|Fast Break: Kevin Garnett’s will spoils Carmelo Anthony’s effort||04.19.11 at 9:51 pm ET|
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.
|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):
|For one game, Paul Pierce schools Carmelo Anthony, and Melo is unimpressed||04.18.11 at 1:21 pm ET|
One NBA superstar looked the role of having been in the playoff spotlight.
The other blinded by it late in the game when it mattered.
One executed his team’s final play to perfection and the other heaved up a desperation shot, hoping it would go in.
For one night, Paul Pierce got the best of Carmelo Anthony.
Aside from the second quarter, when Anthony scored 12 of his 15 points, Pierce completely frustrated and shut down Anthony. And in the second half, Anthony made just one of his 11 shots, finishing 5-for-18. But Anthony wasn’t falling over himself to praise Pierce afterward.
“As far as Paul Pierce, the matchup, I don’t think he did anything out of the ordinary or special tonight as far as defending me,” Anthony said unimpressed. “I think the Celtics, they were themselves, they load the paint up, every time I caught it, they loaded the side up, they shifted court.
“I missed some shots I normally make, I’m not too concerned about my individual performance or anything like that. As a team I think we did a hell of a job of just competing out there. We did some things great for the most part of the game, we got back and look at some film, make a couple adjustments, and get ready for Game 2. I’m excited about this series though.’
Pierce was in the right place at the right time as Anthony lost his composure with 21.0 seconds left, flailing his elbow toward Pierce and getting called the offensive foul.
‘As far as that offensive foul goes, what I thought and what they called was two different things,” Anthony said. “So, it is what it is, he called it and it’s over with.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Irish Coffee: Playoff bloggers Kevin Garnett & Landry Fields||at 11:38 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
After writing prior to his team’s Game 1 matchup against the Knicks, the Celtics’ Kevin Garnett posted another entry to his Anta blog following the 87-85 first-round victory. Here are the highlights …
Game was up and down. Emotional roller coaster. … We got down early and at the half was down . We don’t quit and we grinded all game. Had to bring my “hard hat” to work today and just kept grinding. Down three with less then 40 seconds left in the game, coach [Doc Rivers] ran the fake cut to the alley-oop to me. [Rajon] Rondo made a hell of a pass! …
Down still 1, P2 [Paul Pierce] played some great defense and then it set up for a play where I NEEDED TO get Ray [Allen] open. RAY RAY hit the big shot … a 3 no less. … We did what we were supposed to (win at home), but still felt good to come back and lock up the win.
Game 2 on Tuesday. Sometimes, I get too hyped and move too quickly. Feel it best to relax and get into my game. JO [Jermaine O’Neal] really stepped up and I felt as though the flow was better for him.
Garnett shot just 5-of-14 from the field for 15 points, but he grabbed 13 rebounds, dished out three assists and swiped three steals. While Dwight Howard reportedly captured the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year honor, Garnett is expected to make the All-Defense First Team, and he finally locked Amar’e Stoudemire down in the final two minutes of the victory.
Meanwhile, Knicks starting shooting guard Landry Fields contributed to his ongoing playoff blog for the New York Post. Here’s what he had to say …
|Doc Rivers, Celtics drop Knicks, execution style||at 1:25 am ET|
In the days before Game 1 of his team’s first-round series against the Knicks, Celtics president Danny Ainge said, “The biggest fear I have is the respect I have for Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire finishing games.” And prior to the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers echoed that sentiment.
But after the Knicks blew a 12-point halftime lead and after the Celtics finished an 87-85 comeback victory, both teams sang a different tune. The experienced Celtics executed. And the unfamiliar Knicks didn’t.
“We had a 13-point third quarter,” said Knicks sixth man Bill Walker, who was traded from the Celtics in the Nate Robinson deal last season. “We didn’t move the ball. They loaded up their defense, and once they load up their defense, they’re pretty good. They’ve got a former Defensive Player of the Year [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce] and Ray [Allen] are great defenders themselves and [Rajon] Rondo‘s a ball hawk. So, once they get set and know what you’re doing, it’s pretty hard to score. We’ve just got to keep them in transition and run them.”
Anthony, Stoudemire and Billups did their part in the first half, combining for 31 of New York’s 51 first-half points on 11-of-19 shooting. But it all fell apart in the second half.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a blowout in this series,” said Rondo, “so the team that executes down the stretch usually finds a way to win.”
In Game 1, that team was the defending Eastern Conference champion Celtics.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics make statement(s) in New York||03.22.11 at 2:15 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Make no mistake that Monday night’s Celtics victory against the Knicks was a statement by Doc Rivers & Co. that a) any discussion of a Celtics-Knicks rivalry still ends in a hammer-nail declaration, b) they care about the No. 1 seed more than people think, c) the Eastern Conference crown still belongs in Boston and d) Kendrick Perkins wasn’t the only tough guy in Green. The Associated Press pictures tell the whole story, so let’s let them (NOTE: click on the pictures in the rest of this entry to follow the links) …
|Chris Broussard on M&M: ‘It comes down to the Celtics and the Heat’||03.21.11 at 1:12 pm ET|
ESPN’s Chris Broussard joined the Mut & Merloni show Monday afternoon to talk about the Celtics and topics of interest around the NBA. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
The C’s play the Knicks Monday night in New York. Broussard said despite the initial excitement over the addition of Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks aren’t a threat to knock off one of the East’s elite. And that was before the reported locker room discord that is swirling around the team during its recent struggles (five losses in the last seven games).
“They clearly have talent and should be dangerous,” Broussard said. “They don’t look that way right now. Even when they were looking good, I would never have picked them to win their first-round series over those top teams. But I did think they had maybe a puncher’s chance and could make it interesting. I still will say they could make it interesting if they get it together, but right now they don’t look like they’re any major threat to beat any of these top teams.”
The Celtics have their own problems, having lost four of their last seven games. Broussard speculated that much of the reason for the malaise falls on the trade of Kendrick Perkins, noting that Perkins and the struggling Rajon Rondo “were very tight.” He also said the Celtics still have a hole to fill with Perkins off the roster, and Shaquille O’Neal‘s absence exposes it that much more.
“I didn’t like [the trade] in the first place,” Broussard said. “With this kind of mystery involving Shaq, I like it even less.”
Added Broussard: “My biggest concern if I was a Celtics fan would be the lack of bulk and toughness that they now have without Kendrick Perkins. They only needed Perk for a few teams: Miami ‘ that gave them a big advantage over the Heat ‘ Orlando and the Lakers. You may be better matching up with Chicago without Perk. But if Shaquille O’Neal can’t come back and give you really quality minutes, and significant minutes, then I think a huge advantage that the Celtics had over everyone in the league is gone.”
Asked which team is the best in the East, Broussard said: “Boston, you’d have to give them their due respect. They’ve been great all year. I’m not going to hold this couple of weeks where they’ve struggled against them.”
Added Broussard: “I think if Miami plays the right way, they can win the East. And I feel a lot more comfortable about picking them in the preseason. But for most of this year, I have felt like it was Boston that’s the best team in the East. I like Chicago, but I still think at the end of the day it comes down to the Celtics and the Heat.”
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