The things that are true of game one may not be true of game two, but if any of the following make repeated appearances Tuesday night, we’ll find ourselves faced with “narratives,” which we’re contractually obligated to track on the supercomputer deep beneath stately CelticsHub manor.
In that spirit, here are a few inputs for the mainframe from the first 48:
The Rotation – With Tyson Chandler a non-factor, the Knicks were plenty willing to play small, but it’s still surprising that Doc Rivers went an entire game without using a single one of his backup bigs. There’s some tactical logic there, but it also lays bare his complete lack of faith in Chris Wilcox, who finally played himself out of the rotation. Just in time for the playoffs. Don’t expect him back next year.
Those of you crying the beloved Shavlik probably have a point, especially with Kevin Garnett looking out of rhythm. Wilcox has been such a mess all year that it wouldn’t surprise me if he rode pine all series, but before the C’s turn in another 8-point-quarter, it might be time to set Randolph loose on the offensive boards.
Avery Bradley – Some good, some bad. New York got a bit nappy on Avery’s cuts, which allowed him to slash in for layups and the glass half full crowd could find legit hope that his jumper may reappear for the postseason after he drained a couple. Of course, he also made a few atrocious entry passes that got picked off (Doc flagged them in his postgame presser) and just doesn’t have shot creation in his offensive arsenal. He’s going to do more on defense as the series progresses. Is that going to be enough of a contribution?
The Pierce Funnel – Boston ran everything through a mid-post Pierce early on and the Knicks were content to send doubles that Pierce (mostly) beat with good passes. Fast forward to the second half and a tiring Pierce (6-15, including 1-7 from the arc) was stuck in face-up situations and had only one shot inside 16 feet against a New York defense that turned up its intensity (and smarts).
It’s clear Boston will have to run a lot of offense through Pierce all series and with Brandon Bass and Jeff Green available to bother Carmelo Anthony, he should have enough in the tank to handle the usage. But if it takes the form of ISOs and failed, forced switches and comes without good hard picks to get him some separation, we could see some ugly shooting numbers out of Pierce. And more big turnover numbers.
Bonus context: the Celtics did a great job forcing Melo into taking a bunch of tough shots but he still shot a better percentage than Pierce.
Jason Terry – He had a terrible regular season. He’s not getting anywhere near the kinds of PNR action he’s become used to over the length of his career. Is he done? Or like Green earlier in the year, does Doc need to up his usage to try and break him out of this season-long slump?
Three Balls – NY: 9-25. BOS: 5-20. Neither team wants to lose as a result of made three-pointers. So far, so good. Especially for New York.
Kenyon Martin – Who needs his 10 points and 9 rebounds? Certainly not Boston. Right?
Crawford and the Bench Scoring Conundrum – What the hell happened here? Jordan Crawford played 11 minutes and didn’t attempt a single shot. He didn’t deal out a single assist. He didn’t even turn the ball over. These are the three things Crawford is built to do in this life. If Doc’s going to play him, he has to let him off the leash a little bit. Courtney Lee also deserves notice for his nearly empty outing.
There’s some tension here between a) valuing possessions and living through your stars and b) asking your B (and C) level guys to make plays and living with the results. We’re still in search of the right balance on that one.
Covering Melo/Covered By Melo – Sixteen misses. Only six free throw attempts. The Celtics will take that out of Melo every game. In particular, Bass did a great job pushing Melo off his spots even as the Knicks got all wide-eyed and tried to exploit that coverage with ISO situations that, often as not, backfired. On the other hand, Melo put the screws to Green in the second half, applying the same kind of pressure he was seeing. And Green withered. When Anthony’s that dug in, you don’t want Green on an island on the wing. Put him in a pick and roll. Get him the ball coming off the weak side. Try and get someone smaller or bigger than Anthony guarding him. He’s been good at attacking when he gets a favorable switch. Fair or not, Boston needs him all game, every game. One great half isn’t going to do it.