|Fast Break: Jason Terry saves Celtics season||04.28.13 at 4:12 pm ET|
The Knicks erased a 20-point second-half deficit and took their first lead of the game with 78 seconds remaining on a Raymond Felton jumper. It took a 17-footer from Kevin Garnett and two Carmelo Anthony misses just to force overtime. But Jason Terry finally came up clutch, scoring the C’s final nine points for a 97-90 OT victory.
Meanwhile, Paul Pierce played 50 minutes, totaling 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists to help avoid a sweep and force a Game 5 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. Pierce, Garnett (13 points, 17 rebounds), Terry (18 points) and Jeff Green (26 points) combined for 86 of the C’s 97 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Melo out: Without J.R. Smith to share the load, Carmelo Anthony (36 points) tried to put the Knicks on his back, but Brandon Bass had other ideas. Bass gave Anthony fits, even jawing with the MVP candidate, holding him to 10-of-35 shooting and forcing him into seven turnovers. The rest of the Knicks didn’t help, shooting 34 percent from the field, but it started with a valiant effort from Bass, who fouled out in the fourth quarter.
Closing out: While the Knicks looked to close out the series, the C’s just hoped to close out a quarter. And for once they did. In the second, they finished the final two minutes on a 12-3 run. Pierce, who looked cooked in Game 3, scored eight of his 17 first-half points in 72 seconds, and then assisted on Jason Terry’s 16-foot jumper that beat the clock. The result? A 54-35 advantage that helped punch their plane ticket back to New York.
Green with emotion: Green’s recipe for success is simple: attack, attack, attack. The guy who stands around the perimeter watching his teammates take jump shots isn’t so good. In the span of 44 seconds of the second quarter, Green stampeded his way to the basket for a running five-footer and got to the line twice more on drives to the hole. In other words, he attacked, attacked, attacked, and the result was 26 points and six boards.
WHAT WENT WRONG
First mistake: The Celtics shot 50 percent from the field in the first quarter while holding the Knicks to 6-of-18 shooting and forcing six New York turnovers. And thanks to an off-balance Anthony and-1 to close out the first quarter, the C’s only led 22-17. That five-point lead should’ve been 15. Allowing the Knicks to stick around was a dangerous game, even if the Celtics ended up taking a 19-point lead into halftime.
Handle without care: Turnovers cost the Celtics Games 1 and 3. Their offense practically must execute to perfection to compete with New York’s potent attack, and coughing up opportunities before they even get off a shot compounds the problem. Yet, the Celtics committed 16 turnovers on Sunday. Dumb ones, too, like Avery Bradley throwing a pass to someone in the fourth row and Pierce’s failed feeding of Bass on a fast break.
Foul mood: Midway through the second quarter, Garnett picked up his third foul from an officiating crew that featured C’s coach Doc Rivers‘ nemesis Bill Kennedy. Minutes later, Green picked up his third, and Bass joined the club two seconds before halftime. Within five minutes of the third quarter, all three had four fouls. Of course, Anthony and Tyson Chandler had four before the fourth quarter, too. But with little faith in Chris Wilcox or Shavlik Randolph off the bench, Rivers pulled Garnett but left Green and Bass to defend the paint. Bass soon picked up his fifth, and the Knicks closed within three on an 11-1 run to end the third, setting up a nail-biting fourth quarter and overtime.
|Kevin Garnett: ‘I’m going to play until it’s over’||04.27.13 at 2:05 am ET|
It’s not that they didn’t want to win Game 3 against the Knicks. They desperately wanted it. Not just to avoid a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 hole in the first round of these NBA Playoffs, but to mend their city’s broken heart. To give Bostonians something to believe in. The Celtics just couldn’t will anything better than a 90-76 defeat.
“Obviously, the result is not what we wanted,” said Garnett, “but looking in the stands, seeing people drunk, having fun and high-fiving for the most part was good. It was a good two-and-a-half hour diversion if you will.”
If the C’s want anything beyond another short-lived diversion on Sunday, they need more than Garnett’s ever-beating heart, which manufactured 12 points and 17 rebounds on a tough shooting night (5-13 FG).
