Most people thought this series between the Knicks and the Celtics would be a long one. Knicks fans who thought that would be the case, like myself, thus shouldn’t have been too devastated on Sunday when the Knicks’ valiant effort to sweep the series fell short in overtime. Right?
Personally, I think the 3-0 lead the Knicks took spoiled me a bit. Heading into the series I was just hoping the Knicks would win somehow, anyhow, but on Sunday I thirsted for the sweep. I guess it was probably a payback thing, wanting to stick it to the Celtics on their home floor. But we return back to New York Wednesday for a Game 5, a game the Knicks figure to be favored in. Before we get there, let’s head back to Game 4 for a few observations:
An uplifting thing: Raymond Felton. He’s been one of the unsung players for the Knicks all season, and Sunday damn near won them a playoff game all by himself. With J.R. Smith asininely suspended, Felton took on the secondary scoring load, even if it took him until the third quarter to get going. And by “get going” I really mean “explode”. Felton scored 16 points in the third quarter to help cut the Knicks’ deficit from 20 to three, mostly making perimeter jumpers when the Celtics kept deciding to go under screens on him. Felton also continued to play excellent defense, as he has all series, on Celtics much taller than him. His solid two-way play has been a big factor in the series so far.
A disconcerting thing: I’m as big a defender of Carmelo Anthony as anyone, but Sunday was one to forget for the Knicks’ lead man. Yes, he was able to get to the free throw line a lot…but he missed two big ones down the stretch. The Knicks were still able to get to OT, but missed free throws in the final minutes are never a good thing, especially from the guy you want with the ball in crunch time. And yes, he scored 36 points…but missed 25 (!) field goal attempts, all seven of his 3-point attempts, and had seven of the Knicks’ 15 turnovers. Worse off aren’t the ghastly shooting numbers, it’s the way Anthony tried to go about getting buckets throughout most of the game, especially down the stretch. Make no mistake, Anthony is the guy you want to feature in close games late, but how about a pick-and-roll between him and Felton? Chances are Melo won’t have a game that bad in a while, which would be quite helpful to the Knicks’ chances in these playoffs.
An uplifting thing: The Knicks showed a lot of grit in coming back after a terrible first half. After halftime, the Knicks remembered to stop turning the ball over, committing just three in the entire second half and OT (as compared to 12 in the first half). And as they have all series, the Knicks’ defense after halftime was incredible, allowing 30 points in the 3rd and 4th quarters.
A disconcerting thing: I don’t think this was the best day for coach Mike Woodson, who has seemingly pushed every right button up until this point. Firstly, in a game where you’re missing your second best scorer, it’s worth questioning why Chris Copeland didn’t play a second. And then you realize that Quentin Richardson played meaningful minutes and…well, huh? Understandably Copeland’s defense leaves a lot to be desired, and maybe that’s why Woodson refused to go to him. But the guy can definitely score, and the Knicks were really struggling to do just that in the first half. The Knicks did come back from the big early deficit, but maybe it didn’t have to get that big in the first place.
An uplifting thing: The Knicks got an all-time stinker from their best player, were missing their second-top scorer and the Sixth Man of the Year, had one of their worst halves in a very long time, hit just seven 3-pointers, surrendered 26 points to Jeff Green…and still made it to overtime. And they’re still up 3-1. Seth Rosenthal of Posting and Toasting noted on Twitter after the game that if Games 3 and 4 took place in the opposite order, the feeling of being up 3-1 would be much different. But the Knicks still have a chance to wrap this thing up fairly early, at home, where they have been very strong all season. I think the Knicks would have signed up for the chance to wrap it up in five…I know I would have.