|Amar’e Stoudemire’s back picks a really bad time to act up||04.19.11 at 11:49 pm ET|
Knicks superstar power forward Amar’e Stoudemire couldn’t have picked a worse time to experience back spasms for the first time in his career. After tweaking his back during a dunk in warmups, Stoudemire said he felt the twinge get worse during the first half.
He was limited to 2-of-9 shooting in 18 minutes and finished with just four points as the Knicks couldn’t quite overcome his absence in a 96-93 loss to the Celtics Tuesday night at TD Garden.
“I believe it happened in warmups,” said Stoudemire, who had to stand for his postgame press conference because his back was still so tight. “I touched the top of the glass with my left hand and dunked it with my right. I think that’s when I felt it really get tight on me.
“I could hardly move. I was trying to play through it. I went to the trainers and staff, was getting worked on there before the game, right before the national anthem I got up and stood up for the anthem and tried to get a little more work done. I just couldn’t get quite totally loose. I tried to play on it and pushed through it, but for the most part, I played the first quarter and second quarter, after that it was a sharp pain and I couldn’t continue.”
Stoudemire said this was the first time in his career he experienced the injury and is hoping treatment in the next two days will have him ready when the series resumes Friday at Madison Square Garden.
“I never had back spasms before, so I guess it’s just a normal back spasm,” he said. “Take time for it to relax, but I should be ready for Game 3. I’m not sure, we’ll see how it goes tomorrow, and the next day, and then I’m pretty, sure hopefully I’ll be ready to go by Friday.”
Stoudemire watched from the TV in the locker room as Carmelo Anthony almost single-handedly led the Knicks to victory.
“Yeah I was getting treatment for the full second half,” Stoudemire said. “I watched the game on the TV screen, but meanwhile I was getting treatment the whole time. I was trying to loosen up the back, trying to get ready to come out there in the second half or third quarter. I just couldn’t get the back to release hardly any. It took awhile for me to get comfortable, still in somewhat pain now. But hopefully, in the next few days, it will release.
“They played great,” Stoudemire said of Anthony. “Carmelo shot the ball extremely well tonight, something that we needed. And the rest of the guys stepped up to play, they played great tonight. That’s something that we need, hopefully some confidence from tonight’s game will grow for Friday.”
With the Celtics trailing 93-92 with 19 seconds remaining, Celtics coach Doc Rivers called for Kevin Garnett to post up Jared Jefferies on the block. He did, backed down Jefferies and made a hook shot over him with 13 seconds to play. Moments later, on a loose ball that Jefferies lost underneath the Knicks basket, Garnett dove to the floor, grabbed the ball and called timeout with four seconds left. Delonte West made a pair of free throws with 0.6 seconds on the clock, and the C’s held on for a 96-93 victory to take a 2-0 lead against the Knicks.
The C’s spoiled a remarkable 42-point, 17-rebound effort from Carmelo Anthony, who singlehandedly kept the Knicks in the game after losing Amar’e Stoudemire to back spasms. The Celtics’ Big Four all reached double figures, led by Rajon Rondo‘s 30 points and Paul Pierce‘s 20.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Rondo attacks early: With Chauncey Billups (strained left knee) sidelined and Toney Douglas starting for the Knicks, Rondo went to work. He released on New York field-goal attempts, and his Celtics teammates hit him in stride on the break for layup after layup. As Rondo outscored the Knicks 12-11 in the first 7:08, Douglas committed two fouls — leaving the visitors extremely thin at the point guard position. Generally, when Rondo attacks in transition, the Celtics succeed, and Game 2 was no different.
Rondo attacks late: While Anthony was busy scoring at a ridiculous pace or drawing enough defenders to open up opportunities for his teammates, Rondo kept the Celtics in the game during the fourth quarter. Once again taking advantage of the Douglas matchup, he scored three straight layups midway through the fourth that either tied the game or gave the Celtics a late lead. And he even added a 17-foot jump shot that put the Celtics up 88-86 advantage with four and a half minutes remaining.
Denying Stoudemire the ball: Whether it was Stoudemire’s comments before the game or the back spasms that forced him to leave the game in the second quarter, Garnett completely neutralized his defensive assignment. In 16 first-half minutes, Stoudemire shot just 2-of-9 from the field and scored four points — a far cry from his 12-of-18, 28-point performance in Game 1.