“I’m going to play until it’s over,” said Garnett, who contributed 35 minutes in the loss. “I’m not usually broken. It’s always been my mentality. It always probably will. That’s what it is. I’ve been to the bottom before. I know what it is. I’m a fighter at the end of the day, but it takes more than one person.”
Actually, it’ll take every person to avoid a sweep. Three Knicks again did the damage — Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith combining for 56 points — and the C’s lacked the firepower to respond. Jeff Green and Paul Pierce committed 10 turnovers, and everyone else was worse. Garnett’s guts only get them so far.
|Fast Break: Knicks blowout leaves Celtics staggering||04.26.13 at 10:39 pm ET|
The Celtics submitted another miserable offensive effort, shooting worse than 40 percent from the field, and fell into a 3-0 hole against the Knicks with a 90-76 loss in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series. Kevin Garnett totaled 12 points and 17 rebounds, Jeff Green gave them 21 points and eight boards, and Jason Terry and Paul Pierce combined to score 24 of their 31 points in the second half, but none of it mattered in a game the Knicks led by as many as 21 points. Here’s all that went awry.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Everything: When 31 points in the first half is an improvement from their last half of basketball, the Celtics are in trouble. After scoring 23 points in the second half of Game 2, the C’s managed just 31 points in the first two quarters on Friday night. They shot 35 percent from the field (14-40) and committed three more turnovers (9) than they had assists (6) at the break. Outside of Garnett and Green, who combined to score 17 of those 31 points, the Celtics shot 6-of-22 (27 FG%) thanks to an offense that featured a string of failed turnaround jump shots.
Lineups: To the surprise of pretty much everyone, Doc Rivers inserted Terry into the starting lineup in place of Brandon Bass. The move failed miserably, as the Celtics found themselves in a 16-9 hole when Rivers replaced Terry with Courtney Lee with 4:20 left in the opening quarter. This after the Celtics coach benched Lee in favor of Jordan Crawford in Game 2. At one point in the second quarter — as Garnett, Chris Wilcox and Shavlik Randolph sat on the bench — Green guarded 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler. Odd moves all.
Pierce: After carrying the load in Games 1 and 2, Pierce looked cooked. He shot 2-of-10 in the miserable first half, committing three turnovers in that span and bumbling another handful of balls. And then started the third quarter by throwing the ball to Raymond Felton. The Celtics looked old, tired and slow, and Pierce epitomized all of it. He battled, as he always does, but his tank was running on empty.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Garnett: As usual, Garnett came out like a wild man, nearly notching his double-double by halftime. Why the Celtics didn’t feed him more was a mystery. KG played his manic defense, too, neutralizing Chandler and Kenyon Martin. Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthony (26 points), J.R. Smith (15 points before being ejected in the fourth quarter) and Felton (15 points) continued to force their will upon the rest of the C’s. It wasn’t for lack of effort. Garnett gave them that. The Celtics just didn’t have the personnel to match the Knicks.
Green: While everything crumbled around him, Green gave the Celtics everything they had hoped for all season. He attacked the basket and cleaned the glass, making an impact in the flow of the game while playing the majority of his minutes alongside both Pierce and Garnett. Green was supposed to be the X-factor in this series, but instead he’s been one of the only factors. Exhibit 326: Smith has outscored the entire Celtics bench 49-33 in the series.
Rebounding: At least the Celtics did something well. Pierce and Bass aided Garnett and Green on the glass, each grabbing at least four boards by halftime. The C’s out-rebounded the Knicks 41-37 for the game and here’s the real shocker: They even grabbed more offensive boards than New York (11-6). Of course, their inability to make baskets gave them plenty of opportunities for offensive rebounds.
|Celtics honor Boston Marathon victims, heroes||04.26.13 at 8:41 pm ET|
Prior to Game 3 of the first-round NBA Playoff series between the Celtics and Knicks, the C’s honored the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings with a moment of silence and a video tribute during the National Anthem. Game 3 marked the first home game for the Celtics since the April 15 terrorist attacks.
|Danny Ainge ‘not particularly thrilled’ with Knicks matchup||04.25.13 at 5:52 pm ET|
During his weekly Thursday appearance with Salk & Holley, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge stopped short of saying he thought his C’s are the better team in their first-round NBA playoff series against the Knicks.
