BOSTON -- With the Celtics one loss away from going down 0-3 -- which no NBA team has ever come back from -- and playing in front of an emotionally-charged fanbase affected by the Boston bombings, the Knicks know a hostile environment awaits them at the TD Garden on Friday night.
But Mike Woodson is confident in his guys, saying this week, "This is the best team I've coached as a head coach from a road standpoint." In fact, the Knicks won in Boston both times they played there during the regular season -- the first time they've done that since 2006.
Here are three things the Knicks need to do on Friday (8 p.m. tipoff) to take a 3-0 series lead:
1. Raymond Felton's early-game involvement. The point guard has been more of a factor during the course of each game in the series, saving Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith a bit from over-extended isolation play. Early on in Game 2, Pablo Prigioni was playing more point guard, but offensively he wasn't making the Celtics' defense work. (Woodson said Thursday that Prigioni is still not 100 percent healthy since he sprained his right ankle at the end of the regular season.)
When Felton has taken over the point-guard duties, he's jump-started the Knicks' offense with his speed and aggressiveness, blowing by the Celtics' bigger lineups. On the flip side, the Celtics don't have a seasoned point guard who can break down the Knicks' defense, scoring and making plays for others. They clearly miss Rajon Rondo on both ends of the floor. Perhaps Woodson should have Felton facilitate more pick-and-rolls in the first quarter to inject more ball flow into the Knicks' offense, making the Celtics scramble even more defensively.
2. Tyson Chandler's bigger impact. If the starting center is livelier in Game 3, which he predictedwith his conditioning improving, he could be more of a threat as a roll man, aiding Felton's penetration. As of now, Felton's been mostly scoring on his own off of screens, but having Chandler as an alley-oop sidekick would put the already shorthanded Celtics at a bigger disadvantage.
With Kevin Garnett planning to play through a hip pointer and bone spurs, Chandler needs to go right at the Celtics center. The same goes for Kenyon Martin. When Garnett picked up his fourth foul at the start of the third quarter in Game 2, the Knicks were able to score more consistently in the paint, and subsequently ran away with the game.
3. A knockout punch from Melo? The Knicks star looks to send messages in big games with his scoring, and he's done that several times this season. He could have that same mentality Friday, to dig a team he "takes it personal with" (according to James White) into a 0-3 situation that has never been overcome. While Melo could be looking for a monster first quarter, and game, he can't lose himself in one-on-one situations, separating from the team approach. His passing and rebounding will come in handy, and Smith and Felton will have to support him like they did in Games 1 and 2.
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