Knicks vs. Celtics Game 1 – Uplifting things and disconcerting things

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For this fan, Saturday brought back memories of the mid-to-late 1990s. Even though I was just a kid back then, I remember vividly many afternoons watching the New York Knicks in knock-down, drag ‘em out playoff games. Back then, they won a lot of those games, while the past two playoff cameos by the franchise has been wrought with losses. What reminded me most about the 90s from Saturday’s Game 1 was the wild range of emotions contained in a three-hour span. Judging by the Madison Square Garden crowd (reminding the NBA that it’s the hands-down best in the biz) many Knicks fans were right there with me.

When Carmelo Anthony hit his first four shots and had The Garden off it’s rocker, I felt like the Knicks would never lose again. When Avery Bradley was canning jump shots and made a bunch of uncontested layups, I had convinced myself that I was about to give up this whole watching basketball thing because it was all nonsense.

But that’s what the NBA Playoffs are all about, swings of momentum and emotion. Teams  play both poorly and badly within the same game. The Knicks did a bunch of good and bad in the game, as they will in every game as long as this playoff run lasts. Here were some of those from Game 1:

An uplifting thing – They won! No, really. The Knicks simply finding a way to get up 1-0 in this series is huge for obvious reasons. For the Knicks, it’s been over a decade since the team led in a playoff series. Winning Game 1 and holding serve at home means that the Knicks have to lose four out of the next five games in order to NOT get back to MSG for a Game 7. I’m not saying the Knicks want this thing to go seven, but if it does you know you’re in your own building. And the Knicks have been very, very good at home.

A disconcerting thing – The Celtics checked Melo well, and it destroyed the Knicks’ ball movement. Yes, he had 36 points, and made big plays down the stretch, but credit Doc Rivers for trusting Jeff Green and Brandon Bass to guard Melo one-on-one. Both Green and Bass did a consistently excellent job of forcing Melo to receive the ball much further out than he would have liked, and they didn’t send needless double teams. Melo has passed well out of doubles this season (with the supporting cast that makes teams pay for doubling him), but the Celtics trusted their one-on-one D on the Knicks’ top dog. Because they didn’t send doubles, the Knicks were very stagnant on offense, especially in the first three quarters. However…

An uplifting thing – Melo closed.  He hit his last four shots and his lone assist of the game was a dagger, hitting Kenyon Martin on the block with a 45-foot laser, through a double team on a pick-and-roll. This is why you make the trade the Knicks made for Anthony a million times out of a million. Often times the playoffs comes down to which team has the best player in the series. The Knicks have that advantage with Anthony, and will have it against anyone in the East not named the Heat. On top of that, in close, tight games you need guys who are going to get you two points when you absolutely need it, and Anthony is as good as anyone in the league at that.

A disconcerting thing – Tyson Chandler looked either still injured or out of game shape. Hopefully it’s the latter. I think the Knicks can actually get out of this series without a great contribution from Chandler. You don’t want Martin playing too many minutes for fear his knee might disintegrate at some point, but Martin totally outplayed Chandler in Game 1. For some reason I’m not sure I can explain, perhaps Martin just works more for the Knicks when they play the Celtics. I don’t know. I do know that the Celtics are damn near impossible to run a pick-and-roll against when the two defending it are Kevin Garnett and Avery Bradley, and that’s where Chandler excelled this year offensively. They’ll need him healthy and playing well if they want to go far, though.

An uplifting thing – The Knicks allowed just 25 second half points, and eight in the fourth quarter. The Celtics had the same amount of turnovers in the fourth as they did points. When you do that, you’re not going to win too often.

A disconcerting thing – Even with that dominant defensive second half, the Knicks won by just seven. Boston, the least efficient offensive team in the playoffs, scored 53 points in the first half.

An uplifting thing – The Knicks allowed 26 points to Jeff Green, 15 to Avery Bradley, were coaxed into a slogged down, defensive game, withstood a bunch of crappy calls (which occurred both ways, yes), only scored 85 points and won. While a lot of the narrative coming from the Celtics side of things is that they can play a lot better, so can the Knicks.

Overall, the Knicks should obviously be content with a 1-0 series lead and holding on to home court advantage. But many expect this to be a close series, and if the Celtics win Game 2 the entire tenor of things changes.

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5 thoughts on “Knicks vs. Celtics Game 1 – Uplifting things and disconcerting things

  1. Chris..the only really disconcerting thing is Tyson Chandler. Hopefully, it’s just ‘rust’ but if he’s very limited, this team can’t even think of upsetting Miami.

