Debby Wong/USA TODAY Sport
Can the Celtics shake free of the Knicks' grasp back in Boston for Game 3?The Boston Celtics host the New York Knicks in Game 3 of an Eastern Conference first-round series on Friday night at TD Garden (8 p.m., ESPN). Here's what to watch for:
* NOBODY LOVES RAYMOND: Entering the series, Boston's defensive worry list was topped by the likes of Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith. The one player the Celtics really need to stop at the moment? Raymond Felton. From our friends at Elias Sports Bureau: The Knicks have outscored the Celtics by an average of 22.8 points per 48 minutes with Felton on the floor, but have been outscored by 45.1 points per 48 minutes with Felton on the bench. That 67.9-point swing is the largest for any NBA team with-and-without a particular player on the court in this year’s playoffs. Said Celtics coach Doc Rivers: "He’s killing us. He’s getting into the paint, he’s attacking us... And we have to do a better job on him. I wish I could make a better statement than that, except for, we have to keep him out of the paint."
* CHANGE UP THE HALFTIME SPEECH: No secret here, the Celtics have been excellent for the first 24 minutes of Games 1 and 2 in this series, but have flat out disappeared in the second halves. To hammer that home, The Celtics are shooting 54.2 percent from the field in the first half in this series -- the highest such percentage for any team in this year’s playoffs -- and 22.2 percent in the second half -- the lowest for any team in this postseason, according to Elias. Celtics coach Doc Rivers has noted the trouble doesn't lie solely on the offensive end as both sides of the floor are connected and getting stops will ease some of the offensive struggles for Boston by giving them more transition opportunities.
* COMING HOME: No one knows how Boston will respond to playing in its gym for the first time in 16 days, at least emotionally given that this is its first game in the aftermath of the marathon bombings. But the Celtics have always received a spark from playing at home and absolutely need to feed off the energy in the building. The Knicks will have confidence after winning two games in this building during the regular season. The question is can they get over the mental hurdle of having lost their last eight playoff games on the road. New York's last road win on the road? A victory in Toronto on April 29, 2001, according to Elias.
* NUMBERS NUMBERS NUMBERS: A few more of the stats and nuggets that jumped out from Elias' preview package: The Celtics have scored only 48 points in the second half during the first two games of the series. That is the fewest second-half points scored over any two-game span in NBA playoff history (previous low was 49 points by the Washington Capitols in the 1947 postseason)... In the history of the NBA playoffs, teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series have gone to win the series 94 percent of the time (233 of 248)... In the history of the NBA playoffs, there have been 57 teams that have lost the first two games of a best-of-seven series against an opponent that finished with at least 13 more wins during the regular season, as the Knicks did over the Celtics in 2012-13 (54 to 41). None of those 57 teams came back to win the series.