Another 2nd Half Shutdown: Knicks Rally Behind Defense, Beat Celtics In Game 2

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23! No, I’m not talking about the iconic number of one of game’s greatest players. 23 indicates the new record for offensive futility that the Boston Celtics set last night in the second half while under pressure from the Knicks defense. The Celtics could only put up 23 points (11 and 12 in the third and fourth quarters, respectively) when faced with the likes of Kenyon Martin in the lane, resulting in a decisive 87-71 Knicks victory.

We’re still waiting on that complete 48-minute game when it comes to defense, but the Knicks put the clamps down when it mattered and reminded the Celtics this isn’t the team they swept back in 2011.

 

TRIGGER-HAPPY REFS IN 1ST QUARTER: For whatever reason, the referees decided to call the first quarter like they were afraid a fight was going to break out. BS fouls were being called on both teams, resulting in Iman Shumpert, Kevin Garnett and Tyson Chandler having to take quick seats. Offensively, the Knicks didn’t truly get going until newly crowned Sixth Man of the Year JR Smith came in. Swish went 4-4 for nine points in just 8 minutes with the last two being his patented stepback outside jumper and a breathtaking buzzer-beating three-pointer from 36 feet to give New York a 26-20 lead.

SLEEPWALKING THROUGH THE SECOND: The Knicks had a putrid second quarter all-around. Steve Novak and Chris Copeland continued their invisible play. Jason Terry found his stroke from downtown (3-3) that helped spark a 11-0 Boston run to take a 31-27 lead. At one point, Boston lead by as much as 10 as the Knicks offense degraded into predictable Melo isos. The Knicks couldn’t protect the ball either as the Celtics got 16 points off turnovers and outscored the Knicks 28-16 to hold a 48-42 halftime lead.

The only positive from this quarter was Garnett getting hit with his third foul.

 

BACK TO REALITY: The Celtics shot 57% over the first half and we know that wasn’t going to continue. Iman Shumpert hit back to back treys that erased the Celtics lead, and from there it was all Knicks. Melo rebounded from a slow first half (3/11 shooting) and lit up Boston for 13 points in the third and 34 points overall. Whenever the Celtics tried to make a run in the fourth, a few quick Melo jumpers kept them from getting closer than nine.

With Melo and Smith guaranteed to get theirs every night, the Knicks always have a need for a third guy to step up on offense. Last night it was Raymond Felton (16 points, 7 rebounds), who pushed the pace and ran the Celtics ragged with his drives into the lane.

The interior defense from Tyson Chandler, who had a huge block on Avery Bradley, and Kenyon Martin, who had four big blocks in the second half, kept the Celtics a jump-shooting team. K-Mart in particular was huge with 11 rebounds (3 offensive) and keeping Garnett (4-9, 12 points) working hard to get post position. His defense was also the main catalyst for Jeff Green not being able to get anything going to the basket.

The Knicks will need to be even better on Friday when they head into Boston for what will no doubt be a highly emotional game. Let’s pay back that 2011 series with a sweep of our own.

The Grind: Knicks Ride 2nd Half Defense, Take Game One Over Celtics 85-78

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The Knicks can’t win without hitting a ton of threes. No one on that squad plays defense outside of Kenyon Martin and Tyson Chandler. They can’t handle a physical defense. There has been a lot of bullshit spewed against the Knicks by network talking heads over the last few months. I don’t expect much of their flawed narrative to change due to one game, but the Knicks sure looked like a team ready for the tough playoff grind as they gutted out an old-school, half-court battle with the Boston Celtics. This was far from a polished performance, and that’s exactly why this win is promising as the Knicks will surely improve as the series progresses.

 

THE HELL WITH EFFICIENCY. GIVE ME BUCKETS WHEN IT COUNTS!: It’s no secret that success for the Knicks starts and ends with the play of Carmelo Anthony. Early on Melo was on fire in hitting his first four shots (two from downtown). He then went extremely cold from the field. People made a lot about this, claiming that Melo was holding the ball too long. That’s true on some possessions, but many times Melo was given the ball in the possession’s final seconds when our guards failed to get any penetration.

Melo stayed with it and got hot when it counted in the fourth quarter. With the game on the line, he hit back to back jumpers to push the Knicks lead to 76-72. A deflection caused a Boston turnover and Melo promptly went on a one-man fastbreak to hit a layup and make the lead 81-76. The final dagger would come with little over a minute when Melo hit a long jumper over Jeff Green. And for further emphasis, Melo countered a hard trap by finding K-Mart under the basket to make it 85-78.

I’m not a stat nerd and could care less if Melo shoots 35% or 60% as long as we win. These games will be decided in the fourth and from what we saw yesterday, Melo is ready to meet the challenge.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xH2vUCxpmh8&feature=youtube_gdata_player]

 

25 AND 8: These are two numbers sum up our second half defense. First off, the Knicks should have been embarrassed to give up 53 first half points to that Boston offense (particularly letting Jeff Green go off for 20 points). They took the challenge in the second half by holding Green to just six points in the final 24 minutes. The Celtics only scored 25 points in the entire second half and 8 points in the fourth quarter!

