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Good Enough For Now: NY-BOS Game One Thoughts

 

Notable Metrics (courtesy hoopdata):

  • Boston Offensive Efficiency: 98.9 (bottom-of-the-league bad compared to regular season)
  • Boston Defensive Efficiency: 96.6 (top-of-the-league great compared to regular season)
  • Pace: 88 possessions (very slow)
  • Boston eFG%: 46.9 (regular season league average: 49.9%), from 16-23 feet (45.5%), from three (5-13)
  • New York eFG%: 47.4, from 16-23 feet (38.9%), from three (8-23)
  • Boston ORR: 41.7 (incredible — almost double their regular season rate!)
  • New York ORR: 31.0 (also would have lead the league in the regular season)
  • Boston TOR: 20.5 (terrible)

Submitted for your approval: the final two possessions of game one against the Knicks.

It was a joy to watch Ray Allen knock down that shot off what appeared to be an iteration of the C’s trusty flare play, but the game could have turned out differently, had any number of breaks gone New York’s way. If the refs don’t call that dubious offensive foul on Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks could have won. If they do call a dubious offensive foul on Kevin Garnett on the Allen three-pointer, the Knicks could have won.

This New York team may not have Boston’s playoff experience or consistent defensive intensity but they made great improvements over their regular season selves last night. They defended with gusto, particularly on the interior where they turned away multiple Boston layups (the Celtics, like the Knicks, shot only 50% at the rim, pedestrian figures compared to the regular season league average of 64.1%). As well, the Knicks proved they could hang with Boston during a slow paced game. And they have at least one player the Celtics had no answer for.

So, we’ve got a series here.

Of course, we’ve also got a series with Boston leading 1-0.

After a first quarter where both teams played disjointed getting-to-know-you basketball, the Celtics fell behind in the second quarter, struggling to convert from the field (discredit the bench on that one) while New York knocked down its jumpers. Despite what Doc Rivers suggested in the post-game presser, Boston wasn’t playing terrible defense. But it wasn’t the kind of physical, emotionally committed defense we want from the C’s in the playoffs.

As with all those frustrating regular season games, the early problems on both sides of the floor put Boston in a 51-39 hole at halftime.

In the second half, Boston came out with a totally different energy. They got into the Knicks’ bodies, they rebounded on both ends of the court and pushed tempo after stops (much credit to Rondo, who was again the engine that stirs the drink). As the game wore on, Boston completely stifled Anthony and Chauncey Billups (they were a combined 8-29 on the night). The results? Third quarter: Boston 20 New York 13. Fourth quarter: Boston 28 New York 21.

That’s a wipeout.

But it’s also a cautionary tale given the half measures of the first 24 minutes, because despite Boston’s eventual forceful play (as Doc might say) the C’s were still trailing in the final minute until this ‘can’t believe they ran that’ play out of a timeout gave the team a quick score and a two-for-one opportunity in the final 37 seconds:

A few more things of note:

  • Rondo was great. Yeah, he threw two passes away, but without his energy Boston loses this game by double digits. Not only that, playoff triple-double threat Rondo returned tonight. He was a monster on the glass, with 9 rebounds, and a few tipped balls. Clearly, Rondo isn’t worried about staying ahead of his man in transition when he’s hanging around the basket on Boston jumpers. And while it’s terrifying to think of him turning an ankle jumping around amongst the trees, the second chances he (and everyone else) generated juiced up this typically one-and-done offense.
  • Jermaine O’Neal gave the Celtics 23 great, critical minutes at the center spot. He finished with perfect 6-6 shooting, 4 rebounds and 4 blocks. It was his best game of the season and step one towards redemption. Doc rewarded him with key crunch time minutes and J.O. delivered good defense despite operating with 5 fouls.
  • Anthony was miserable, due to Boston’s team defense and work of Paul Pierce and Jeff Green specifically. Melo got sidelined with early foul trouble and never found his rhythm or managed to consistently get into the paint for good looks. He ended up finishing 5-18 from the field on a batch of forced up shots, and added 5 turnovers to boot. Much to the consternation of Knicks fans though, he still ended up with more crunch time touches than Amare Stoudemire, who, as we see below, was an absolute beast off-the-dribble.

