Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to talk about the Celtics , who are in a 2-0 hole against the Knicks in their Eastern Conference playoff series following Tuesday night’s 87-71 loss at Madison Square Garden.
“They can’t win without Rajon Rondo . It kind of just boils down to that,” Mannix said. “It was such a gutty first half, how they played. They defended, they made shots, Jason Terry  was big for them. But the second half, when the Knicks came out with a modicum of defensive intensity, they could do nothing, because they don’t have anyone on the floor that knows how to manufacture shots. [Paul] Pierce did the best he could, but it was pretty clear to me that the Knicks were loading up on him and really putting a focus on keeping him under control in the second half, contesting more shots in the second half. And without Rondo, they got nothing in the paint. Everything was a contested jump shot off one or two passes.
“In a lot of ways, it’s kind of depressing to watch. Because the Knicks, they’re not a good defensive team. They were good for like five games in the month of November. Then all of a sudden they reverted back to Carmelo Anthony ball, circa 2008, and decided to outscore people. But the Knicks, when they put any kind of pressure on the Celtics last night, they just didn’t have anything in terms of playmaking that could respond.”
The Celtics were able to play well for stretches after Rondo’s season-ending ACL injury in the regular season, but Mannix noted that the style and intensity in the playoffs are a different matter.
Said Mannix: “We’ve seen first-hand the last two years what Rondo has done for this team in the playoffs — he’s been the best player on the floor every single year. ‘¦ He just creates shots, and he wreaks havoc in the paint. You simply can’t replace that.”
Jeff Green ‘s inconsistency continues to be an issue. After recording 26 points and seven rebounds in Saturday’s Game 1 loss, Green had 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting with one rebound in almost 35 minutes Tuesday.
“I don’t know what it is, other than the fact that it’s just kind of who Jeff Green is at this point,” Mannix said. “He has been a workhorse for him in the second half of the season, and so many nights you can see just that talent. But I can tell you this: The inconsistency was maddening to Oklahoma City back in the day. They wanted to keep Jeff Green, they offered him a good contract extension. But they weren’t willing to go as high as Jeff Green wanted them to go because of that inconsistency. It was a big part of it. They didn’t know if he was going to be that guy every single night. At his best, he’s one of the most versatile forwards in the NBA, he can do a lot at either forward spot from the perimeter and on the inside. But some nights, as you mentioned, he does disappear. That’s one of the most frustrating things about Green, and that’s something I think that until he resolves, it’s always going to hold him back.”
Kevin Garnett  has looked rusty in this series, and he was hampered by early foul trouble in Game 2.
“I think he looks tired more than anything,” Mannix said. “I think that playing the center position just wears on him. It’s simply amazing to me that he’s been able to pull off this many minutes and been this healthy over the last two years playing center when he never did it during his career — and he expressed pure hatred for it, really, during his time in Minnesota. He didn’t want to play center at all back then. But he steps into the role because Boston needed him to, and he’s done it beautifully. He’s become one of the top centers really in the entire NBA. But it’s pretty clear to me that the physical toll is wearing on him.”
The Celtics head home for Game 3 Friday night looking for a breakthrough victory. Mannix said the C’s should be able to pull out one win, but that might be it.
“Boston’s so good at home and their such a team full of pride,” Mannix said. “And the Knicks, they’re so predicated on the jump shot that at some point you can see their shooters go cold, their guys that are 37 years old, I can see some of them one night during these next two games where they lose something. I think Boston can win one more game.
“But I just don’t see them coming back to New York and winning a Game 5 at the Garden. Simply because they can’t get enough offense without Rondo.”
Looking toward next season, Mannix said the Celtics need to get their injured players healthy and then make the most out of a weak draft class if they want to gain ground on the Eastern Conference elite.
“This team would be much better if they had Jared Sullinger and Rajon Rondo. I firmly believe they would beat the Knicks if they had Sullinger and Rondo right now,” Mannix said. “So, I don’t think they’re that far off from being able to contend for one of those spots behind Miami in the Eastern Conference. But if they’re going to have any hope of beating the Heat in the next couple of years, they have to hit absolute home runs every single time they pick in the draft.”