    As far as your other points, the only thing that matters is winning the game. When I look at this game, I see the trends to why I told you guys the NYK win this in 4, 5 max. Boston had 65 FG attempts, NY’s ‘D’ might not have Boston’s rep, but if you look they were 2nd, in NBA, giving up just under 78 FG attempts per game. If you get only 65 FG attempts in a game, you’re going to have a hard time winning. Second, Boston is the worst offensive rebounding team in the league, and the NYK, gave up the fewest offensive rebounds, Boston got 4 offensive rebounds (again, this plays into fewer FG attempts). Third, NY was +7 in TO (back to fewer FG attempts).

    So, in the end, we can talk about ‘Melo shooting/scoring and JRs ‘poor game’. We can talk about Boston holding NY to 40% shooting and we can talk about NY giving up 53pts in 1H. In the end, NY did what’s it had done ALL SEASON and Boston has done what it has ALL SEASON. For Boston to win, they either need to either hit the offensive boards more effectively, take more 3s and turn NY over more.

    They haven’t done that all season, why are we thinking they will now? I just don’t think you make more of this than it is. This match up so favors NY. An 8pt win, against Boston might as well be 15pts, they don’t score enough, so 8pts to them is a greater deficit than it would be to say..Denver.

    Reply
    1. First off, thanks for reading/commenting.

      I agree with you that the Knicks and Celtics both played “their game” to an extent. The Celtics aren’t an efficient offensive team and the Knicks almost always win the possession battle because they don’t turn it over, so that’s a big advantage for the Knicks.

      But the first half was concerning from a defensive standpoint, no? Don’t forget that KG did next to nothing offensively. While I don’t expect him to go off or anything, he shuld give Boston more than he gave them the other day.

      Reply
      1. I think the 1st half thing is more a good coaching move by Rivers. He watched film and saw NY was susceptible to the cutter. Pierce is a very good passer, so they took advantage. Bottom line, NY made an adjustment at half, so in my view, Boston isn’t going to surprise NY with that anymore.

        As for KG, why should he give Boston more than he has all season? The guy only averaged 29.7 minutes per game. He is clearly limited, and actually had to pull himself out of the game, in 4Q because he was winded. If KG is forced to contribute more offensively, it will just take away the effort he can give defensively.

        If I were coaching Boston here is what I think you’re supposed to do:

        -have Bradley pressure the ball up court, all the time, but make sure he understands it’s not steals they want it’s taking time off the 24 second clock
        -that would lead to more ‘Melo/JR isolations, which could hurt them, but could also hurt their 3pt shooters who wouldn’t see the ball rotate as freely
        -Double ‘Melo from the moment he touches the ball, push him around and even get a ‘T’, or 2, challenging him. ‘Melo hasn’t proven, in big spots, that he won’t resort to allowing his teammates to consistently beat you, or that he won’t become unglued under duress. It may look ugly, to the viewer, but who cares, this is about winning. When JR is on the court w/o ‘Melo, do the same thing to him.
        -On offense, when Kidd is in the game, you run him rabid, make him work on the defensive end. This isn’t easy to do, because NY switches a lot.
        -Pierce and KG, have to consistently feed Green and make him believe he’s the centerpiece. In 4Q, Green deferred to Pierce, making them very easy to guard.
        -Terry is finished, so see if you can get Courtney Lee going, by having him attack the rim more.
        -Beg Brandon Bass to get you 3 offensive boards a game.

        Again, none of this has happened to this point, but if Rivers’ is as good a coach as everyone thinks, he needs to sell things, that weren’t the norm. If he really believes his players, playing his game, is better than the Knicks, he’s fooling himself, his team and his fans.

        Reply
  2. I just think Garnett will average more than 8 points if he keeps playing 37 minutes. Believe me, I hope I’m wrong.

    Reply
    1. I think that is a good assumption, but I also think if KG plays 37 minutes, he’ll be ‘less efficient’. If he averaged 14+ in 29, I don’t think that ratio stays the same by bumping his minutes 23%. Sure, he may get you 4 more ppg, but on how many shots and at what cost to what he brings to their defense.
      In fact, if KG shoots more, that likely takes away from Jeff Green’s opportunities. I’ll take that trade. If KG really wanted to make an impact, he would make a concerted effort to get hit the ‘O’ boards and get 2-3 2nd chance scoring chances. He only averaged 1.1 ORB/game during the season (in fact he’s been right at that number for 4 years now-all age, offensive rebounding is nothing but effort, see Reggie Evans). If he could somehow, bump that to 3. He’d get easier scoring chances, and likely get to the line more than 3x/game.

      Worry not…this is over very soon.

      Reply

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