The Boston Celtics lead the New York Knicks 2-0 in their first round playoff series, but both teams have been incredibly close, and had the ball bounced differently for just a few plays per game, the Knicks would be the ones with the lead right now.
John Schuhmann of NBA.com reports:
In Game 1, when Amar’e Stoudemire went off for 12 fourth-quarter points, the Celtics had to aggressively deny him the ball, sacrificing their ability to help on the ballhandler. In Game 2, with Anthony in the midst of scoring 26 second-half points, they blitzed him with a second defender on every possession, allowing Anthony’s teammates to make runs at the rim and grab countless offensive rebounds.
Neither strategy is sustainable for more than a quarter, let alone a seven-game series. Whether Stoudemire is 100 percent for Game 3 or not, the Celtics need to find a better way to slow down the Knicks’ stars.
The Celtics’ also need to get more production out of their bench, which has been dreadful. Boston led by 10 points near the end of the first quarter on Tuesday, but with the bench playing, the Celtics allowed Anthony to lead the Knicks on a 13-1 run. Poor bench play was largely responsible for the Celtics’ late-season funk, and poor bench play has kept the Knicks in Games 1 and 2.
As the series moves to New York, the Celtics can be happy about two things, other than the two wins. The first is their offensive execution down the stretch. In each game, they scored on four of their final five possessions, including four buckets that either tied the score or gave them a lead.
The second is Rajon Rondo’s aggressiveness in Game 2. With the Knicks failing to get back in transition and playing him soft in the Celtics’ half-court offense, Rondo attacked the basket and finished strong at the rim. He scored a season-high (and playoff career-high) 30 points, playing with a confidence that has seemingly been missing for the last two months.
Game 3 is in Madison Square Garden Friday. For a good time, blast your television, because the crowd energy is going to be insane.