Between the first two games of the series, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the game plan was to deny Stoudemire the ball, thus stopping him before he ever gets going. The Celtics attempted to do that in the first game but couldn’t until Garnett succeeded in the final minutes. Game 2 was an entirely different story — whether it was all Garnett’s defense or part that/part injury.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Melo being Melo … and then some: After being called out by just about every New York media outlet after his 1-of-11 shooting performance in the second half of the Knicks’ Game 1 loss, Anthony returned to his All-Star form. Considering he was the only member of the Knicks’ Big Three left standing, the Knicks desperately needed him to rise to the occasion. And he did, scoring 13 straight points during one second-half stretch and finishing with 42 points (the highest individual total against the C’s this season), 17 rebounds and six assists on the night.
Another lost opportunity: After taking an early 10-point lead in the first quarter, the Celtics had a golden opportunity to make Game 2 a lot more comfortable than Game 1, especially considering the Billups/Stoudemire injuries and the fact that Landry Fields appeared completely lost. But the bench couldn’t hold the advantage that the starters staked them to, and the gap closed to 23-21 after one quarter. It got worse, too, as the Billups-less, Stoudemire-less Knicks took a 45-44 lead into the break, thanks to Anthony’s 16 points and 10 rebounds in the first half.
Knicks wipe the glass clean: How did the Knicks shoot just 35.6 percent from the field for the game and actually lead a playoff game in the final minute? Well, they grabbed 20 of their 53 rebounds on the offensive end. By contrast, the Celtics had 37 rebounds (9 offensively). It’s been a problem all season long for the Celtics, and continued to be in Game 2 — despite facing a Knicks team that’s been poor in that respect.
|Glen Davis knows he has to choose wisely||at 2:54 pm ET|
Celtics forward Glen Davis takes too many jumpshots. This past season he launched 4.6 times a game from between 16 and 23 feet, which is three and a half more attempts per game than he averaged last season and almost twice as many as the 2008-09 season when he first began to fall in love with the long shot.
Shooting the jumper isn’t the problem. The Celtics offense generally takes their four men away from the post and out on to the perimeter (see: Kevin Garnett). They like to keep the floor spaced and the driving lanes open for Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce.
The problem for Davis is that he didn’t make very many of them this season, hitting at just a 35 percent clip. By way of comparison, Garnett made 47 percent of his long jump shots and was one of the best shooting big men from that range in the league.
And yet for all the criticism Davis takes for his offense, he has had a breakthrough season as the Celtics most important reserve and garnered serious attention early in the season as a top Sixth Man candidate in the league. He filled that role so well that it’s easy to remember that just last season Davis was getting only 18 minutes a night and still trying to carve out a place for himself in the NBA beyond simply as a “rotation player.”
Part of the reason Davis played so well this season is that he became far more effective inside where he upped his shooting percentage from 50 to 60 percent and increased his attempts. He was frustrated by how often he got his shot blocked last season and developed some counters, which have been successful.
But he has to get inside first. Davis took eight shots in Game 1 and missed seven of them. Half of his attempts were from 16-23 feet and he made just one. Oddly enough, some of that has to do with Amar’e Stoudemire, although not directly. The Knicks use one of three players alongside Stoudemire: Ronny Turiaf, Jared Jeffries and Shawne Williams.
Friend of Green Street, Gian Casimiro showed by way of video the effect those players, particularly Turiaf, have on the Celtics defense. Essentially, Jermaine O’Neal played way off Turiaf and protected the paint. Of the three options, Williams could cause the most damage because of his ability to shoot 3-pointers. Turiaf was also effective making four of five shots inside mainly because O’Neal was busy elsewhere, but the Celtics seem willing to make the trade.
With that in mind, I asked Davis about it after the team’s shootaround this morning.
“They’re different,” Davis said. “When you guard Amar’e, he’s hard to guard because he’s so quick. Shawne Williams puts a lot of pressure on the next guy [the help defender] because he’s stretching the floor. If a guy like me is posting on Shawne Williams that’s a negative. But you know, other teams live with that. They’ll live with me scoring if the ball is not in other player’s hands. So I’ve got to pick wisely how I play the game.”
