this moment, they simply can't measure up. 
Posted on: April 22, 2011 10:54 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 11:27 pm
 

NBA Playoffs Knicks-Celtics: 4 Horsemen Riding

The Knicks were routed out of the Garden by Four Horsemen that doomed them to an 0-3 deficit. 
Posted by Matt Moore




You had to expect this. A raucous home crowd thinking the first two games were close enough to support a win for the hometown boys in their own house. Over-performance from a super-thin Knicks roster in Games 1 and 2, with some top-heavy help from the stars who the Celtics would work to figure out. Sloppy play from the Celtics to wake themselves up, even after a win. And then, you know, this reality. 

The Boston Celtics are much better than the New York Knicks. 

In the Celtics' outright dismantling of the Knicks, the Celtics rode in like it was Revelations and they were brining the end of the world to Knicks fans. There were four factors that really led to this beatdown. Here then are the four horsemen of the Knickocalypse. 

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1. Pestilence: The Celtics had 20 turnovers, which is a huge amount. But almost none of them hurt them. Know how many fast break points the Knicks, a Mike D'Antoni team, had? 10, on 4-8 shooting. The Knicks had 18 turnovers, which the Celtics used to help convert 8-12 fast break opportunities into 23 points. The Celtics turnovers were on account of trying to do too much, being too confident, moving too quickly. The Knicks' turnovers were on account of sloppiness, dribbling into double teams, throwing terrible passes, freezing movement, and working right into Boston's hands. The Celtics' defense made the Knicks' offense sick to its stomach by closing off lanes and pressuring the Knicks' terrible, and I mean terrible, ball-handlers. But the Knicks also vomited on themselves time and time again with lazy, unfocused and unprepared play. 

2. Famine: James Dolan should buy himself a beer tonight. It was his bungling of the Melo trade that left the Knicks with such a wretched supporting cast and their bench starving for talent. Jared Jeffries played exceptionally well in Game 2, and still managed to lose the game on consecutive possessions. In Game 3, there was no such upside. Jeffries blew easy passes underneath. He was slow to rotate, got lost repeatedly, and failed to execute with any clear purpose. And he had a much better game than Ronny Turiaf. Not only didn't Turiaf do all of those things, but he got completely manhandled down low. The Celtics' reserves were just as bad, and as D'Antoni kept trying to send different lineups, trying to find a spark, the gap in talent was pretty obvious. 

Then there was Toney Douglas. This should have been his opportunity to shine. With Billups out another game, building off of Game 2, with a home crowd, the situation was ripe for him to make an impact. His line's not bad. 15-3-3. But Douglas also failed to recognize Amar'e Stoudemire, the giant power forward with insane leaping ability who's the star of his team, slashing towards the basket on multiple fast breaks. He repeatedly froze fast breaks instead of pushing. Which is really what you want to do when you're running a D'Antoni offense. Slow it down. The Celtics actually dislike fast break teams quite a bit. That being the case, they loved Douglas tonight, because let them keep everything in front of them, nice and settled. 

3. War: The Celtics' defense wasn't everywhere it should have been in Games 1 and 2. It was omnipresent in Game 3. Particularly at the rim. The same principles which have led the Celtics to two finals appearances in three years were in play. Carmelo Anthony was challenged on the perimeter tight by Paul Pierce and others, electing to force him into the drive. When he drove, he was met outside of the paint with multiple defenders creating a wall. Melo's runners bounced off backboard, and contrary the games in Boston, the Celtics came to hit the glass. Boston allowed only a 29 percent offensive rebound rate to the Knicks after allowing over 40 percent to be snagged by New York in both games in Beantown. The formula's simple. Pressure, attack, communicate, help, choke off the offense and get the rebound. The Celtics are defined by those principles, and they were in full effect Friday night. 

On offense, the Celtics came in and raided the Garden, especially from the perimeter. Ray Allen had a bombardment of 3-pointers, in classic form. The Knicks' defense was abysmal, don't get me wrong. But those offensive rebounds came into play. Boston had a 38 percent offensive rebounding rate on their own. That lead to second chance opportunities, which created a scrambling Knicks defense out of position, at which point Allen calmly slipped to a corner and nailed three after three. Most of it was a lack of communication and poor defensive principles by the Knicks, but Boston also calmly executed over and over again. Paul Pierce, who came in 1-10 in ISO situations in this series, was dominant. He and Allen combined for 70 points between the two of them.  Pierce had everything going -- the jumper was crazy wet. Check out their shot charts from GameTracker.





23-34 on jumpers. That's pretty much insane. It was a prolific performance from two Hall of Famers. The embers from the Nets at the Garden are still burning. 

4. Death, thy name is Rajon Rondo. 15 points, 11 rebounds, 20 assists. The first 20-assist triple-double since Magic Johnson in 1991. Those offensive rebounds that lead to those threes? Six of them for Rondo. The floater, the mid-range, and dish, after dish, after dish. The Celtics were on a whole different level than the Knicks tonight. Rondo was on a level beyond that. He was so good his teammates couldn't keep up at points. Rondo was dribbling between his legs and behind his back on the baseline after offensive rebounds. It was as brilliant of a pure-point performance as you'll see in the league. The Rajon Rondo from the beginning of the season is most definitely back. 

