If the Boston Celtics are going to make this series turn into a different direction than the one it’s heading in now, they’re going to need their entire team, from top to bottom, starters and bench, to show up for Game 2, with the New York Knicks knowing they played far from their best and still got away with a not too difficult win.
If there was one key player the C’s needs to play well and he didn’t was Kevin Garnett, who got 37 minutes despite hardly playing during the final five weeks of the season. He finished with only 4-12 from the field, scoring 8 points and getting five fouls to his name, struggling to handle the speed and strength of opposition, clearly looking more than just slightly rusty.
The Celtics are playing without a point guard, which means that their smartest players and best playcallers need to see more of the ball. Paul Pierce, scoring 21 points, is one of them, but it also means more touches to Garnett, who can do a lot with his passing, drawing attention to himself and freeing up Brandon Bass and Jeff Green.
The next thing the Celtics were missing was something from the bench that will give them a way to counter the scoring of Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. Instead, all they got was 0-7 from the field from their bench players and a disappointing 4 points combined from Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford, attempting several small and very small lineups.
The Knicks don’t have a problem with small-ball, showing that with their 3-1 record against the Miami Heat this season, and only 20 minutes needed out of Tyson Chandler in the game 1 win. Carmelo Anthony scoring 36 points did about half of the work, and the rest was excellent defense (15 steals, forcing 20 turnovers) while the Knicks controlled the board and simply looked more powerful and fresh than the Celtics who ran out of ideas at a certain point.
The Knicks do need better ball movement, and certainly more than the 13 assists they put up in the game. Playing that transparently again is an invitation for the Celtics to find their way back into the series, so as strange as it sounds, Anthony needs to hold up much less of the ball. If he’ll start playing a more sharing game, the Knicks won’t need to feel there’s a chance of losing a home game against the very limited Celtics.
Prediction – The Boston Celtics will be much more of a nuisance in Game 2, but this team is running on fumes, and can’t count on anyone but Paul Pierce, who isn’t the player he used to be. Anthony puts up incredible numbers once again and takes a 2-0 lead.