On Tuesday night the Celtics return to Madison Square Garden for Game two of the opening playoffs round. The Celtics looked to bounce back from a terrible second half in which they scored a franchise low 8 points in the fourth quarter. Doc Rivers and the team had two days off coming into tonight and looked to focus on getting Kevin Garnett more involved on the offensive side of the ball.
The Celtics put in a great effort in the first half sparked by the bench who finally showed up this playoffs with Terry and Crawford. They led the Knicks going into half 48-42 but again fell victim to another second half collapse, this time setting a franchise low record with only 23 points combined. While the Celtics defense was once again on point, their offensive struggles proved to be too much as the Knicks cruised to a 87-71 win to take an 2-0 lead in the series.
Paul Pierce’s Celtics scored just twenty-three points in the second half of Game 2, a new franchise low. (Elsa/Getty Images)
The say a series isn't won until one team gets a win on the road. Hopefully that'll be true for the Celtics who are in a deep 0-2 hole as they return to Boston to defend home court. Doc Rivers elected to go with the recent "big" line-up featuring Bradley, Pierce, Green, Bass, and Garnett. The game got off to a good start for the Celtics who looked to exploit the size advantage Pierce had on Knicks' guard Raymond Felton. Pierce was about the only player who had a steady offensive outing going 8-19 for 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists.
This was a very choppy game riddled with constant foul calls. This certainly hurt the Celtics flow in the offense as they simply couldn't establish a rhythm nor could they get a whistle when attacking the rim. Kevin Garnett wanted to have a bounce back game after scoring just 8 points in game one but was limited again, this time due to early foul trouble. He finished with a decent stat line of 12 points and 11 rebounds but it certainly isn't enough for a Celtics team in need of leadership on both ends of the floor.
Jeff Green played the disappearing act scoring just 10 points on 3-11 shooting and didn't provide much help elsewhere as he collected just 1 rebound and 1 assist. Coming into the night Jeff proclaimed; "I want to do it all" meaning shouldering the offensive load and defensive responsibility containing Carmelo Anthony. In the end he did neither as Melo exploded for 34 points on the night.
Boston Celtics guard Jordan Crawford (27) defends as New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith (8) shoots a 3-pointer in the first half of Game 2 of their first-round NBA basketball playoff series in New York (Getty Images)
The Knicks had numerous storylines fueling their play in game two. To top them all, J.R. Smith was just named the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year and we surely saw why tonight. Smith poured in 19 points on the night hitting countless highly contested shots and a crazy first quarter buzzer beater. The Knicks also got a huge boost from starting point guard, Felton who played a deadly pick and roll game with Tyson Chandler in the second half. Felton finished the game with 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists all while dealing with guarding Pierce the entire game.
The Celtics saw an uptick in bench production after they didn't score a single field goal in game one and only 4 points total. Jason Terry needed to show up for tonight's game after an 0-5 performance in game one. He like the rest of the team had a good first quarter providing 9 points off the bench but was held scoreless in the second half. Jordan Crawford also had a good first half showing, he started off the game drilling a three pointer over Melo just seconds after checking in but tapered off as the game progressed. He finished 4-11 from the floor good for 10 points and 3 assists.
A lot will be said about the Celtic's offense in the coming days. The team certainly needs to find a solution for their second half struggles as they've shot 24% or worse in the final two frames of game one and two.
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks celebrates with Raymond Felton #2 of the New York Knicks during their 87-71 win against the Boston Celtics in Game two. (Getty Images)
I found it interesting the Doc Rivers elected to not utilize Courtney Lee in the game. Lee checked in for the first time with just over 4 minutes left in the game. Surely Doc is electing to keep Pierce or Green at the guard spot to play the size advantage. However, the Knicks point guard trio of Felton, Kidd, and Prigioni were able to get way to much penetration in the paint for easy buckets or kick outs to open shooters. It'll be interesting to see if Doc inserts Lee back into the rotation to cut off the Knicks penetration which would hopefully open up more fast break opportunities for the offense.
The Celtics will make the trek back to Boston and look to prepare for game three at the TD Garden. They will have another two day break as game three tips off Friday at 8:00pm. If this series has proven anything so far it would have to be the importance of Rajon Rondo and what he means to this Celtics team. Rondo has been known to elevate his play come playoff time, in 19 games last year he avg 42.6 MPG, 17.3 PPG, 11.9 APG, 6.7 RPG, 2.4 SPG, and a 22.0 PER! (Per Bill Simmons - Grantland) I think anyone who may have claimed the Celtics are better off without him are kicking themselves about now or they absolutely should be.
[Discuss on CG Forums!]