Two guys were essential in this defensive stand: Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin. Kidd was all over the passing lanes and totally killed the ball movement in the Celtics offense, being the catalyst for six fourth quarter Boston turnovers (20 for the game). And K-Mart played superb D on Garnett, swallowed up numerous offensive boards, and protected the pain like a madman. The below block sums up what we want out of our defense on every possession.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0f_5sXXcyE&feature=youtube_gdata_player]

 

JR’S DUNK: JR’s shot wasn’t going down yesterday, but he remained aggressive. Like Melo, he had key buckets in the fourth, including a three-point play layup over Kevin Garnett. His biggest play came in the first half courtesy of this massive dunk below.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWWlmdPreyo&feature=youtube_gdata_player]

 

NO FAVORITES: I was highly worried about Coach Woodson’s sanity when I heard he was considering starting James White. Thank God that didn’t happen. What I liked most about Woody’s decisions is that he played no favorites with the lineup. Tyson Chandler wasn’t as strong defensively as K-Mart, so Woody went with the latter to close out the fourth. Chris Copeland has been a prolific scorer to close out the season, but he had jitters and also couldn’t contain Green. Woody quickly benched him as well. They’ll get more chances to contribute as adjustments are made, but I’m extremely happy to see Woody’s stubborn tendencies eradicated.

The Knicks get one more day of rest tomorrow which bodes well for a potential Tuesday return of Pablo Prigioni.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gYRrGcZ4Sc&feature=youtube_gdata_player]

Happy Easter, Boston! Knicks Dominate Celtics 108-89, Take Season Series

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2004. That is the last time the Knicks won a season series against the Boston Celtics. Here we are nine years later with the Knicks breaking that drought emphatically with three straight wins (two in Boston) over their Atlantic division rivals to win the season series 3-1 and extend their winning streak to eight. Are the Knicks about to peak heading into April and the playoffs? There’s many reasons from this game to think so.

BLOWN OPEN IN THE SECOND: The Knicks had a 28-23 lead after one solely based on their hot shooting (52% from the field), punctuated by 4 three-pointers. The Celtics were right there with them courtesy of Jeff Green (27 points), who attacked the rim like JR Smith has been doing lately. But when the second quarter came around, the Knicks ran them out the building.

Chris Copeland provided some key offense with Melo on the bench by hitting his first two three-pointers. Steve Novak added a few treys and Jason Kidd added a shot-clock bailout one that extended the lead to 60-44. The three-point shooting was the main factor in the huge lead, as the Knicks hit 11 of them at the half. The ball movement was on point (15 assists for the team), and the scoring was evenly distributed.

You’ll recall the Knicks ran away with the last Celtics game in the second and capped their excellent play with a deep JR trey at the buzzer. Well, Raymond Felton did one better with a beyond half-court floater that banked in to make the lead 65-48. When shots like that are going down, you know you’re in trouble.

[youtube http://youtu.be/Enf4PBVoNyA]

NO THIRD QUARTER MELTDOWN: Over the first 4-5 minutes of the third, the Celtics were the team with momentum. They were getting to the line and hitting threes, which got them as close as 11 on a few occasions. However, the Knicks responded with timely buckets each time, the biggest being a Felton 3-point play that gave Avery Bradley, the Celtics’ best perimeter defender, his fifth foul. NY finished the quarter strong and Boston faced a 86-69 hole headed into the fourth.

BOSTON SUCKS!: These type of Madison Square Garden chants have come back to haunt us in previous games, but not tonight. The chants started at the beginning of the fourth and the Celtics never could provide any reason to shut the Knicks fans up. Paul Pierce had a good night (24 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists), but sat the entire fourth as coach Doc Rivers knew it was a lost cause.

JR COOLS OFF: JR Smith’s 30 point game, 50% shooting streak ended tonight on a very good note. I say that because we all wondered if JR would go back to his chucking ways when his shots weren’t going down. He was 4/12 from the field, but made sure to get to the line (7/10) and swallow up rebounds (12) on the small ball-minded Celtics. Tonight he faced one of the best defenses in the league and didn’t mentally have a setback, the clearest sign thus far that the “New JR Smith” is here to stay.

PABLO PRIGIONI REMAINS UNDEFEATED: Since Prigioni entered the starting lineup, the Knicks have been on this season-high eight-game win streak. It shouldn’t be surprising as Prigioni expertise in ball movement and steals/deflections have made sure the offense remains diverse with everyone being a scoring threat (except himself, of course). Pablo will get his biggest test on Tuesday against the Heat.

MELO’s 27 MINUTES: Carmelo had under 20 shots tonight (9/19) which is always a plus for the ball movement. The reason he ended up with 24 points instead of 32 is his struggles converting at the rim. A lot of them were point-blank shots that were just rimming out. But like JR, he contributed in other areas, namely in nabbing 10 rebounds. His defense was lazy at times (being late on switches and not contesting Green’s drives to the rim), but these lapses weren’t a huge detriment.

KNICKS SURVIVE THEIR TOUGHEST MONTH OF THE SEASON: How difficult was the month of March? We lost Tyson Chandler, Kurt Thomas and Amar’e Stoudemire to injuries, leaving just two bigs on the team. Melo missed several games with a bum knee and appeared in dire straits at times. Our West Coast trip proved to be a disaster going 1-4, and the Brooklyn Nets at one point were one game out of the top of the Atlantic Division. This winning streak helped the Knicks finish the month 12-6, stay atop the Atlantic by 4.5 games, and remain poised to have a healthy and confident team headed into the playoffs.

We’ve vanquished Boston. Now it’s time to make a statement to Miami and win that season series on Tuesday.

[youtube http://youtu.be/dLvKgUaT3Ls]