On Sunday, the Boston Celtics proved that they weren’t going to just roll over and die. I didn’t read any reaction from the Boston papers or bloggers or anything, but I’m sure it was filled with a lot of “Heart of Champions” type stuff. Whatever.
The Knicks played their worst half in maybe two months, were missing their second best scorer, and Carmelo Anthony missed 25 shots, and yet the Knicks basically should have won. At the very least, they had an excellent chance to knock the Celtics down for good. Whether or not it proves to be a costly missed opportunity may begin to be answered tonight in Game 5.
The Knicks have J.R. Smith back, a return which is expected to help. Since being suspended and missing Game 4, Smith has fired a few salvos (namely one towards the victim of his elbow Jason Terry) and has essentially predicted a victory in Game 5. Kenyon Martin joined the guarantee party as well. The Knicks seem uber-confident, as do many of their fans, and why not?
One of the main trends that has emerged as the series has progressed is that the Celtics seem utterly incapable of putting together four quarters of coherent, effective, offensive basketball. In Game 4 they scored just 30 combined points in the third and fourth quarters. If the Knicks didn’t spot the Celtics 20 points in the first half, we’d probably be focusing our attention today on the season finale of The Americans, or whatever else you might be doing on a Knick-less Wednesday night. The Celtics simply don’t seem to have enough firepower to stay with the Knicks, who are a much more efficient offensive team. As evidenced in Game 4, when the Knicks don’t turn the ball over (three total in the second half), they’re very tough to beat. That’s especially true when they’re playing a team that struggles with its possessions as much as the Cetics do.
Many eyes will be fixated on Anthony, whose unclutch 10-for-35 dud on Sunday was exactly the type of performance his detractors celebrate. Chances are that Anthony will not shoot that poorly in a while. Buried within that horrendous shooting number was an 0-for-7 from behind the arc, another event that is unlikely to repeat tonight. But until the Knicks are physically out of this series, the pressure on Anthony continues to mount. It remains to be seen how he will handle that pressure, but I’m sure he feels it and wants to respond with a big game, knocking out his rivals. If Anthony has a big game, chances are the Knicks win given the Celtics’ inability to score consistently.
It’s probably not healthy, yet, to discuss “If the Celtics win…”. There’s a game to be played tonight, one the Knicks are heavily favored in and rightly so. No NBA team has ever come back from a 0-3 series deficit, and the Celtics seem unlikely candidates to become the first team to do it. But there indeed is pressure on the Knicks tonight, because if we do somehow find ourselves back in Boston later this week, well…that won’t be much fun.