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Their second-half execution was deplorable, ruining a brilliant defensive performance that turned the Knicks into exactly what the Celtics wanted — a one-man team led by Carmelo Anthony dribbling, dribbling more, and finally shooting.Anthony attempted 35 percent of New York’s shots in the second half and the rest of the Knicks were 7 for 26 from the field after the break, the perfect recipe for a Celtics upset. But Boston also melted in the heat of the moment Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Besides Paul Pierce, who scored 11 points in the final two quarters, the Celtics shot 4 for 19, for 14 points, after halftime. This column will give you a few moments to sip some Pepto-Bismol as the second-half rundown continues.
A 4-point halftime lead was wasted, built back up to 7 at 70-63, and then the collapse began. The Knicks were primed for their usual playoff shrinkage but the Celtics were unable to execute. They couldn’t even get the ball up the court without upheaval as the Knicks intelligently read passing lanes or just stripped the ball when the Celtics got close to the basket.
And as each possession grew more significant, the Celtics had no one who responded to the occasion. They held the Knicks 15 points below their season average, equaled New York on the boards, forced J.R. Smith into 7-for-19 shooting, and held the starting trio of Tyson Chandler, Chris Copeland, and Iman Shumpert to 3 points.
And yet the Celtics lost.
The Celtics certainly had their chances to raid Madison Square Garden and steal Game 1 from the Knicks. As bad as the third quarter was, they did hold their largest lead of the game at 7 points, leading 70-63 (as noted above). But when you then proceed to get outscored 22-8 the rest of the game, well, let’s just say that’s not great. There were several possessions where simple post-entry passes looked impossible to execute against a relatively lax Knicks defense. There was dribbling into the lane and simply bobbling the ball away. Bad shot attempts, rushed possessions and zero spacing all contributed to the C’s chances of taking a winnable game.
When they did get the ball to Kevin Garnett down low in hopes of establishing a post game, he had no room to make his move. Jeff Green was brilliant in the first half, but like the rest of his teammates, he seemed more than willing to defer and wait for Paul Pierce and/or KG to take over. The problem is, those two guys simply can’t sustain that level of play for more than 20 minutes per game any longer. Sure, Doc can lift the minutes restriction and P/KG can be out there for close to 40 minutes, but they’re not the same after that 20 minute mark or so. It’s also unfair to demand that from them at this point in their careers. It’s also why Green needs to be the guy for the C’s in the playoffs, at least offensively.
In no way am I pinning this loss on Green. No, collectively they dug a deep hole themselves. But it’s still just one game and they can still steal home court advantage. And despite JR Smith’s post-game declaration that the Knicks don’t plan on losing any games at home, the Celtics are more than capable of taking at least one at MSG. They proved it for 36 minutes yesterday. Now they just need to do it for 48. Game 2 is Tuesday.
Related Links: Globe – Celtics lose Game 1 to New York Knicks, 85-78 | Boston Herald – Knicks take 1 back | C’s can’t accept present | CSNNE – Knicks take game one over Celitcs, 85-78 | WEEI – Turnover tale: Celtics drop Game 1 to Knicks
The rest of the links:
ESPN Boston – Flight delay: More turbulence for JET | Notebook: Rondo crashes playoff party | Globe – At 40, Knicks guard Jason Kidd runs circles around Celtics | Knicks ride defensive effort to win over Celtics | Firings of Byron Scott, Lawrence Frank jumpstart open season on coaching changes (Sunday Notes) | CSNNE – Celtics-Knicks superlatives: Game 1 | Rondo’s absence felt in Game 1 loss | Historically-poor performance for JET | Celtics-Knicks review: Fatigue slows Green | WEEI – Jeff Green: ‘We just got tired, I guess’ | Carmelo Anthony: Booing Paul Pierce pre-game was not ‘the right thing to do’ | Yahoo! Sports – Carmelo Anthony gets help from a couple of old Nets in Knicks’ Game 1 victory over Celtics