Boston Celtics: 2011Round1Game3
But over the course of Boston's 113-96 Game 3 victory on Friday, the spotlight was on a swivel, darting back and forth on Boston's other three All-Stars in Paul Pierce (38 points), Rajon Rondo (his sixth career triple-double), and Ray Allen (32 points). It was clear the offense would be dictated by them as the evening progressed, and, just like when he was asked to be selfish, Garnett obliged when he was asked to act selfless.
After taking a total of 30 shots through the first two games of the series, Garnett took a backseat to his All-Star brethren, taking only nine shots and connecting on four of them. He finished with a modest nine points, but compensated with four assists and a game-high 12 rebounds, to go along with three steals. His only blemish was his dent in the turnover column (he committed a team-high five), but his continued effort on the glass overshadowed his shortcomings.
His stats -- 27 minutes, six points, three rebounds, two assists, and three blocks -- paled in comparison to those of Paul Pierce (a game-high 38 points), Ray Allen (32 points), and Rajon Rondo (15 points, 11 rebounds, and a Celtics playoff record 20 assists), on a night when otherworldly performances were en vogue.
But what might have gotten lost in the midst of the commotion over three incredible showings from three of Boston's All-Stars was that O'Neal registered nearly all of his numbers during a crucial 14-4 run midway through the third quarter that turned the tide of the game in Boston's favor for good.
The Celtics owned a healthy 63-52 edge with 8:25 left in the third period, but when O'Neal trotted back to the bench for a deserved rest just under five minutes later, Boston's lead had ballooned to a commanding 77-56 advantage.
The rundown: C's tighten up on glass | Layup Line: Pierce & MSG, No changes on D
After allowing the Knicks to haul in a whopping 20 offensive rebounds in Game 2, controlling the glass was a focus for the Celtics in Game 3 and Boston responded by producing a 43-33 edge (matching its +10 effort from Game 1).
Highlighted by 12 rebounds from Kevin Garnett and 11 more from Rajon Rondo (as part of his sixth career postseason triple-double), the Celtics not only won the rebounding war, but turned 13 offensive caroms into 23 second-chance points. The Knicks still converted 12 offensive rebounds into 15 second-chance points, but it wasn't nearly as egregious as Tuesday night in Boston.
“[Offensive rebounding] wasn’t a focus," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "We got them because we spread them out a little bit. More importantly, we didn’t allow [New York offensive rebounds] because we weren’t in bad help positions. The only thing we did was what we should have done: If you are going to go [help on defense], you go, but you get back to a body. There was no change. We simply did what we should be doing."
It didn't hurt Boston's cause that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were on fire shooting the ball, limiting the amount of available rebounds for the Knicks. And the Celtics surely learned their lesson in Game 2.
"We said that [defensive rebounding was] the emphasis of the day going into the practice yesterday," said Pierce, "We've got to hit them first. When we looked up at the board, we saw minus- on the rebounds and minus-11 on the free throws [attempts in Game 2]. That's the advantage [the Knicks] had in the last game, so we wanted to really make an emphasis of putting bodies on people, boxing out."
Added Garnett: "One of the things we worked on in practice is rebounding better off the help. We are a help defensive team, but our second effort has to be a lot more valid and I thought tonight we did just that. I also thought there are times when, usually the ball hits the rim, you sort of sit there and watch. Tonight, we got bodies on bodies and were able to get some rebounds."
HOW THE GAME WAS WON
Paul Pierce (38 points, 14-of-19 shooting) and Ray Allen (32 points, 11-of18 shooting) were lights out, combinging to connect on 14-of-19 3-pointers overall as Boston moved a step closer to punching its pass to the next round with a thrashing of the the Knicks in their first home playoff game in seven years. Rajon Rondo quietly added his sixth career triple-double (15 points, 20 assists, 11 rebounds), while Kevin Garnett chipped in nine points and 12 rebounds in a starters-fueled effort. Carmelo Anthony (15 points on 4-of-16 shooting) and Amare Stoudemire (7 points on 2-of-8 shooting) were held quiet for the Knicks.
