Boston Celtics (3-0) @ New York Knicks (0-3)
TIme: 3:30 PM EST, Sunday, April 24th, 2011
Venue: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Referees: Mike Callahan, Derrick Collins, Ken Mauer, and Sean Wright (alternate)
TV: ABC, Radio: WEEI
NBA.com series hub
The Line: The Celtics have never swept a playoff opponent during the KG era. Their last time Boston swept a team in the playoffs was 1992, the Indiana Pacers.
The Countdowninator: 12 Wins Left
The Boston Celtics are coming off of their best playoff game to date, a game that saw Rajon Rondo recapture his swagger, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen play HORSE, and Spike Lee in a cape. It was the most dominating performance from the Celtics starters in weeks, maybe even months, and it was easily the game that will ultimately define what could've been a closer series.
Now though, despite barely escaping the Knicks in two close wins in Boston, the Celtics are now up 3-0 (no NBA team has even lost a series after being up 3-0), and despite playing away from home, they're the team that will be walking out for shoot-around with the swagger and momentum tonight.
But they shouldn't let it get to their head, because frankly, the Knicks aren't dead yet.
Now I'm no prophet. I'm no Nostradamus, or Matt Damon, or even Nicholas Cage. But I do know one thing: This Knicks team will not take being swept at home lightly. They know, in their hearts, that they probably can't take the series. No team has ever, in the history of the NBA, come back from a 3-0 deficit to take a series in 7 games. The fact of the matter is that it is much easier to win 1 game in 4, than it is to win 4 straight.
But, the Knicks were never playing for this year anyways. They knew, after finishing the season 13-12 with the addition of Carmelo Anthony, that the team was incomplete. To think that they could beat a Boston Celtics, or Miami Heat, or Chicago Bulls team in the first 2 rounds was flight of fancy to say the least (not that I didn't think about how cool it would be if they DID beat the Heat in 6 games). That was just the cards they were dealing with this season.
But don't get confused. The fact that the team wasn't ready for the Finals doesn't mean they'll go quiet. Carmelo Anthony is a flawed player in a lot of ways, but he doesn't lack pride. Between the two of them, Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire will not allow New York to get swept in four games in the first season of their 'dynasty' (notice the quote marks, commentors). Carmelo's saying all the right things, today commenting, "If we've got to foul somebody, if we've got to knock somebody out, we've got to do whatever we can to avoid a sweep,"
No, if Boston wants to take this game, they're going to need to earn it. They might need to though, because their probable second round match-up, the Miami Heat, are playing the Sixers today for a chance to sweep of their own, and if Boston doesn't need one thing, it's playing the Heat tired. Worst case Ontario if the Celtics win tonight, they'll face a Heat team that is just as rested/tired as they are. But, if Miami wins today and Boston loses, Boston is going to have to play the Heat on tired legs, and that est no bueno.
However, I like the notion that Celtics will need to 'earn' a win today. As I wrote just about 2 weeks ago, I think this type of series is exactly what the Doctor ordered. The Celtics were seen as weak, old, out of sync (as opposed to musical geniuses N-Sync). They needed to get a little over-the-top with someone. They needed a 'good-but-not-great' team to 'make an example of', to show the 'other guys' that the Celtics were still in fact, The Celtics. They needed to put that fear into the minds of the Miami Heats and the Chicago Bulls of the world. Backed by Rondo's out of his mind play on Friday, it seems like they're moving towards that. Teams are already thinking about them. A win tonight by the Celtics only makes it worse.
Rajon Rondo vs Toney Douglas
Ray Allen vs Landry Fields
Paul Pierce vs Carmelo Anthony
Kevin Garnett vs Shawne Williams
Jermaine O'Neal vs Ronny Turiaf
Boston Bench Mob
Shaquille O'Neal (Achilles, calf, age) out
Roger Mason Jr
Amar'e Stoudemire (back) questionable
Chauncey Billups (knee) questionable