After outscoring the Celtics in the first quarter, 26-20, the Knicks got sloppy at the start of the second when Carmelo Anthony was resting. The Knicks missed, and the Celtics cleaned up nearly every defensive rebound with a faster pace in transition, with the Knicks trailing far too often. The Knicks' smaller lineups, with Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton in the backcourt, also allowed Paul Pierce to get some shots off easily, and attack the paint and make plays. While Pierce had a team-high 10 points and four assists, Anthony and Smith combined for 28 points (Melo with 15; Smith with 13).
Here are five other main observations at the half:
1. Smith's strong playmaking. The Sixth Man Award winner came out firing from all cylinders, shooting 4-for-4 from the field in the first quarter, mostly on step-back jumpers. He finished the period with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from just inside midcourt over two Celtics defenders. In the opening period, he also had a ridiculous dish, off a spin move in the paint, to Kenyon Martin for a monster two-handed dunk.
2. Celtics' switching favors Knicks. In the first quarter, the Celtics switched a good amount on pick-and-rolls, and the Knicks took advantage. Felton was able to get into the paint for a layup, blowing by Chris Wilcox, and Smith hit a step-back jumper over Brandon Bass. In the second quarter, Felton drove by Bass on a Celtics switch, drawing the foul.
3. Where's Tyson? In 13 minutes in the first half, Tyson Chandler didn't score -- which he hasn't done yet in this series -- and he only grabbed four rebounds. His attack at the rim looked weak, but what wasn't was his complaining. He was very vocal with the refs, but he needs to let his game do the talking. Perhaps his conditioning or neck -- he had recently been suffering from a small bulging disk in the area -- is still affecting him. He doesn't have the same burst and intensity around the basket on both ends of the floor.
4. Knicks' poor play in second quarter. The Celtics started the period on a 11-1 run with Anthony on the bench. Smith took a few too many fallaway jump shots out of rhythm and the Knicks allowed the Celtics to score quickly in transition. The Melo effect? Right when he checked back into the second quarter, he nailed a 3-pointer. Overall, the Knicks need to find more offensive balance than simply giving it to Melo in the post. That's been happening a boatload tonight. The Knicks are only 4-for-7 from downtown, and they only have six assists. The Celtics have nine.
5. Anthony's effective head fake. He had two in the first quarter, drawing a foul on Kevin Garnett and then Bass. Melo was clobbered by the Celtics' defense as usual, so the deceptive move came in handy. He finished the half 8-for-9 from the line. No other player on both sides was close.
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