Tag: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 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 15, 2011 1:04 am
Edited on: April 15, 2011 3:18 pm
 

NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference First Round Picks

The NBA playoffs are here. We've previewed the Eastern Conference. Now here are our picks along with the rest of the CBS NBA staff for you to mock or praise. Be gentle. 




Here are the EOB picks for the Eastern Conference, with a little 'splainin. Leave your picks below. 

8 Pacers vs. 1 Bulls

Ben Golliver: If Derrick Rose can walk on water and turn water into wine, surely he can overcome an average Indiana Pacers team that has no hope of stopping him. Of all the playoff series, this one probably has the greatest sweep potential, as the Bulls enter the series fully motivated because they need to establish their post-season reputation ASAP. There’s not a single match-up that truly favors Indiana. Prediction: Bulls in four.

Royce Young: Almost every matchup favors the Bulls as well as style of play. Indiana will play them hard and probably play them pretty close, but this has sweep written all over it. The Pacers won't do any sneaking up because of Granger's bulletin board material, so their best shot at stealing a game is gone. However, I'd like to think the Pacers will be excited enough to pull one off at home, just to treat the Indy fans. Prediction: Bulls in five.

Matt Moore: This should be a sweep. It really should. On the surface it has all the makings. But with the Bulls' offense able to dry up like it can, versus a young and versatile Pacers team with a top flight center and a good point guard, I think the Bulls wind up giving them the gentleman's sweep. It's still a sweep, but you give 'em one, to be polite. Prediction: Bulls in five.

Ken Berger: Roy Hibbert can make Derrick Rose think twice before driving to the rim, but the Bulls are too good defensively to allow Indiana to mount any sort of a challenge. This will be a test of how serious Chicago is about winning a championship. A matchup like this doesn't deserve any more than their minimum time investment. They'll need to get this over with quickly and get ready for the brutal battles ahead. Prediction: Bulls in four. 

7 Sixers vs. 2 Heat

Ken Berger: If this were the timid, confused, jump-shooting Heat team we saw earlier in the season, the Sixers would have a chance to make this interesting. But the way Miami is attacking the rim and scoring in the paint, this will be a quick and relatively painless path to the second round. Two things the Sixers have going for them: Lou Williams is back, giving them a boost off the bench, and they're one of the top 3-point-defending teams in the league. So there's that. Prediction: Heat in four.

Royce Young: The Sixers are long, fast, athletic and can run. The Heat are longer, faster, more athletic and run better. Not good for Philly. There is always a chance things could happen because I think there's a sincere uncertainty about exactly how the Heat will respond to playoff basketball, but Miami just has too much talent for the Sixers. Maybe they can win a game, which I think would be a victory. Prediction: Heat in four.

Ben Golliver: The Miami Heat have been up, down and all over the map this season, but they closed strong and draw a match-up against an overachieving 76ers group whose season will still be seen as a success if they get bounced quickly. Elton Brand will be a load, but everyone else is manageable, and Philly just doesn’t have the overall offensive chops to keep up with the triad. Prediction: Heat in five. 

Matt Moore:  I flipped on this prediction six times. I started out with your standard 2-2-2 6-game set. Then I went all wacky and went to a seven game series with fans and media talking about how terrible the Heat are, and could they lose in the first round. Then I walked it back to a sweep. Then back to a six-gamer. Then I thought maybe a gentleman's sweep (5 games, you give 'em one out of being polite). But I keep coming back to that Heat team that lost to mediocre team after mediocre team this season. Except Philly. Which either means the Sixers have no chance or they're due. I have absolute faith in Miami winnning. I just have no faith in them winning comfortably. Prediction: Heat in six. 

6 Knicks vs. 3 Celtics

Matt Moore: The Knicks take two games here because stars step up in the playoffs, and both Stoudemire and Anthony are huge stars. The Celtics are much better but still finding their way. The Knicks defense will show up for 1.5 games, and that plus their offense will land them two games. Anthony is not efficient, but he's going to have a field day with Pierce's defense. Billups will have one big game and so will some other random Knick. That will give them a false sense of hope in New York going forward. Should be entertaining. Prediction: Celtics in six.

Ben Golliver: 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 post-season for the first time since 2003-2004. The Celtics, meanwhile, aren’t playing their best basketball but they do enter the post-season 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 five. 

Ken Berger: Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony cancel each other out. Kevin Garnett and Amar'e Stoudemire cancel (and curse) each other out. Boston's gaping hole at center isn't a big deal, since the Knicks don't have a center, either. So this comes down to how well Ray Allen shoots the three-ball, and the point guard matchup. Rondo torched the Knicks during the regular season (though only one of those meetings was post-trade with all the regulars playing). Despite his late-season swoon, Rondo should be in full orchestration mode against the slower, older Chauncey Billups. One caveat here: While defense trumps offense in the playoffs, Melo and Amar'e are so scary good that if either one gets on a serious roll, it would change the complexion of the series. Prediction: Celtics in five. 

Royce Young: Back when the Melo trade finally happened, most people agreed: You don't want these Knicks in the playoffs -- they're dangerous. Are they though? Are they actually dangerous enough with two elite offensive players to push the Celtics? Depends on your definition of "push." I think the Knicks can win two games, but this is Boston's series. Prediction: Celtics in six. 

5 Hawks vs. 4 Magic

Royce Young:  Everyone is picking Orlando -- myself included -- but the Hawks actually won the season series 3-1. But that's being ignored because it's hard to forget what happened last postseason between these two teams. I get the feeling the Hawks are ready for this one and want to prove a little something, but the Magic are much better than they are. I feel seven games though for some reason. Prediction: Magic in seven.

Matt Moore: This series will actually be pretty interesting.  All the matchups point towards the Hawks being able to make a run and knock off the Magic. But we've seen this kind of situation with the Celtics versus the Heat last year. You have to trust the tested playoff team that's won before. Factor in the chance that Nelson steps up and Howard's ability to take over a game every now and then and the Magic are still the favorites, if for no other reason than their defense. Prediction: Magic in six.

Ben Golliver: For a capable,versatile, athletic group, the Atlanta Hawks sure are disappointing. They strike fear in the hearts of no one considering their heartless performance last season. Their uneven, often unmotivated, play under first year coach Larry Drew doesn’t bode well for avoiding a repeat of history. This year’s Magic are good – not great – but they have more than enough offensive firepower and the best player in the series, by a mile, in Dwight Howard. Prediction: Magic in four.

Ken Berger:  Atlanta won the season series 3-1, in large part because they kept Dwight Howard's damage to a minimum on the offensive end. Of the teams Orlando played four times this season, only Miami held Dwight to a lower scoring average. The Magic are on the short end of defensive mismatches at every spot except center, and even there, Jason Collins has done as good a job on Howard as anyone. So why am I picking Orlando? Because Howard will control the paint defensively and the glass, because the Magic are better-coached, and because the Hawks have been so inconsistent lately it's hard to figure out what they are. Also, there's not much home-court advantage in the ATL, and when things start going poorly for the Hawks, they get ugly quickly. Prediction: Magic in five. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com