That’s why focusing on individual matchups like Garnett and Stoudemire is too simplistic. A great player like Stoudemire causes teams to make decisions and each decision has a counter-move. Davis is crucial for the Celtics in this series because of his versatility to matchup against whomever the Knicks put on the floor with Stoudemire. As he said, he needs to choose wisely.
|Irish Coffee: Amar’e Stoudemire vs. Glen Davis, Round 3||at 1:26 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
Celtics Sixth Man Glen Davis threw the first jab at Amar’e Stoudemire, but the Knicks’ All-Star power forward has responded with a 1-2 punch before each game of their first-round series. In the latest installment of “Look Who’s Talking Trash,” during a discussion about “pulling the chair” on Davis in the second quarter of Game 1, Stoudemire told the New York Post:
“I’m just playing smart. I know ‘Baby’ wanted to try to draw contact and draw fouls. His core is not really as tight as it should be, so I knew I can catch him off-balance from that. I kind of backed up, but I thought he traveled on the play, but he turned the ball over.”
Not only does Stoudemire (aka, STAT: Standing Tall and Talented) believe the 6-foot-9, 295-pound Davis can’t guard him in Game 2 on Tuesday, the four-time All-NBA selection — who scored 28 points on 12-of-18 shooting in his team’s 87-85 loss on Sunday – doesn’t think anybody on the Celtics can stop him in this series, including Garnett, the league’s second-leading vote getter for Defensive Player of the Year:
“I don’t think there’s anything they can do. Besides try to deny me the ball. But there’s ways to get open. … I feel great. It’s still the same old me. And the playoffs always bring the best out of me. It’s going to get even better as the series goes on.”
Stoudemire’s feud with Davis began prior to Game 1, when Big Baby explained to the Post that he didn’t believe the Knicks’ $100 million man was all that difficult to defend and that New York’s center-by-committee provided the Celtics a perfect opportunity to rest the ailing Shaquille O’Neal (who will also miss Game 2):
|Fast Break: Ray Allen’s trey sinks Knicks||04.17.11 at 9:46 pm ET|
Seconds after Chauncey Billups limped to the bench with an apparent knee injury, Toney Douglas assumed the Mr. Big Shot mantle — draining a long 3-pointer from the wing with 38 seconds left to snap an 82-82 game. But an alley-oop to Kevin Garnett, a questionable offensive foul call on Carmelo Anthony and a Ray Allen 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining helped the Celtics survive, 87-85, in Game 1 of their first-round NBA Playoff series.
Allen scored a team-high 24 points, and all five Celtics starters reached double figures, including Jermaine O’Neal (12 points). Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire led all scorers with 28 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Ray Allen asserts himself: After not attempting a field goal in the opening quarter, Allen took advantage of a matchup against Anthony Carter to score six quick second-quarter points. He added seven in the third quarter and finished with 24 for the night, capped by the game-winning 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining. He hadn’t scored 20 points since March 19.
Second-half defense: After giving up 51 points to the Knicks on 19-of-35 shooting (54.3 percent), the Celtics held New York to 5-of-28 shooting (17.9 percent) in the first 15 minutes of the second half. In that stretch, the Celtics turned a 51-39 halftime deficit into a 66-64 lead with nine minutes to play.
Jermaine O’Neal contributes: He may have only recorded one first-half rebound, but O’Neal made his presence felt in the third quarter. The Celtics’ starting center totaled six points, two rebounds and a pair of blocks that helped slice the Knicks’ 12-point halftime lead in half. His play on both sides of the ball seemed to raise the effort of his teammates as well — as the C’s held the Knicks to 13 third-quarter points. Along with his 12 points, O’Neal finished with four rebounds and four blocks.
The Rondo conundrum: Taking advantage of the fact that Chauncey Billups was playing almost 10 feet off him, Rajon Rondo took 10 first-half shots and made five of them, heading into the locker room at the break with a team-high 10 points. On the down side, in the first half he had just two assists, didn’t attempt a free throw and passed up a couple more open lanes in favor of more difficult jump shots from his teammates.
In the second half, though, Rondo returned to his primary role as distributor. While he didn’t score again, the Celtics point guard approached a triple-double with 10 points, nine assists and nine rebounds.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Not taking advantage of Melo’s absence: After just 88 seconds of playoff basketball, Anthony sat on the bench with a pair of quick fouls. He didn’t return in the first quarter. It was a golden opportunity for the Celtics to snare an early lead and take control of the game. Instead, they allowed old friend Bill Walker to score a team-high seven first-quarter points and stay within one at 24-23 after 12 minutes.
