Schmeelk: What To Watch For In Game 2 Of Knicks-Celtics Series
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By John Schmeelk
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The Knicks should take great pride in their Game 1 win against the Boston Celtics. New York headed into the playoffs playing their best basketball. Nearly all the things that they did so well in April they did poorly against the Celtics, but they still won. They showed the mental toughness, intensity and grit necessary to go far in the playoffs. Here are the important things to take out of Game 1 as the Knicks prepare for Game 2 on Tuesday night.
The Celtics’ Perspective
Whenever a decided underdog is trying to win a playoff series, it’s imperative for them to take advantage of the games where their opponents don’t play well and win those games. The Celtics might have missed their one big opportunity to steal a game from the Knicks in the Garden in Game 1. The Knicks didn’t shoot or move the ball well, got nothing out of Tyson Chandler and only went to the free-throw line 15 times. They also played terrible defense in the first half, allowing Boston to score 53 points on wide-open jumpers and layups. The Celtics led by seven with the ball with a minute to play in the third quarter, but they let all that slip away with a brutal fourth quarter. They know that Tuesday night is a virtual must-win. Of course, much of that sloppy play late had to do with…
The Knicks’ Fourth-Quarter Defense
The Celtics committed a number of unforced turnovers in the fourth quarter, but the Knicks’ defense had a lot to do with it, too. The Knicks’ defense for the entire second half, actually, was excellent. Boston scored just 17 points in the third quarter on 4-of-16 shooting. If not for eight free throws, their third quarter would have been just as low scoring as their fourth. This should not come as a huge surprise to people who watched the Knicks this year. As mediocre as their defense has been overall (103.5 defensive rating — 17th best in the NBA), their fourth-quarter defense has been just as spectacular. The Knicks had a 99 defensive rating in fourth quarters this season, only worse than the Clippers and Heat. It was a question whether the Knicks could take that fourth-quarter defense in the regular season and spread it over entire games in the postseason. They did it for a half on Saturday afternoon. The team simply tried harder in the second half, but they also switched far less frequently, which turned into fewer double-teams and subsequent open shots for Boston. Imagine how good the defense could be if…
Tyson Chandler Shows Up Healthy
There’s no way to know whether or not Chandler is telling the truth, but he said he felt extremely healthy in Game 1, and the only reason he played so poorly was rust. He looked just as bad when he first returned from the neck injury a couple of weeks back, so it’s possible. It took him three games to get back into the flow, but after his first great game back against the Thunder, he had to once again sit out with the neck injury. The Knicks are going to have to be patient with their starting center, and they have the luxury of Kenyon Martin to do just that. He showed no ill-effects of that ankle injury and was very good against Boston. The few times the Knicks did it, he also scored when they decided to…
Run The Pick-And-Roll To Get Better Shots
The Celtics are one of the best defensive teams against isolation plays in the NBA, and that showed on Sunday. According to Synergy Sports, the Celtics held the Knicks to 39 percent shooting and an extremely inefficient .72 points per possession on isolations in Game 1. The offense was putrid and unwatchable at times. Considering offense was THE definitive strength of the team all year, it was quite disturbing. The Knicks did far better on possessions that started with the pick-and-roll and ended with moves toward the basket or spot-up jumpers. Boston helps extremely well on isolation plays, and it forced Carmelo Anthony into some very difficult shots. He was far more efficient on spot-up jumpers, and in the second half he passed far better out of isolation plays. Getting easier shots in transition will also be important in all of this. Letting the Celtics settle and set up their defense is the equation for a contested shot. Asking Anthony to score when two or three defenders are loaded up against him on the strong side of the floor is unfair, especially when…
The Referees Let Both Teams Play
The officials were consistent in Game 1, but in a way that hurts the Knicks. They allowed both teams to play very physical defense, which helps the more defensive-oriented Celtics, who are trying to drag the game into the muck. Anthony, J.R. Smith and even Raymond Felton take it all the way to the basket more than anyone on the Celtics, which doesn’t have athletic penetrators. The Knicks don’t mind taking open threes, but they are far better off when taking it to the basket. A lack of whistles will deter them. Even with the officiating, however,…
J.R. Smith Should Shoot Better For the Rest Of The Series
Smith shot only 7-of-19 from the field and 1-of-7 from behind the arc on Saturday, but I didn’t have a huge problem with his shot selection. He got to the rim early and got some good wide-open looks from three that he just happened to miss in the fourth quarter. He had a couple of bad moments in the middle of the game where he dribbled out the shot clock and ended up chucking a step-back jumper, but it didn’t happen often. He also got stuck with the shot clock winding down a couple of times. If the jumper isn’t falling, he needs to stay aggressive and get to the rim. His Sixth Man of the Year award that he got on Monday is owed to that new commitment of getting to the basket. Smith needs to realize that and stay in that mindset, even in the fourth quarter. Settling for jump shots is a win for the Celtics’ defense. I’d also like to see Smith on Paul Pierce more, since his length should make him a good defensive matchup. I do worry about how the Knicks will match up to start if Pablo Prigioni is healthy and Mike Woodson decides to try…
A New Knicks Starting Lineup
If Prigioni is ready to play on Tuesday night, should the Knicks revert back to the starting lineup that they featured during their prolonged winning streak? Considering Prigioni helps with the team’s defense and ball movement, the natural answer would be yes. I do worry, however, about how they will match up with a much bigger Celtics starting lineup. Starting Prigioni instead of Chris Copeland will put Felton on Pierce and Iman Shumpert on Jeff Green. Doc Rivers will post up both those players and the Knicks will be forced to double-team. Nothing good comes after that. If I’m Woodson, I start with the Prigioni lineup but have Smith ready for an early substitution.
Barring any terrible injuries, if the Knicks win Game 2 they should win the series. They are the better team and I can’t see the Celtics beating the Knicks four out of five games and winning the series. The Knicks’ quotes after Game 1 — that they hadn’t accomplished anything yet — were right on the money. Win Game 2 and it’s a different story.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York sports.
What’s your prediction for tonight’s game? Let us know in the comments section below…