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.