  • It’s a little-discussed fact about KG that he’s not a great one-on-one defender off the dribble. Stoudemire can take him in ISO situations. Of course, Stoudemire can also take Glen Davis and J.O and finish over any of the three of them with authority. Which is why by the fourth quarter, KG was doing serious work just to deny STAT the ball. You can’t score if you don’t get the rock. So, Anthony got the rock instead. And he bricked that rock.
  • Also on the KG front – he finished with an impressive 15-13-3-3 line in one of his more assertive efforts of the last month.
  • Allen finally found enough open shots to put together a big game (24 points on 9-15 shooting). Allen also grabbed 6 rebounds (Sense a trend here? Gang rebounding gets it done).
  • The playoff rotation was as anticipated and the big four logged heavy minutes, also as anticipated. Rondo went for 43, Ray for 42, PP for 39, KG for 34. Those are big numbers even for the playoffs and with no more full weeks off, they’re probably not going to happen every game (although you never know with Ray and Rondo). But if Doc can get those kind of numbers every second game, the Celtics are in great shape.
  • No immediate word on Billups’ availability for Tuesday after his late-game knee injury. The Knicks are calling it a strain. The guess here is that Billups doesn’t play. But considering how well Boston handled him, and the way Rondo was able to freelance with him on the court, that may not be to the Celtics’ benefit.

So, that’s a wrap for now. We’ll have more as the day goes on.

  • Zee

    Billups probably won't play. I watched all of the postgame interviews on NBA TV and he expressed great pain. And the way he looked when he fell… not good. I hope he's okay though. Life before NBA.

    At any rate, the foul you mention about KG in the "Ray play" wasn't the first foul that occurred. Anthony fouled Paul first. So Paul actually would've received two shots had refs been on their job, and we would've been in OT possibly.

    At any rate, this was a meet and greet game. We now know how New York plans to play, and the objective of the first game is to win (of course), and gain a psychological advantage with it – make a statement if you will. Now Knicks will play desperate basketball. And when desperate, you make sloppy play and poor decisions. You get hasty, and that seems to be Melo's M.O. from what I see. He may be able to shoot, but he doesn't seem to always make smart plays (like when he took that ill-advised three pointer instead of driving to the basket).

    Whether Billups comes back or not, I believe our C's are ready. We now see what they have to offer and bring. And if this is it, we should do well. I think we can sweep them, honestly.

    Lastly, Melo sounded nervous in his postgame presser. He was very upset with this loss. They psychology of the loss is already at work.

  • Zee

    FYI: You may want to remove the "top seed" poll now and ask another question. :-)

  • Zee

    One other thing… Thank God for CP3! :-)

  • Brian B

    What impressed me about the Celt's rotation was the versatility – with all the negative talk about the Perkins trade (Steve Kerr's tedious theme for the night), this showed the positives. Green came in for Allen, moving Pierce to the two. Then West came in for a big. Then Allen came in for Pierce, leading to a three guard offence. With the Knick's small lineups, this worked very well, and extended the bigs' minutes.

  • Tom

    Green sucks, get over it. He doesn't do anything great, at least TA was good on defense.

    They stole this game from the Knicks, KG can't stop Amare, neither can Big Baby. I forgot who said it, but JO did help win one game. His blocks were great, now he just has to get a rebound

    • Alex

      Here, here. Green's versatility is nice, but he's not good enough to play a major role on a legitimate title contender.

    • Sweeney

      Sure they did, but that is what happens to good teams. KG cannot stop Amare, you're right. Though, who else on that team is going to do anything? Amare is a great talent, but conversely Melo is a head case and does not make good decisions in the clutch. As evidence I submit a 28' jump shot with time on the clock instead of driving and drawing contact.

      As for TA vs. JG, I will take JG all the time. TA was good for two or three plays in which you asked "What is he doing". I don't miss that at all and JG's defense on Melo was pretty darn good but he is going to make shots cause he is a scorer.

      • jack

        i would take tony any day. green lacks the toughness, emotion, intensity, and defense that allen brought. Just look at this year for an example Tony is shining in Memphis as a defensive presence and leader while Green is struggling as our 7th man.

        Im not giving up on Green but i do not think that he was the best that we could have gotten for Perk

    • ElRoz

      KG did stop Amare at NY the last game. Amare had a vry good game, it doesn't mean he will have it all the time. Watch forKG to be more assertive as well – Amare cannot stop him either.

  • phreesh

    The Knicks came within a whisper on the Celtics' home court. They played outstanding defense, their greatest weakness heading into the playoffs. They discovered who their go-to guy should be. Once they find a way to get open for threes and find some refs who, you know, call fouls, they're sending the Celtics home.

    Watch for it.

  • Sean

    Nah, people forget that TA was an offensive liability, and didn't really come into his own defensively until last postseason. Before that, he was a good for a couple dunks and a steal at best. Jeff Green has the skills to make a serious impact on this playoff run. Fact is, I feel really good with him and West in there running our second string offense, and that was NEVER the case last year. If he can get a few defensive stops on some of the big whigs (Melo, Lebron) going forward, then he'll have done his job. That said, Iwould love to see a few games where the second string wins us a game, because they have to talent to do so, and the starters need all the rest they can get.

