The saying says that you can’t win in the NBA playoffs without a third scoring option. So with Carmelo Anthony being just OK and J.R. Smith being disappointing, it was up to Iman Shumpert to fill in the scoring void for the struggling New York Knicks, winning game 6 in Boston and sending the Celtics to what might be a painful summer while advancing into the conference semifinals for the first time in 13 years.
Shumpert finished with 17 points and 6 rebounds, including a perfect day from beyond the arc, giving the Knicks that final necessary push in the end. Boston were down by 26 points sometime in the fourth but made an impossible charge back to be down by only four. Carmelo Anthony, on another bad shooting day (7-23, 1-6 from beyond the arc) started hitting shots that pulled the Knicks away after seeing the Celtics within touching distance at 79-75.
Anthony finished with 21 points and finished with an average of 29.1 points per game on an awful less than 40% from the field. It is tied for the second highest scoring average for a Knicks player in a series vs the Celtics, following only Patrick Ewing from 1990 with 31.6 points per game.
But while Anthony simply shot, shot and mostly missed, others did important work too. Tyson Chandler was a difference maker every time he was on the court – With Chandler in the game, the Knicks outscored the Celtics by 56 points but they were minus-24 with him on the bench. The Knicks outrebounded the Celtics by 28 and shot 41 percent on 3-pointers with Chandler on the floor, but when he was on the bench the Knicks were outrebounded by 8 and shot 23 percent on threes.
This was one last battle cry from the Boston Celtics, but their awful offense couldn’t last them for long. Jeff Green scored 21 points and Kevin Garnett was quite efficient one more time with 15 points on 7-10 from the field, but Paul Pierce hasn’t been able to hit open jumpers all series long, finishing with an embarrassing 1-9 from beyond the arc, doing more harm than good each time he decided to shoot the ball instead of moving it along.
The Knicks have one player who was here last time they won a playoff series – Marcus Camby, who got two minutes to provide the link between past and present. That team he played for, along with Patrick Ewing and Latrell Sprewell, reached the Eastern finals in 2000, and anything less than that will be a disappointment this year as well.
It’s a major step for this organization, for our fans in New York who’ve been with us for many, many years. I’m looking at the big picture and I’m only in this for one thing and that’s to try to win an NBA title. We made a major step today, but we’ve got a long way to go.
While the Celtics were left to lick their wounds and try and make their way through of all the questions about disassembling and retirement, the Knicks finally find themselves in unfamiliar territory: not having to make up excuses after about two weeks of playoff basketball.