Boston Celtics (0-0) at New York Knicks (0-0)
Saturday, April 20, 2013
3:00 PM ET
Playoff Game #1 – Road Game #1
TV: ABC, CHCH-TV
Radio: WEEI, ESPN NY
Madison Square Garden
Referees: Monty McCutchen, Bill Spooner, Gary Zielinski
For the second time in three years, the Celtics and Knicks will meet in the first round of the playoffs. The only players who remain from their last meeting in the playoffs are Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jeff Green. The Celtics are playing in New York, but the city of Boston is on their minds as they begin this series. They will wear a special Boston Stands as One warm up jersey along with a Boston Stands as One patch on their uniforms.
Both teams struggled with injuries toward the end of the season. Each team has an injured All-Star player (Rajon Rondo and Amar’e Stoudemire) but both are mostly healthy now according to their coaches. Of most concern will be Tyson Chandler's bulging disc and KG's foot. Neither played down the stretch but both are saying that they are healthy and ready to go.
I've seen several different starting lineups given for the Knicks as with the injuries, they haven't had one set lineup recently. Their game notes list Felton, Prigioni, Melo, Shumpert, and Chandler but with Prigioni listed as questionable for the first game, I'm thinking they go with Shumpert at the 2 and Copeland at the 4 but that's just a guess on my part. If Prigioni can play I expect the lineup above to start.
The matchup edge gives every category to the Knicks excpect FG% and FT%. But the category that really counts isn't there, and that is heart and grit. No matter the stats from the regular season, the team that had the most heart will have the advantage. I'm thinking going in that team is the Celtics.
There's no love lost between these two division rivals and this should be a physical series with more than a little confrontation between them.
PG: #0 Avery Bradley .................................................... SG: #34 Paul Pierce
C: #5 Kevin Garnett
SF: #8 Jeff Green .............................................. PF #30 Brandon Bass
Rajon Rondo (knee) out
Jared Sullinger (back) out
PG: Raymond Felton ............................................ SG: Iman Shumpert
C: Tyson Chandler
SF: Carmelo Anthony ............................................. PF: Chris Copeland
Marcus Camby (foot) questionable
Pablo Prigioni (ankle) questionable
Amar'e Stoudemire (knee) out
Avery Bradley vs Raymond Felton
With Prigioni questionable with an ankle injury, I expect Felton to move to point guard. Bradley’s defensive contributions don’t show up in the box score, but his ball pressure is critical. It will be important for Bradley to keep Felton from getting into the offense quickly. Felton has been playing very well and appears rejuvenated this season. He is averaging 13.9 points per game and gives the Knicks another solid scoring option in the starting lineup.
Jeff Green vs Carmelo Anthony
Paul Pierce has said that the toughest matchup for him in the league is Carmelo Anthony. With Paul Pierce moving to the shooting guard in this big lineup, guarding Melo will mostly fall to Jeff Green. Slowing Melo down is key. Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass may also get their turn at guarding him. If the Celtics can disrupt Melo and make things hard for him, it makes the Celtics chances of winning much better.
Kevin Garnett vs Tyson Chandler
This will be a defensive battle between two very good defensive centers. The key to this matchup may be who is healthier. Chandler missed the last part of the season with a bulging disc in his neck and KG is returning from a foot/ankle injury. The Celtics need a healthy KG in order to get a win.
Keys to the Game
Guard the 3 Point Line - The Knicks made more 3 point shots than any team in history this season. The 3 point shot has become a very effective weapon for them and guarding the perimeter will be crucial to getting a win.
Defense - The Knicks have been a good defensive team under Mike Woodson and the Celtics continue to hang their hat on their defense as well. The Celtics have to make defense their priority in this series as the Knicks can be a very dangerous offensive team. As stated in the first key, the Celtics must especially guard the perimeter. But they also have to guard the paint because the Knicks have several players who can take it strong to the hoop like Melo, KMart, Smith and Copeland.
Rebound - The Celtics were 29th in the league in rebounding this season, but he Knicks aren't all that much better, coming in at 24th. Chandler is always a threat for double digit rebounds and it will be important for the Celtics' bigs to box out and keep the Knicks off the boards. The Celtics have got to crash the boards as a team and win the battle on the glass because the Knicks will make them pay with tip ins and second chance points if they don't.
Be Aggressive - Doc has said that aggressiveness is going to determine the winner of this series. He pointed out that in the game the Celtics won, they were the aggressors and in the other 3 games they played passively. The Celtics must be the more aggressive team. They have to be aggressive in going to the hoop and not settle for jumpers, especially if the jumpers aren't falling. They must be aggressive on the boards and in going after loose balls and winning the 50/50 plays. The more aggressive team gets the calls from the officials and that will be important in this game. We know that the Knicks will be aggressive and so the Celtics have to match that intensity.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics must get off to a good start and play hard for 48 minutes in this game. The Celtics have gotten off to strong starts only to collapse and give up big leads. They have also gotten off to slow starts and sometimes have come back and other times have not been able to catch up. They may get away with slow starts or with letting up in the game with some teams, but they can't count on the Knicks to let them back in if they get themselves down in this game.