    • Alex

      And don't forget that TA had a remarkable talent for botching one of those sure-thing dunks.

  • JKSIMMS

    I thought the Celtics shouldn't of allowed the Knicks to get easy shots. Instead of turning on the switch for the last 28 mins it should be all 48 mins. The Celtics have to be more consistent of the defensive and offensive end.

  • skeeds

    The Celtics have the luxury to have probably the only answer to Carmelo's I-score-anyway-I-like game, since Pierce is exactly as big, quick, and crafty.
    But damn this stat guy is serious trouble. I don't think anyone can take him one on one, no PF is as fast, strong and solid on defence. So I think we're going into a "let him do what he does, and stop all the others" kind of thing, as with last years Cavs, or Magic, or Heat…
    In a team that features Carmelo Anthony, to be a better go-to guy is a big thing…

  • CsFanInArkansas

    STAT had a big game – certainly he is capable of doing that night in and night out. Although KG can't guard him well when he puts the ball on the floor, KG can pick it up in terms of trying to deny Amare the ball/position. The more difficult it is to get the ball in Amare's hands, the more trouble the Knicks have in finding a flow – and the more the other Knicks will have to freelance and put shots up…I'd rather see anyone on that team besides Amare get shots.

    Definitely a game we could have lost. I'm glad we're up 1-0, though. I think we'll be sharper Tuesday – not another 40% shooting night.

    That second Q was painful….

    CELTICS!!!

  • ElRoz

    I hope the C's bad offense was due to rust. I expect them to score better game 2.

    • Zee

      It wasn't rust. It was simply not knowing how active the Knicks were going to come out of the gate. They came with a force they didn't have all season. But now that we know what to expect, it will be quite different. As you already saw, we shut them down the 2nd half and outscored them.

  • Zee

    Yet and still, the focus is on thinking WE got away with a no call on KG. But Melo fouled Paul before KG committed his foul. You can focus on one no call, without focusing on the one that happened first. So, therefore, both cancel each other out and we're even.

  • Zee

    Which game would you pick as best game of the year this past season? For me, it would be the Celts vs Knicks game back in December. Paul had the amazing finish in that one too!

    See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stSm9Ez-q7I

  • Zee

    I would like to add some SERIOUS perspective on this 21 second foul called on Melo. By the book, was it a foul? Yes. Because it's late in the game and the playoffs, are refs supposed to say ease up on a last minute call?

    See, this thing works both ways. Had it not been called, then C's fans would be upset if we lost. So naturally, Knicks fans are upset over the call ONLY because THEY lost.

    But technically, the call was made BY THE BOOK, so don't get mad and say the refs gave you the game. No, Melo gave us the game by committing a foul. Those same calls were made early in the game, and Melo obviously didn't learn his lesson. He committed 2 fouls in the opening minutes of the game. Fouls of similarity. So whose fault is that??? His alone. Knicks fans need to blame Melo.

    As for KG's no call, MELO foul Paul before that and it was not called either. But why is it that no-one thinks THAT call should've also been made?

    See, people tend to want to ask for calls/no calls when in their favor. At least be objective about it… Smh….

    • Zee

      And if you're wondering where all this is stemming from, it's this piece on ESPN. Go to t he bottom where the question is asked "What's your take on the offensive foul on Melo with 21 seconds left?"
      http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2011/news/

      One poster made a very good point, saying,

      "During the course of a game, both teams benefit from calls… just because it's towards the end of the game doesn't change anything. Why didn't the Knicks defend the alley oop in the last minute? If they defended that possesion they probably would have won. It's execution that wins and loses games, not calls."

  • DRJ1

    Cs need tough early rounds to get into championship shape… physically, and more important, mentally. So we should thank NY for giving us exactly what we need.

  • Steve

    Great analysis. I thought the Amare-Garnett matchup was key if Amare could keep Garnett occupied on defense leaving Carmello one on one with Pierce and Green. I agree that Billups loss gives Douglas and Fields more minutes, which athletically helps the Knicks but kills them experience-wise.
    Having waited 7 years for the Knicks to be back, watching their effort on defense was very encouraging.
    This series is a great springboard for the Franchise's next 5 years, as they are learning playoff basketball from the best.

  • kricky

    Melo was still 1-10 before that call and likely to have missed a bad shot knowing the ball hog he is. It's not like he got called for a charge on a made basket. (See Roy Hibert tonight for what a real bad call looks like)

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