Boston Celtics (2-0) at New York Knicks (0-2)
Friday, April 21
7:00 PM ET
Playoff Game #3, Road Game #1
TV: ESPN, CSN-NE, MSG
Madison Square Garden
Referees: Dan Crawford, Marc Davis, Gary Zielinski For the first time in 7 years, the Knicks will host a playoff game at Madison Square Garden. They come into the game down 2-0 after 2 games that both were decided in the last seconds. The Celtics weren't feeling very good about their 2-0 record after playing poorly in both games. At the same time, the Knicks were feeling pretty good about almost winning both games on the road. . The Celtics will be facing what is sure to be a loud and very hostile crowd in MSG and probably some hostile officiating on the road as well. The Celtics have got to bring a better effort than we saw in games 1 and 2 if they hope to get a win on the road.
Amar's Stoudemire, who missed the second half of game 2 with back spasms, didn't practice on Thursday but is expected to play in this game. Chauncey Billups had his sore knee drained also didn't participate in practice and is listed as questionable for this one. If he can't go, expect Toney Douglas to once again get the start. Ronny Turiaf is also dealing with soreness in his knee but is expected to play. Shaquille O'Neal traveled with the team to NY but is expected to miss this game. He may play on Sunday, but then again, he may not.
In the first game, Stoudemire starred for the Knicks with 28 points and 11 rebounds while Anthony struggled somewhat. In the second game, with Billups out and Stoudemire going out in the first half, Carmelo Anthony was outstanding with 42 points and 17 rebounds, practically carrying the team all by himself. Paul Pierce has said that he has to be better defensively on Anthony to prevent another performance like that in this game. For the Celtics, in game 1, Ray Allen stepped up with 24 points and 6 rebounds. In game 2, we finally saw the aggressive Rondo once again as he scored 30 points and dished out 7 assists.
The Celtics can expect the Knicks to come out swinging and if they don't put forth a better effort, they might not be so lucky to pull this one out at the end. The Celtics bench, although with more talent than the Knicks bench, has been out played in the first 2 games. The Celtics must get more from Big Baby, Jeff Green and Delonte especially. In both games, the starters have built a lead only to have it disappear when the starters go out for a rest. The bench must produce more in this game.
We know that the Celtics can play much better. The Knicks also can improve if they can get a good game from both of their stars on the same night. The Celtics have to improve their defense and their execution throughout the game and not just at the end. If the Celtics finally play a complete game, instead of turning it on and off throughout the game, they should get a win without the need for last second heroics.
New York Knicks (0-1) at Boston Celtics (1-0)
Round 1 Game 2
Tuesday, April 19
7:00 PM ET
Playoff Game #2, Home Game #2
TV: TNT, CSN-NE, MSG, TSN
Referees: Joe Crawford, Bennett Salvatore, Michael Smith The Celtics enter this game up 1-0 because of a last second Ray Allen three. That's the way you want to sneak out road wins and not the way to win at home. After a very sluggish start, they finally flipped the switch in the second half and played unselfishly on offense and clamped down on defense. Hopefully the switch is still on and the Celtics will get off to a strong start in this one.
There are some question marks to begin this game. First, Chauncey Billups went out at the end of game 1 and is listed as questionable for this game. After practice on Monday, Doc said they are preparing two game plans: one for if Billups plays and one for if he doesn't. If Billups can't go, Toney Douglas is expected to get the start. This may benefit the Knicks in the long run in that Douglas is a better defender and a better shooter from the perimeter than Chauncey.
On the Celtics side, Shaq is again not expected to play, but if Jermaine O'Neal can give them what he did in the first game, Shaq shouldn't be needed. Also, Nenad Krstic suffered a bone bruise in his knee in practice and is expected to play, but won't be 100%. There was a report on Yahoo after game 1 that Rondo was seen limping and with a wrap on his knee. I haven't seen any other reports about an injury to Rondo so it may have just been a minor tweak. Rondo is the key to making the offense go and also was big on the boards in game 1 and so hopefully he will be good to go for this one.
The Celtics bench didn't show up in game 1. The 4 players who came off the bench for the Celtics posted a total of 8 points and 8 rebounds. They must improve their effort and output in this game if the Celtics expect to get a win. The Celtics have 2 of the worst refs in the league officiating this game and so anything can happen in this game, depending on what agenda they bring into the game. The Celtics need to come into the game focused and play team ball and most importantly lock down defense from the opening tip until the final buzzer.
New York Knicks (0-0) at Boston Celtics (0-0)
Round 1 Game 1
Sunday, April 17
7:00 PM ET
Playoff Game #1, Home Game #1
TV: TNT, CSN-NE
Referees: Not announced The Playoffs are finally here and there are no more excuses for the Celtics. This is where they, as veterans, turn it up a notch and go into playoff mode. The Celtics will face their long time rival New York Knicks in what should be a very tough, physical and entertaining series. Both teams made trades at the deadline that essentially changed the complexion of the teams. Both teams have struggled at times and have had some success since the trades. This series is the ultimate testing ground for the success or failure of those trades.
The Knicks are healthy with no major injuries reported. The Celtics are still missing Shaquille O'Neal who couldn't pass a running test at Saturday's practice. Delonte West, who re-injured his ankle in the next to last game, is expected to play but won't be 100%. The Celtics will depend on Jermaine O'Neal, Nenad Krstic and Big Baby Davis in the middle to counter the Knicks trio of Shelden Williams, Ronny Turiaf and Jared Jeffries. Even without Shaq, the Celtics should have an advantage at the center position.
This will be a classic battle of offense vs defense. The Knicks score 106.6 points per game but give up 105.7 per game, a differential of +.78. The Celtics score 96.5 points per game but hold teams to a league leading 91.1 points per game, a differential of +5.37 per game. The Knicks aren't known for their defense and that can be the difference in the playoffs where defense becomes even more important. The Celtics will look to disrupt the Knicks offense on every possession and hopefully their offense will feed of their defense.
The Celtics struggled down the stretch but talked alot about being able to flip the switch in the playoffs. Let's hope the switch is now on. On the other hand, the Knicks seemed to find their stride down the stretch, winning 7 in a row before losing the finale to the Celtics in a battle of the benches. Both teams are rested and have had 3 days of practice. It's time for the real season to begin and there can be no more excuses and no second chances. It's win or go home and the Celtics should be able to get past the Knicks if they come in looking to be aggressive and to play with focus.