They say a playoff series doesn’t start until the road team wins a game. So one way to look at the first round series between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks is to say: “Well, it hasn’t started yet.” On the other hand, at this rate, it may start and end rather unceremoniously if Doc Rivers can’t find a way to convince his embattled troops that they must play four quarters in each game, rather than three as they did in Game 1, or two as they did in Game 2. The Celtics face the unenviable task of winning four out of five games against a Knicks team that has won 18 of its last 20, and has only one meaningful loss since March 17, a 118-111 overtime loss in Chicago, which stopped the Knicks 13-game winning streak. Call it a mountain, cause it ain’t a hill they’ll be climbing.
The first quarter featured a 13-2 Celtics run that built a 20-15 lead. Then New York reeled off 11 straight to end the quarter, thanks to a Jason Kidd 25-footer from the top of the key, and a J.R. Smith isolation (is there any other kind of J.R. Smith shot?). The shot that killed any Celtics momentum was Smith’s buzzer-beating 36-footer that came on the heels of a Pierce turnover.
When Carmelo rested in the second quarter, the Celtics defense suffocated the Knicks, which led to 9 fast-break points, and balanced scoring. The ghost of Jason Terry came alive and hit a transition three-pointer and then a second triple, and suddenly, the Celtics held a 46-37 lead and the MSG crowd was shaking their heads at the lack of balance their Knicks displayed.
It would be helpful to know what went on at halftime. Mike Woodson and his assistants are dominating the coaching battle so far in this series. Woodson’s Game 1 adjustment of inserting Kenyon Martin and convincing Carmelo to involve everyone in the offense was significant. During game 2′s halftime speech, he must have passed out some defensive potion. A hard-fought Celtics six-point halftime lead (48-42) disappeared faster than a taxi at rush hour in mid-town.
New York outscored Boston 32-11 in the 3rd, but it was a 26-6 run in the first eight minutes of the quarter that doomed Boston.
The only thing to say about the 3rd period is that it rivaled Game 1′s 4th period for offensive ineptitude. The Celtics can not score in the playoffs without Rajon Rondo unless they get stops and run. In the 3rd, they couldn’t do either.
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