Allen and Pierce came out of the intermission on fire, combining to score 11 points in little more than three minutes (a trio of trifectas in that barrage) as Boston's lead jumped to 13. But it was a four-minute stretch soon after in which the Knicks generated a mere free throw by Anthony as Boston embarked on a 10-1 run and a Jeff Green 3-pointer put Boston up 22 with 2:36 to play in the third quarter. The Knicks made a mini-run early in the fourth frame, forcing an infuriated Rivers to re-insert his starters, but Allen and Pierce simply wouldn't be denied and soon pushed the lead back to 22, sending fans streaming to the exits with 3:45 to play.
STAT OF THE GAME
Glen Davis scored four points late, but Boston's bench mustered a mere 13 points overall, nine of which went to Jeff Green. The bench was a combined 5-of-17 overall and drew the ire of Rivers for giving up the lead whenever they were on the floor.
Overshadowed by the efforts of Pierce and Allen, Rondo's night will somehow fly below the radar. He was brilliant, despite the fact that Boston couldn't generate nearly as much transition offense as in Game 2 and his shot wouldn't fall around the basket. None of it could detour Rondo.
WHAT IT MEANS
No reason to Tweet about brooms, the Celtics are on the cusp of a sweep and left the New York fans booing their squad despite the massive drought since the last playoff game here. Boston can close out on Sunday with one more quality effort and that would be good for their starters who are logging hefty minutes due to a bench that is really struggling.
NEW YORK -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers bumped into Knicks star Amare Stoudemire leaving the TD Garden after Tuesday's Game 2 and told New York's star big man that he had to play through the pain of back spasms.
"It's tough, it really is," admitted Rivers. "Spasms, you'd rather have something else at times because you don't know when and where [they'll strike]. One time you leap and feel great; One time you don't. It just comes. You can get through it, and I think he will. This atmosphere will absolutely help him, the adrenaline. But once you have a bad back, you have a bad back."
Rivers said neither Stoudemire's back, nor the knee injury that will sideline guard Chauncey Billups again will affect how the Celtics approach Game 3.
"We were pretty sure [Billups] was not playing," said Rivers. "We were ready either way. It doesn't change our game plan, honestly. We're going to play the same regardless of who plays."
Rivers said tinkering with Boston's game plan based on opposing personnel would only throw his team further off rhythm. And right now, despite a 2-0 series lead, Boston is desperately trying to get back on beat after stumbling to the finish line at the end of the regular season (then needing some late-game heroics to emerge with two wins in Boston to start the playoffs).
Two more quick pregame notes:
* Rivers on what he expects in the first playoff game at Madison Square Garden in seven years: "It’ll be loud. There will be a lot of energy in the building. That’s good for everyone, honestly. I think players love the atmosphere, not just our team. If you really want to bother us, tell no one to come, that will freak us out. The fact that there will be a lot of New York fans, caring about the Knicks, that's good."
* It wouldn't be a Rivers media confab without a Shaquille O'Neal question. Asked by the New York press about O'Neal, he basically reiterated his stance from this morning's shootaround.
"I don’t know know what his status is," said Rivers. "Listen, he’s on the road, which means he’s getting better. He’s closer. I don’t know if he’ll play Sunday [in Game 4] or not, we’ll probably find out a little bit more [Saturday]. He’s working and he’s doing everythig he can, that's all I can say. Whatever is required to get on the floor, he’s doing that and then probably doing more than that."
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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.
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.
NEW YORK -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers remained hesitant to offer a firm timeline on when ailing center Shaquille O'Neal might return to game action, but reiterated that he's moving closer to that goal by traveling with the team.
"I don't know the plan yet," said Rivers. "He's moving better. The fact that he's moving better, you just bring him on the road."
Pressed on what he'd need to see from O'Neal to have confidence to put him back on the court, Rivers quipped: "Make some 3's," before turning more serious.
"I don't know. Listen, he's just feeling better and he's closer. I don't know what he needs to show me. He's not ready to play yet, but he's getting closer. So the fact that he's getting closer, you bring him on the road."
In the portion of shootaround open to the media, O'Neal worked with strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo, getting stretched out under one basket. O'Neal playfully did reverse push-up, lifting Doo up by his feet as he Boston's strength guru clung to the hoop upright.
