The New York Knicks have found themselves leading a playoff series 2-0 for the first time since 2000. The highly anticipated game three tip-off will be tonight at 8:00 p.m., at TD Garden. Step one of their current seven-game-series with the Boston Celtics has officially been checked off for the Knicks, as they protected their home-court, a vital factor for any successful franchise competing for a championship.
It’s been nearly two weeks since the Celtics last home game, so I anticipate the Boston atmosphere to be jam packed with emotion tonight, due to the recent tragic events at the Boston Marathon, coupled with their fans fire to help keep this series alive. Riding the back of Carmelo Anthony, who is averaging 35.0 points per game in the series, the Knicks have an opportunity tonight to prove this stage of the NBA season is not to big for them to handle.
With JR Smith riding his 6th Man of the Year confidence, and Kenyon Martin continuing to remain active defensively as he has, the Knicks are fully capable of kicking the Celtics when they are already down. Martin registered 11 rebounds and four blocks in only 23 minutes in game two, simply willing the team to another home victory.
The X-factor in game two for the Knicks was the play of point guard Raymond Felton, a crucial aspect to the teams recent hot play. Felton is coming off a 16 point, 8-15 from the field performance on Tuesday night, providing the Celtics with yet another scoring option they must worry about. Although Avery Bradley has emerged into one of the NBA’s best on-ball defenders, the inconsistent point guard play for the Celtics, due to the season-ending injuries of Rajon Rondo and Leondro Barbosa, has been an area Felton’s been able to exploit in this series.
The most concerning piece of the puzzle for New York has been the play of Tyson Chandler, arguably the one player Knicks fans are used to knowing exactly what your getting from him. Whether it is the issue of him getting back in shape after missing 12 of the last 16 games in the regular season due to a bulging disc in the neck, or matchup problems, Chandler must look to regain his natural tenacity for the Knicks. Chandler is only averaging an abysmal 1.5 points, 5 rebounds, and .5 blocks in just over 21 minutes this series, and if he can duplicate his old form he once played at, the sky is the limit for the Knicks front-line since the addition of Martin.
The Knicks have been an outstanding 16-2 with Pablo Prigioni as a starter, showing he’s much more suitable in that lineup then what Chris Copeland’s offered. Copeland ended the season on a torrid pace, but he’s almost been a no-show thus far in the post-season. He hasn’t had his most stellar performances recently, as he still tries to cement a role in this playoff rotation.
The Celtics certainly can’t be counted out of this series just yet, and their is two massive reasons why: Doc Rivers ability to make adjustments, and the veteran leadership of two future hall-of-famers. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are still playing at a high level at this point in their career, but they must receive some help from the supporting cast. Since Garnett has teamed with Pierce and the Celtics, they are 13-0 in playoff series at home following a road loss, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Tonight’s game will either break this series wide-open for the Knicks, or shed some positive light for Boston to make a run at the second round. Mike Woodson has been off the charts with his second half adjustments this series, helping hold the Celtics to an all-time NBA playoff worst 24.0 points per game in the second half thus far. There is going to be a ton of emotion flowing through the arena, and the Knicks simply can’t let the crowd become a negative factor in the outcome of game three.