The second-quarter collapse: While the Celtics shot just 6-of-18 and scored 15 points in the second quarter — including only two assists — the Knicks torched the C’s defense to the tune of 28 points. After Walker had his turn against Pierce in the first quarter, Anthony took over and scored 12 second-quarter points on the captain. Meanwhile, Stoudemire put an exclamation on the Knicks’ surge into halftime by driving past Glen Davis and throwing down a monster dunk that stretched his team’s lead into double digits. Of course, prior to the game, Davis had claimed “it’s really not that hard” to guard Stoudemire.
Where’s the bench? On paper, the Celtics have the deeper team, but led by Walker the Knicks outscored the Boston bench 23-8. Glen Davis had a lot to do with the C’s struggles in that department, shooting only 1-of-8 from the field for two points. In fact, because O’Neal performed so well, he actually took the closing center reins from Davis, who had held that position for the Celtics all season. While Davis returned in the final minute, O’Neal got the bulk of the fourth-quarter minutes at center.
|Speaking with the enemy: Celtics vs. Knicks||04.15.11 at 2:09 pm ET|
The following is an e-mail exchange between myself and Knicks blog Posting and Toasting’s Seth Rosenthal in anticipation of the first-round NBA Playoff matchup between the Celtics and Knicks …
First question: Despite being 0-3 against the Celtics, the Knicks seem pretty confident. Why?
Date: Wednesday, April 13, 2:20 p.m.
Subject: RE: Celtics-Knicks
From: Seth Rosenthal
To: Ben Rohrbach
Well, a few things. First of all, the guys you hear talking are Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. They’re nothing if not confident. Amar’e unblinkingly called Pau Gasol “soft” the other day, and thought nothing of it. These guys like to talk. To some degree, they’re qualified. Those three all have meaningful playoff experience, and more or less know what it takes to win a playoff series against a good team.
Moreover, each of those three losses included some sort of silver lining. One of ‘em was tenths of a second short of being a win, and the most recent one was dominated by the Knicks until the Celtics woke up in the fourth quarter (that might actually be more foreboding than promising, but…).
Maybe it’s got something to do with the Celtics’ struggles of late. The Knicks might smell blood in the water, or some other sort of predatory analogy. What’s the deal with that, by the way? Does this strike those who know the Celtics as another late-season stretch of playing possum before a sudden surge in the playoffs, or does the slide seem to have some inertia?
|Doc Rivers: Celtics are ready to ‘get back and finish the job’||04.14.11 at 1:03 pm ET|
There’s no more time for sitting starters and there’s no more optional practices. Doc Rivers knows full well that while it may not be time to slam the foot on the accelerator, now is the time to start stepping down with more force.
On Thursday, following a 112-102 glorified exhibition win over the Knicks, Rivers began prep for the first-round playoffs series with the Knicks with film work. The hard practices are expected on Friday and Saturday – with or without Shaquille O’Neal.
“I feel good that our team will be ready; I feel really good about that,” Rivers said. “This has been far more difficult in that regard because of the trades, the injuries, the late-season seven-out-of-eleven games. It’s just been – that’s been extremely difficult. We lost our rhythm; had no practice to get it back, and then we had injuries.
“So, it’s great playing on Sunday, let me just put it that way. We’ll be ready.”
As for Delonte West (ankle) and Shaq (calf), Rivers said this weekend of practice will tell a lot.
“Well Delonte will be [ready] for sure, from everything I hear,” Rivers said. “Shaquille, I’d like to see him yesterday. We’ll just wait and see.”
Obviously, this has been the most injury-riddled season for Celtics big men – or bigs as Doc loves to call them. And it’s started from camp and carried right through. Say this much, the C’s and Rivers and his coaching staff have had plenty of time this season to get ready to win without them.
There was the rehabbing Kendrick Perkins in camp and early in the season. There was the conditioning of Jermaine O’Neal. There was the knee/hip/Achilles/calf of Shaq. And the brief injury scares to Glen Davis and Perkins’ replacement Nenad Krstic. Read the rest of this entry »