Focus On the Road
The Celtics have been terrible on the road this season and that's putting it mildly. They have won just 13 games away from home this season. It will be crucial for the Celtics to find a way to focus on the road since they don't have home court advantage. Getting a win in the first game would be huge and to get it they must focus on doing all the little things they didn't do during the season.
Monty McCutchen has officiated 1,138 regular season, 94 playoff, and six Finals games. He worked the 2007 NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas and was a member of the crews that officiated the 1996 and 1997 Mexico Challenges, as well as the 1998 Schick Rookie Game. Prior to joining the NBA, McCutchen spent four seasons in the CBA, where he worked the All Star game his second year and the playoffs all four years. He also officiated the CBA Finals the last three years he was with the league. McCutchen missed the 1998-99 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
He is a former elementary and middle school teacher and is fondly remembered by his students as a really nice guy. In searching for information on him, I found a Cavs' blog that blamed a loss to the Celtics on the officiating of Monty McCutchen. That was the game where Mike Brown was ejected and the Cavs made a furious comeback but fell short. In game 2 of the WCF, McCutchen flipped out on someone and yelled "I'm running this game not you!" as Serge Ibaka went to the line for free throws. Other than that, there's not a lot of controversy about him.
The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 games and 3-5 this season with McCutchen on the court. He officiated the Heat game to open the season. Needless to say, he allowed Wade and Battier to grab and shove off and foul all game, which led to Rondo's flagrant on Wade out of frustration. He also called a preseason loss to the Knicks and a win over the Wizards where the Celtics took 34 free throws to 7 by the Wizards and the Celtics got the benefit of some questionable calls. He called the 103-88 loss to the Pistons where the Celtics took 25 free throws to 31 for the Pistons, but the officiating was good. He also called the win over the Lakers at home and the loss at Portland where they let them play and the officiating was ok. He also called Boston at OKC where the Thunder shot 33 free throws to 20 for the Celtics and a win over the Hawks where the Celtics shot 21 free throws to 24 for the Hawks and the officiating was good.
McCutchen was the lead ref in one of the worst officiated games I've watched in a long time. In the LA Lakers vs Golden State Warriors, the Lakers shot 50 free throws to 16 for the Warriors in a 2 point LA win. It was a key game for the Lakers playoff hopes and the referees literally gave them the game. One play in particular stands out to me. In the final minutes with the game tied, Steph Curry was called for an offensive foul on Dwight Howard, when it was clearly a foul on Howard. The worst part is that they put Steve Blake, a very good free throw shooter, on the line instead of Dwight, even though Blake wasn't involved in the play. It truly was a travesty. It just proves that when they have an agenda, they will go to extreme lengths to accomplish it. The Knicks are 5-0 this season and 7-3 in their last 10 games with McCutchen. His home W/L record this season is 44-21.
Over the past 23 seasons, veteran official Bill Spooner has worked 1,281 regular season games and 87 NBA playoff games. He officiated his first two Finals games during the 2010-11 season. In addition to his NBA experience, Spooner has seven years of collegiate officiating experience. He also has eight years of high school officiating experience in his home state of California. Spooner is the ref who failed to call Kobe's elbow to the throat of Ron Artest a couple years back, even though he was the ref in position to call it. Artest's complaints resulted in his ejection but nothing was called on Kobe in the game. The league later admitted their error and assessed Kobe a flagrant 1 for the elbow. But that didn't help Houston who had to play without Artest the rest of the game. Spooner is also the ref that was caught by a reporter telling Kurt Rambis that he would make up for a bad call he made on the other end.
The Celtics are 1-2 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Spooner. One loss this season was to Milwaukee where the Celtics took 21 free throws to 12 for the Bucks. The other loss was to the Grizzlies where the Celtics took 28 free throws to 24 for the Grizzlies and the officiating was pretty bad all the way around. The win was over Utah where the Celtics took 20 free throws to 24 for the Jazz and the officiating was good. The Knicks are 5-5 in their last 10 and 2-0 this season with Spooner on the court. His home W/L record this season is 22-16.
Gary Zielinski has officiated 668 regular season games and nine Playoff games. In addition to his 11 seasons in the NBA, Zielinski officiated for seven seasons in the CBA and four in the WNBA. Zielinski worked the CBA Finals from 1997-2000, the CBA All-Star Game in 1995 and the WNBA Finals from 1998-2001.
The Celtics are 1-4 this season with Zielinski in the court. One loss was the first game vs the Pistons who shot 26 free throws to 19 for the Celtics. He also called the loss at Golden State where the Celtics shot 21 free throws to 16 for the Warriors. The win was in OT over the Heat where the Celtics shot 27 free throws to 20 for the Heat and the Celtics got the benefit of the questionable calls. His last game with the Celtics was the loss at the Lakers where the Lakers shot 31 free throws to 20 for the Celtics and the officiating favored the Lakers pretty much all game.
Zielinski also called a loss to the Lakers last season where LA shot 20 free throws to 5 for the Celtics. That is not a misprint. The Celtics shot FIVE free throws for the game. This season Zielinski was accused of cursing at DeMarcus Cousins when giving him a T but nothing ever came of it as far as was reported. The Celtics are 4-6 in their last 10 games with Zielinski on the court while the Knicks are 2-2 this season and 6-4 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 39-30.
Alternate Official: Kane Fitzgerald