Round 1, Game 4: Celtics vs. Knicks
|(3-0)||-- vs. --||(0-3)|
PAYNE'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
- Sense of Urgency: The Celtics' quick start was a key ingredient in their lopsided victory in Game 3. They led 9-0 just over three minutes in, and their lead eventually ballooned to as many as 17 (22-5), before Boston ultimately settled for a 27-20 edge heading into the second frame. Another hot start would do wonders for the Celtics in Sunday's potential closeout contest. The worst thing Boston can do is play with a false sense of security and assume the Knicks are going to roll over because they're injury-ridden and are in a less-than-desirable 3-0 hole. The Celtics need to be the ones playing as if their backs are against a wall, and end this series in a convincing manner.
- So, About the Bench: Stop me if you've heard this one before: Boston's bench mustered just 13 total points between two players in Game 3 (Jeff Green scored nine, Glen Davis chipped in four), once again failing to make a significant impact as the Celtics' victory was fueled by the starters. It's no mystery to the Celtics' reserves that they haven't been playing well, but so far they have yet to have that breakout game. The Celtics have been able to right the ship in a variety of areas as the series has progressed (defense, rebounding, etc.). A reserve-driven win would be an encouraging way for Boston to close out the Knicks and advance to the second round.
- Encore in Store?: Sure, a strong game from the reserves would be heartening, but the Celtics will still lean heavily on their starters, regardless. How will Paul Pierce and Ray Allen perform after becoming the first Celtic players to record 30 or more points in the same game since 2002? Will Rajon Rondo follow up his 15-point, 11-rebound, 20-assist triple-double with another dazzling performance? The Knicks were helpless against Boston's trio of All-Stars in Game 3, and while asking for repeat performances might be a stretch, the shooting hands of Pierce and Allen might still be sizzling and Rondo has proven time and again that when he gets locked in, he's one of the best in the league at controlling the flow of a game on both ends of the court.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) -- At his best, Rajon Rondo can seize a rebound, dart away from defenders, and set himself or an All-Star teammate up for a basket.
Amare Stoudemire can shake a backboard with a powerful dunk, or scare a spectator sitting courtside by forcefully blocking a shot out of bounds.
He can't right now, though.
Rondo is rolling and Stoudemire is sore, a big reason the Boston Celtics will bring a 3-0 lead over the New York Knicks into Game 4 of their first-round series on Sunday.
The Celtics will be looking for their first sweep since beating Indiana in three games in 1992, so long ago that it was Larry Bird's last playoff series victory.
After needing seven games just to get out of the first round in both 2008 and '09, they would welcome the chance to do something easily for a change -- especially with likely second-round opponent Miami poised to finish a sweep of its series with Philadelphia.
"I've never been part of a sweep, but I don't like to think about that stuff. We don't worry about that stuff," forward Paul Pierce said after practicing at Madison Square Garden. "It's about getting better one game at a time. We want to close the series, but they're not going to give it to us."
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