This game has to be considered one of the most impressive victories of the season for the C’s. Going into the final quarter the Celtics faced a four point deficit. David Lee had woken up in the second half becoming a force on the glass. The Knicks were routinely beating the Celtics off the dribble, creating open looks for each other on the perimeter. The Celtics offense lacked any real rhythm, especially with the bench out there. Questionable officiating again arose, primarily in the Knicks favor. The Celtics were tired and the Knicks were hungry for a win in their gauntlet week of hosting NBA’s elite teams. The wheels appeared to be falling off for the C’s as they entered the fourth.
Then, a funny thing happened. The Celtics came together as a team and arguably played their best all around fourth quarter of the season. Make no mistake the Knicks did not play extremely well in this game, but they did not give it away either. The Celtics forcefully took it, with a well balanced offensive attack and stepped up defensive intensity. Let’s take a closer look at the keys to the frame:
Bench Production: Through the first three quarters, the Celtics bench had only contributed eight points against a defensively challenged New York team. The tone shifted from the onset of the fourth, as Leon Powe and Eddie House contributed monster performances on the offensive end going for 8 points each respectively in the final period.
Powe saw action for the entire final quarter and took advantage of open looks under the basket when Kevin Garnett was doubleteamed. He used these chances to find open space under the basket and get to the free throw line. Powe also had a stellar performance on the glass with seven rebounds, as he had a nose for the loose balls. His 27 minutes was his 2nd highest total for the season. Powe has appeared to regain his and Coach Doc Rivers’s confidence and his consistent play in the last few games should allow him to steal back some of Glen Davis’s minutes at the PF/C backup spot.
Eddie House also had a tremendous 4th quarter, like Powe playing the full 12 minutes and going 3 for 3 on field goal attempts including 2 of 2 from international waters. Eddie was unable to get going in the first three periods shooting wise going 0/2 but a stretch midway through the fourth appeared to give him a spark. Let’s take a closer look;
(4:48) Paul Pierce turns the ball over and as the Knicks try to get up the floor with it House picks off a David Lee pass at mid court, dribbles down the court and pulls up and swishes a 13 footer in a 2 on 1 break.
This shot was huge as it extended the Celtics lead to 6 (92-86) as the teams still had been trading baskets at that point in the 4th. In addition to the lead, the shot appeared to give Eddie confidence, as he assertively hit two more open threes in the next three minutes, helping the Celtics to go ahead for good. More after the jump.
Nice Rebound Performance by Doc Rivers: Doc had a tough last ten minutes in Thursday Night’s tilt against the Lakers. His personnel and play calling down the stretch (which I will look closer at in a article later today) left much to be desired and contributed to the Celtics fumbling the game away down the stretch.
Last night was a much different story for Doc. Rivers should be commended in finding the best offensive lineup for the C’s down the stretch by including House and an improved Leon Powe. Sticking with these two down the stretch was pivotal in the Celtics stretching the floor offensively and taking advantage of KG’s double teams.
Patience and movement on offense: The Celtics put on a clinic in this department in the final frame. The Celtics discovered quickly in the fourth quarter once Kevin Garnett reentered the game, the Knicks could not possibly match up with him and the rest of the Celtics lineup defensively. In the first half Garnett tried to assert himself early offensively taking 12 shots. He was effective in making five of them but shot through some tough double teams and did not try to pass out of them enough.
The 4th was a clear shift in philosophy for KG. When the Celtics fed him in the block, he patiently waited for the double team to come. Once it did he passed perfectly out of them on four straight possessions setting up three open jumpers for House and Pierce, as well as an and one for Powe. This stretch at the four minute mark seemed to suck the life out of the Knicks as the Celtics ran up their lead to 10 and the Knicks showed little fight in the final minutes to close the gap.
Neutralizing Al Harrington: While the majority of the talk in the fourth was about the Celtics offense, it should not be ignored how much better of a job Paul Pierce and the team’s defense did at the end of this game on Harrington. After going for 23 points in the first three periods, Harrington was limited by Pierce to four points in the fourth, all of them coming in the last couple minutes when the game’s result was not in doubt.
Pierce must be in the discussion for making the NBA all-defensive team this year with these kinds of performances as he took away Harrington’s open perimeter looks, and shut down his open lanes to the hoop. This forced Harrington to pass and make other Knicks beat the Celtics, as he shot only five shots in the fourth, in contrast with 21 over the first three.