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Round 1, Game 3: Celtics vs. Knicks

at Madison Square Garden, New York City, 7 p.m. | ESPN, WEEI (850 AM)

PAYNE'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH

  • Rebound Game: The Celtics managed to escape with a 96-93 victory in Tuesday's Game 2, but were almost denied a 2-0 series lead thanks to the Knicks' 20 offensive rebounds, which they converted into 24 second-chance points. Overall, the Knicks held a 53-37 edge in rebounds in Game 2, despite playing without Amare Stoudemire for the second half. With Kevin Garnett serving as their only legitimate rebounding force, the Celtics will continue to emphasize "gang rebounding," which calls for everyone to help clear the boards. Glen Davis and Jeff Green could be particularly effective in this area off the bench.

  • Get Off the Bench: Speaking of the bench, it has to play better for the Celtics, plain and simple. Boston's four primary reserves -- Glen Davis, Jeff Green, Delonte West, and Nenad Krstic -- tallied just 22 total points in the first two games of this series. While the starters have been reliable so far, at least one of them is due for an off night eventually, and the Celtics will need to rely on a bench commodity to step up and help fill that void. The bench's effort defensively is even more vital, as Boston cannot afford for its reserves to sacrifice leads the starters built up within minutes of checking into the game, which is what happened on two different occasions in Tuesday's win.

  • Transition Buckets: The Celtics registered 16 fast-break points in Tuesday's victory, led primarily by Rajon Rondo, who routinely took outlet passes from teammates and zipped towards the hoop, tossing in layup after layup. The Celtics said prior to the start of their series with the Knicks that they wanted to run when the opportunities presented themselves, and Tuesday's victory showed why. It's a style of play that can lead to success for Boston as long as it's not allowing the Knicks to return the favor on the other end. The Celtics will look to run, but they cannot afford to be run on.

GAME PREVIEW

NEW YORK (AP) -- Spike Lee and the celebrities will pack the place. ESPN will be there to televise it.

After seven long years, Madison Square Garden is finally open again for postseason basketball business.

And what a perfect time and place it would be for Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire to deliver in tandem after both have been dominant individually so far in the playoffs.

Or maybe it's the ideal setting for the Boston Celtics to torment the Knicks again.

The Celtics bring a 2-0 lead into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference first-round series on Friday, with the Knicks knowing they were close to winning both games but also getting close to going home for the summer.

"We're definitely not thinking about that," Anthony said Thursday after practice. "Game 3 tomorrow here on our home court, it's a must-win for us. ... This is the hardest game by far that we've played this season."

Read the full preview HERE.