The New York Knicks gutted out a game one victory over the Boston Celtics in impressive fashion. It was impressive because they leaned on their defense to carry them to victory in the second half and survived a combined 3 points from four of their prominent rotation players: Iman Shumpert, Tyson Chandler, Chris Copeland and Steve Novak. Boston got the Knicks into the type of game they wanted to play but couldn’t capitalize down the stretch because the Knicks found a way to make enough plays in the fourth quarter. Tonight, the Knicks have an opportunity to deal a near fatal blow to the Celtics hopes of an upset in this series.
Is that an overstatement? I don’t think so. Boston doesn’t have the offense to win 4 of the next 5 games against the Knicks. They NEED to steal home-court advantage back or they are staring at a hole they aren’t equipped to crawl out of. All of the talk about veteran savvy and the demons of Paul Pierce in Madison Square Garden go out the window if the Knicks execute at the level they are capable of tonight. Simply put, the Knicks need to seize the opportunity tonight and play with the desperation of a team down 1-0 in this series.
Pablo Prigioni is expected back in the starting line-up tonight, pushing the Knicks back to the regular rotation that carried them during their late season winning streak. Chris Copeland should still see limited minutes off the bench and can hopefully provide the scoring punch he has provided all season. Boston is going to let Carmelo Anthony take his 25-30 shots and then see if others players around him can make the most of their opportunities. Copeland needs to hit a couple of shots. Novak needs to get himself free for a few looks. Shumpert needs to play with confidence on offense. If this happens, the Knicks have the capability to out-pace a sluggish Celtics offense from the opening tip-off.
Tyson Chandler was hopefully just shaking off the rust in game 1 and was generally a non-factor. You never know with Knicks injuries. It is important to see positive progress from Chandler tonight because the Knicks aren’t going anywhere without him near 100%. It would also be nice not to lean on Kenyon Martin for nearly 30 minutes again, despite how well he has been playing. Martin is just returning from injury himself and the Knicks can’t run him into the ground.
There was plenty of chatter of Boston not taking advantage of opportunities on Saturday, with Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley and Jason Terry missing their share of open jumpers. Well guess what? Those guys haven’t been good shooters all year. They are going to miss open jumpers, which is why Boston’s offense is so consistently mediocre. It is going to take a vintage Pierce/Garnett effort, supplemented by Jeff Green playing like he did in the first half in Game 1 for Boston to keep offensive pace.
The Knicks got away with playing at best a “B minus” game on Saturday and still won by 7 points. Tonight they need to bring their “A” game and put the Celtics back to the wall.