“We don’t think that we’ve played like we are capable of playing,” said Ainge. “It’s one thing to lose to a team who deserves to beat you and is a better team, but I feel like we’ve come out ready to play and I have no idea why the beginning of the third quarter in the last two games has not been good.”
Asked to clarify his comments, Ainge showered praise on the Knicks, who lead the series 2-0 and have held the Celtics to 48 combined second-half points.
“They’re very good. I have a great deal of respect for the Knicks, and Carmelo [Anthony] is a great player — maybe the toughest matchup in the entire league,” he said. “He’s right there in the same category as difficult a matchup as the Lebron [James]es and the Kevin Durants and the Kobe Bryants. He’s one of those types of players that can score against certain defense. So, no, I’m not particularly thrilled with the matchup.”
Still, Ainge placed the blame on his players. The Celtics simply haven’t lived up to their ability.
“We just need to play with more mental and physical toughness,” he said. “This isn’t the team I’ve seen play all year. The first halves have been, but not the second half. I wish I had an explanation, but we just need to be tougher, instigating the physical play. I think that they are getting into us, and we’re not responding. I’d like to see us instigate and initiate contact and be aggressive and not let their pressure affect us as much as it has.”
And the blame doesn’t rest with just one or two Celtics. They’ve pretty much all been been underwhelming.
“It’s everybody,” said Ainge. “It’s gotta be everybody. Avery [Bradley] embodies toughness. Paul Pierce is toughness to us, and Jeff Green — when he’s playing the way that we need him to play — he’s asserting himself and tough. And we know how tough Jason Terry is. And right on down the line. It takes everybody. Brandon Bass. It takes every one of the guys. We don’t have a team where we can rely on one or two guys. We have to get good performances out of the whole team.”
“We’ve got to have contributions from the whole team,” he added. “You can’t do it with one or two guys like New York has done. We don’t have that kind of scoring power. We don’t have the league’s leading scorer on our team right now, so we have to get contributions out of a lot of people.”
Got it? Good. Now here are the remaining highlights of Ainge’s interview, which can be heard in full on the Salk & Holley audio on demand page:
|Doc Rivers: Kevin Garnett ‘good to go’ for Game 3||04.24.13 at 5:14 pm ET|
“It was affecting him,” said Rivers. “In a couple timeouts, I kept asking him if was he OK, and he is. He’s good. He’s good to go. He’ll practice [Thursday] and then play on Friday.”
|Irish Coffee: When did the Celtics become the Knicks?||04.24.13 at 2:22 pm ET|
Veteran leadership. Superior coaching. Clutch playmaking. Suffocating defense. When did the Celtics and Knicks switch jerseys? In the first two games of their opening-round series, New York has simply out-Celtics-ed the C’s.
Despite establishing halftime leads in their first two meetings, the Celtics failed to execute anything resembling an offense, toyed with head-scratching matchups and generally just crapped their pants after the break. The result is a 2-0 hole and an early NBA playoff exit staring them back in the face. That’s supposed to be the Knicks’ role.
This can’t be how a team led by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett goes out. Can it? Doc Rivers is coaching like a desperate man, and maybe he is. Maybe he knows Garnett’s injuries are worse than we thought, Jordan Crawford is his best option off the bench and the success of the pitbull backcourt was simply smoke and mirrors.
Here’s what we do know: Carmelo Anthony is the best player in this series, and it’s not even close. The only guy who could possibly answer Anthony’s ability to create clutch offense out of nothing is dressed dapperly on the Boston bench. His name is Rajon Rondo, and he’s not walking through that door.
Paul Pierce used to be that guy, but now that his age matches his minutes, he can’t shoulder the load. Maybe on a night or two, but not over a seven-game series. Kevin Garnett was that guy as recently as last year’s playoffs, but cameras caught him clutching his abdomen on multiple occasions and bone spurs don’t disappear from your foot overnight. And Jeff Green may one day be that guy, but not now. Not consistently anyhow.
The C’s needed a collective effort from that trio in concert with a chorus line of contributions from their teammates, and nothing’s changed. That’s still the formula. Whether they can execute it or not is an entirely different matter.
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