Rivers again stressed that O'Neal simply is not ready for game action and there's no hidden game plan behind bringing him back.
"You need him when you need him; I'm not worried about that," said Rivers. "I'm more worried about getting him right and healthy. There's not strategic game plan for not playing him. There's a medical game plan for not playing him when he can't play. Once he can play, he'll play."
Rivers nodded when asked if there was still potential for O'Neal to appear in Sunday's Game 4, but O'Neal still displayed a limp while walking off the court. The 39-year-old center, limited to 5½ minutes of action since Feb. 1 with right calf and Achilles issues, wouldn't indulge a pack of reporters in health talk, but did provide a laugh when he stopped to introduce himself to a female staffer outside the visitors' locker room, saying, "Hello, Jermaine O'Neal, nice to meet you."
As for the real Jermaine O'Neal, he was sporting a hefty ice pack on his left wrist after the morning session, but said it's nothing to be concerned about.
"I wore a brace the last two days, just to protect it and make sure I didn’t open the door wrong and irritate it," said Jermaine O'Neal. "I feel fine. The swelling is down. It's one of those situations where, I took a charge and I put my hand back before I fell. It irritated [a preexisting injury] a bit. It's probably not going to have an affect on me."
Jermaine O'Neal tore cartilage in that wrist taking a charge in Toronto in the preseason. He aggravated the injury taking a charge from Amare Stoudemire in the fourth quarter of Sunday's Game 1 win, then further tweaked it at the start of Tuesday's Game 2 and needed to return to the locker room to ice the injury.
O'Neal played only 20:24 that night, including a mere seven second-half minutes, but stressed that the second-half floor time was valuable to helping restore Glen Davis' confidence and is not related to the injury.
* (For the latest on the Knicks' injuries, hop HERE).
Boston's entire roster made the trip; The Celtics lead the best-of-seven series, 2-0.
During Wednesday's practice at the Sports Authority Training Center in Waltham, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said that Shaq's ability to travel would suggest he might be able to play again as early as Sunday's Game 4 in New York.
"I'm not sure yet [if Shaq will travel]," Rivers said Wednesday. "It depends on what's best. If he's closer to playing -- you know how we’ve done it -- if you see him on the trip he’s really close."
Later, Rivers added: "If he goes on the trip, that means we think he'll play that Sunday."
O'Neal appeared in 37 games for the Celtics this season, plagued by injuries to the right side of the body, particularly the knee, calf, and Achilles. The 39-year-old center has played only 5½ minutes since Feb. 1.
* Is this series over? History says yes. The Celtics are 33-0 all-time when up 2-0 in a best-of-seven series, while the Knicks are 0-12 all-time when down 2-0 in a best-of-seven series.
* The last time that the Knicks won a postseason home game? It will be exactly 10 years to the day of Game 3. The Knicks last won a playoff game at Madison Square Garden on April 22, 2001 in a first-round series against the Toronto Raptors. ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy was the head coach and his starting five featured Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, Latrell Sprewell, Allan Houston and fellow ESPN analyst Mark Jackson.
The C's are still looking for their first full 48-minute team effort of the playoffs -- the one they're convinced will result in something other than a last-second, nail-biting victory. So far, the starters have done the heavy lifting, occasionally glancing back to see if the reserves are interested in relieving them of their duties for an extended stretch or two.
The Celtics were ready to lean on their starting five of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jermaine O'Neal, but perhaps not to the extent they've needed to through two games. In Game 1, the starters accounted for 79 of Boston's 87 points, 36 of its 44 rebounds, and 17 of its 20 assists. Game 2 was only marginally better with the first five producing 82 of 96 points, 26 of 37 rebounds, and 18 of 21 assists.
"Listen, that’s why it’s such a team game," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said after the team held a brief film session at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint on Wednesday. "Sometimes your bench plays well and your starters don’t. It’s never going to be perfect, we know that. And when that happens, it puts more pressure on your starters and they just have to come through for you. There will be a game in this series, where a couple of our starters won’t play well and somebody on our bench will step up. Just the nature of the beast."
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