Series Takeaways: Turnovers
The numbers weren't pretty, though. The Celtics averaged 16.7 turnovers per game over the course of their four-game sweep of the Knicks, committing 18 or more in three of the four games. The Knicks took advantage of Boston's miscues by scoring a total of 72 points off turnovers in the series, good for an average of 18 points per game.
The Celtics boasted a 17-point halftime lead in Game 4, and shot 52.6 percent in the third quarter, but thanks to some hot shooting from the Knicks in the third frame (52.2 percent), coupled with five Boston turnovers, New York was able to claw back to within 10 points heading into the fourth quarter. As opposed to cruising to another easy victory, the Celtics were going to need a valiant fourth quarter effort to hold off the storming Knicks.
Unfortunately, the Celtics couldn't get out of their own way at the start of the final quarter, as they committed turnovers on their first four possessions, allowing the Knicks to get to within six points. The stretch of giveaway basketball lasted less than two minutes, but it was more than enough to illustrate how vulnerable a team becomes when it forks the ball over unnecessarily. Rather than stamping out the life the Knicks had mustered at the tail end of the third period, the Celtics repeatedly gave them opportunities to cut into their lead. Had Roger Mason Jr. made the 3-pointers he missed after the Celtics' first two miscues, the Knicks might just have developed enough momentum to make things even more interesting than they ended up being down the stretch.
"Keeping our turnovers down also is another thing," Paul Pierce said when asked what he took away from the Celtics' opening round series. "We really turned the ball over a lot in this series."
The fact that the Celtics are acknowledging their mistakes is encouraging, seeing as they'll have to be mindful of their miscues when they meet the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs. If the Celtics hand the ball over to the Heat as many times as they did to the Knicks, they'll be significantly hindering their chances of advancing.
Turning the ball over against the Heat would present Miami with many more opportunities to run and score in transition. The Heat are certainly willing to run, seeing as they finished in the top half of the league in fast-break points over the course of the regular season. Guys like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are incredibly difficult to defend on the break, as they have the ability to create for themselves, each other, and other teammates. And let's face it, the 6-foot-8, 250-pound James charging down the floor with a full head of steam doesn't bode well for any opponent.
In addition, Miami's one of the league's top defensive teams, and it has the personnel to match up with Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett. The Celtics could very well have a more difficult time scoring against the Heat than they did against the Knicks, which means they cannot afford to sacrifice scoring opportunities by forking the ball over at a high rate.
If the Celtics can keep their turnovers in check against Miami, they'll stand a much better chance of advancing to the Eastern Conference finals.
Greg Payne is a student intern for ESPNBoston.com
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