The Knicks could have defended better. They could have rebounded better. They could have passed, shot, played better. But with Rajon Rondo owning the game in the way he did, it's hard to see that there was much this Knicks roster could do. The one from earlier in the season, with more depth, more versatility, and more chemistry? Maybe. But this one was simply overwhelmed by the horsemen. 

The end may come on Sunday. 
Posted on: April 22, 2011 3:10 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 7:00 pm
 

Series Reset Knicks-Celtics: Garden games

Madison Square Garden hosts its first playoff game in over five years. Will the Big Apple boys be able to kick the demons the Celtics have sicked on them in the final minutes of Game 1 and 2? 
Posted by Matt Moore




The Narrative: Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.  That's the reality of where the Knicks are at. A stellar performance by Stoudemire in Game 1 crushed by a terrible performance from Melo and a vintage Ray Allen three. A superhuman response from Melo in Game 2 without Billups or Stoudemire, vanquished by Jared Jeffries bowled over on one end, intercepted on the other. The Knicks fought so well in the first two games. And they have nothing to show for it. 

The crowd at MSG will be there. But you have to wonder about the emotional response of the Knicks. Those were two tough, tough losses to take. And versus a usual six seed who would just be happy to have shown some life and been in the conversation, New York's on a different level. The market, the city, the superstars, the expectations all mean that they're supposed to finish those games when they have the chance, even with the vagabonds they currently have in key rotation positions. Trying to get a lock on how the Knicks will come out is pretty difficult. You have to believe Stoudemire will be ready, having been in so many playoff games. Melo might be in the same boat, but he might also be checked out after doing what he did in Game 2 and having the game blown up by Jeffries electing to pass. 

The Knicks' best effort will come from riding that surge of emotion. They can't out-execute the Celtics, but if Stoudemire's back, Boston also won't be able to throw nine-hundred defenders at Melo at once. The Knicks need to get out in transition, create steals, scrap like they did in the first two games and hang on. Surrendering late leads isn't just a way to lose a game. It's a way to lose a series. Just ask Indiana. 

The Hook: You know who's been terrible? Landry Fields. Which isn't really fair to say since he's a rookie and all, and he hit the rookie wall about two months ago. Essentially, since the Melo trade, he's fallen off the map. Whether it's chemistry or lineups or balance, Fields hasn't been able to make the same kind of impact he did early in the season. Which would be something we'd excuse and move over, but as thin as the Knicks are, they need every player who could be considered "good" to contribut. Fields is 2-7 in this series with a rebound, a turnover, and a block in 35 combined minutes. He was even 0-2 at the free throw line. Fields doesn't have a great offensive repertoire and isn't any sort of speed demon. But he's got to make his presence felt somewhere. Hustle plays, easy layups, steals, blocks, somewhere. He's got to put in some sort of impact. The Knicks don't have enough players for Fields to no-show. That's just the reality of where he's at. 

The Adjustment:  Stoudemire might be back, and he killed the Celtics in Game 1. The Celtics aren't known to just accept certain guys doing damage. So they'll likely be more aggressive with STAT at the elbow and low. The elbow is Stoudemire's ISO starting position. Since the Knicks are likely without Chauncey Billups again, there isn't a ball-handler to really attack with Stoudemire in the pick and roll (and isn't that a shame). So those elbow possessions will be up should Stoudemire give it a go. Expect the Celtics to possibly back off the elbow jumper to keep Stoudemire from driving, hoping those back spasms will tighten up his release to distract him. When he does drive, expect more low help, as neither Turiaf nor Jeffries have proven they can handle, collect, or produce off the dump-off pass. 

Also expect a really healthy dose of elbows to the back of Stoudemire. If he plays, he's going to physically wish he hadn't. This is what the Celtics do. 

If the Knicks are smart, they'll force the issue with the pick and roll. Yes, the Celtics are one of the best pick and roll defensive teams in the league, and yes, the Knicks are without a capable guard to run said system. But even getting Melo as ball-handler or working with veteran guard Anthony Carter could help. Stoudemire is so good in that set, to not use him is almost criminal. 

The X-Factor: Injury, obviously. Shaq's almost definitely out. Amar'e is a gametime decision. Billups is likely out. The Celtics have a handful of scrapes and bruises, including Jermaine O'Neal's wrist, which turned him from a major influencer in Game 1 to a near-liability in Game 2. Despite this being a Mike D'Antoni team, this has been a rough and tumble series, with some good defense played on both sides. There's going to be more hammering, more contact, more bad blood. The Celtics know that Game 3 and 4 are chances for the knockout punch. They also know that losing both means less rest before facing the Heat in the semis. The Knicks know the Garden is their last stand and another suckerpunch loss will pretty much doom them and the players will start to check out mentally. With the injuries in play, this is going to come down to a battle of wills. 

And in that situation, you never, ever want to bet against the Celtics. 

The Sticking Point: The Knicks got a superb performance from Stoudemire in Game 1. They got an other-worldly response from Melo, short-handed, in Game 2. Their best hope in this series was for their star players to step up and take over the game. That happend. They still lost. The Celtics haven't shut down the Knicks' best players, but they've done enough, particularly in the last five minutes. Swagger's a cliche, but it's also got some truth to it. The Celtics know they can win, no matter what the Knicks do.

Can the Knicks find a different way to win, or are they just pretty much who they are? The Garden's waiting to find out. 
Posted on: April 20, 2011 4:06 am
 

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. 
 
 
 
 
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