National Basketball Association
EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS
NEW YORK KNICKS (0-1)
Boston Celtics (1-0)
NEW YORK KNICKS: They Let A Golden Opportunity In Boston Slip Away. For Forty-Seven Minutes the Knicks Played a Defensive Gem. Only The Last Minute Was Forgettable.
Did the Knicks let one get away? You bet! They were sensational for three quarters. But the Celtics were never that far behind and rose up in the 4th quarter to snatch victory from the Knicks. That's what they get for letting the Celts loiter around the scoreboard.
With 4:00 left in the fourth quarter, Mr. Big Shot; Chauncey Billups finally hit a big shot. His three-pointer made the score 78-75. Amare Stoudemire slammed home a reverse dunk to increase the Knicks' lead to 80-75. Another Stoudemire slam had the Knicks up 82-78 with 2:45 left. Then, Ronnie Turiaf kept the defensive pressure on Boston with his 5th blocked shot of the game. With a little over one minute left, Amare had twelve points in the fourth quarter to that point.
But by 1:12, the score was tied 82-82.
After forty-seven minutes of superlative basketball, the last minute of the game witnessed a Knick unravelling.
Chauncey Billups attempted a left-handed lay-up (in which he got hacked over the head by the way), and crashed to the floor, writhing in pain. He stayed down while play continued the other way after the missed attempt. A few moments later left the game. He suffered a sprained left knee and self-admittedly, was in much pain. That came with 50.7 seconds left.
Then, with 37.8 second left, Tony Douglas nailed a huge three-pointer for the Knicks.
A point of major contention for fans about Coach D was that he didn't save a time out for the end of the game, and he didn't prepare his team for the back-door alley-oops! Kevin Garnett slammed home with 37.3 seconds left. But the fact remains the Knicks still had a one point lead and the ball going forward.
This is when it got worse for the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony was called for a very questionable offensive foul. Yes! ...it was questionable for that moment when AP and Melo were BOTH jostling for position. Did Melo's elbow get high? Yep. But that whistle was best left not blown.
Boston now had the ball with 21.0 seconds left in regulation time. Boston worked it down and with 11.6 seconds left on the clock, Ray Allen burried a back-breaking three point shot.
That made the score 87-85 but the Knicks had no time outs left to call. So, the ball found it's way into Melo's hand for one last shot to tie or for the win. Melo was thinking three all the way. He didn't even try to penetrate. He chucked up a bad shot with two Celtics on him, that clanked off the front of the rim. Time ran out, and the Knicks let one get away.
Melo took the biggest shot of the night alright. But it turned out to be that elbow he got whistled for. Two points on that possession might have been enough to seal the game for the Knicks. But then again, had Chauncey made his attempted lay-up and not gotten hurt, the outcome could have been equally different.
I don't really get caught up with whistles and with who gets them and who doesn't. So I'm not interested in the foul called against Melo. Garnett should have been whistled for his trip/pick and a foul should have been called on the play when Chauncey got hurt. He should have been the beneficiary of a continuation call. That's the way whistles go.
As far as Melo, he was brought here to talk that last shot. He missed. What are you going to do? If Coach D manages a few things differently along the way towards a melt-down....
Scratch that. It was a good game. Coach D had a good game plan. We fell a shot short. The Knicks proved they'll be competitive. They are going to give themselves a shot.
The Knickerbockers: This is what I'm thinking...
First, we didn't have an answer for Ray Allen as I suspected. Allen was quiet early in the game. But he killed in the fourth quarter and in the closing minute of the game. Landry Fields all but disappeared. Some one is going to have to match Ray Allen's points this series if the Knicks want to keep pace with Boston. Look at Melo and Pierce, and Garnett versus Amare as a wash. The next key match-up would be Allen versus....fill in the blank. Ray Allen was the only Celtic who scored over twenty points. He scored twenty four killer points against us to be exact. We need an answer for that. That's on Coach to figure out.
Secondly, Jermaine O'Neal absolutely killed off the bench going 6-6 and twelve points. Boston holds the advantage over the Knicks in size and bench depth. After steady doses of Garnett and small doses Big Cry Baby, O'Neal is tough to handle; lest we speak of the injured Shaq.
Paul Pierce was held to eighteen points on the night. Carmelo had an equally low night of proficiency scoring only fifteen points for the Knicks; highlighted by his last shot of the game miss.
About that miss...., I get it. Carmelo was brought here to take that shot. But I believe in playing the hot hand. Boston might have clamped down on Amare in the closing minutes Sunday night, but after scoring twelve points in the quarter, and having a dominant over-all game, I think you can design plays to isolate Amare or set picks for him (like Boston did to shake Allen loose...right?). That's on Coach.
Why were the Knicks in this game in the first place? Defense! Deee-Fense! The Knicks can make this a very good series and win games if they commit to the same kind of defensive effort they put forth Sunday night. It really was a superlative effort on their part. After that kind of defensive performance, I'm always aghast whenever I see anything less. Defense is all in the mind. You just have to want to commit to it.
But did that defensive effort come against a Celtics team having an average night? Or did we defend the Celtics at their best? That's what I want to know, and what we're going to find out. Both teams were held to under ninety-points. And we did almost take them on their floor. But if the Celtics kick things up a notch, can the Knicks hang? Think about that Boston fourth quarter comeback, only longer. Now think about having to move forward without Chauncey Billups. The Knicks have their work cut out for them.
Melo was down but we should have a realistic expectation he'll score more as the series moves forward. But what of Ronny Turiaf? Ronny Turiaf had himself a really good game scoring nine points and blocking five shots. His defense was highly commendable. But can we depend on him for a few more games at that level? We don't have Boston's bench. The Knicks NEED everything Turiaf can give. Tony Douglas' defense was also commendable. The Knicks are in desperate need of these two playing, if only fairly well, but they must play consistently well.
Landry Fields? He spent a lot of time chasing Ray Allen around Sunday night, but not much else. I don't know what this series has in store for him. His problem is, before the Melo trade, he literally found his niche on this team and excelled. That cast is gone along with the dynamic it presented for Landry. He now needs to recreate a niche for himself in an offense tailored towards Melo first and Amare second. Heck! Coach D is still figuring out how to integrate them. That's what happens when you go from the Team System, to the Star System in basketball.
Defense is still the key though, to any Knicks' success against the Celtics.