|NBA playoff picture, in a snapshot||04.26.11 at 6:46 pm ET|
Believe it or not, as of Tuesday afternoon, the Celtics are the only team that has finished its first-round series. While they await their first day of practice on Wednesday, NBA fans in Boston get a chance to watch what should be one of the most exciting playoffs in league history. Here’s a brief snapshot of the current playoff picture …
- Heat 97, 76ers 89
- Heat 94, 76ers 73
- Heat 100, 76ers 94
- 76ers 86, Heat 82
LeBron James & Co. are just trying to finish this series, so they can get their shot at the Celtics. The problem? The Heat are still struggling with chemistry and — as a result — have a 0-1 record in close-out games so far. Meanwhile, 76ers coach Doug Collins is just glad to get another game of playoff experience under his young team’s belt.
Heat forward Chris Bosh: ‘We’re going to have to trust each other. We’ve been talking about trust all this time, so we’re going to have to actually do it when it counts the most. It’s easy to stress when you’re up 2-0, 3-0. … When it’s time to close and it’s time to get to those other elite teams, and we’re going to have a chance to compete against them, we have to do the same thing well, not the same thing we did [Sunday].’
Sixers coach Doug Collins: “I’m sure Doc Rivers hopes we take the Heat to triple overtime in Game 7. No question about that. One thing about the playoffs, especially when you are a team that has a lot of games under the belt, you want series to go as little time as possible.”
|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: Playoff bloggers Kevin Garnett & Landry Fields||04.18.11 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.
|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.
Regular season is OVER! Now it’s time to grit and grind. The “season” now begins. We got the Knicks, so we know what we’re getting. Game’s gonna be up and down because they run, run, run. My boy Chauncey [Billups] will be in town, so gotta get him.
Don’t want to hear it from him.
Last two days of practice have been good. Guys are focused and team is working hard at getting “right.” Shaq Diesel [Shaquille O’Neal] is working hard, but can’t play tonight. Thoughts with him. Got my new playoff shoes and am geeked about them. Will post some photos later, so y’all can see them. Just finished our shoot around (go through our schemes) and gonna head home to eat and nap.
[Sunday] night’s game is big! Chicago almost lost last night, so we want to jump on the Knicks early.
|Speaking with the enemy: Celtics vs. Knicks||04.15.11 at 2:09 pm ET|
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?
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