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Three next-level keys for beating Cs

4/17/2011

On the surface, the Knicks-Celtics series comes down to how a younger team with a newer core and high-octane offense can consistently wear out (and out shoot) a more experienced team with an established core and grind-out style. No doubt, based on their previous matchups this season, the Celtics have been the older, bullish brother. But what specific holes do the Knicks need to sew up? Here are three of them.

1) The biggest is this: Limiting Rajon Rondo, because as he goes, so do the Celtics. They cannot let him go off for anything close to a triple-double, which he's purely capable of doing and which he already did once against them on October 29 (10 points, 24 assists and 10 rebounds). His two other outings were solid as well (10 points and 14 assists on December 15, and 13 points and 12 assists on March 21). Fortunately for the Knicks, the All-Star point guard had been struggling to end the season with his distributing and shooting (perhaps affected by the departure of his best friend on the team, Kendrick Perkins) -- and that really hurt the Celtics' production.

Rondo Assist Categories Last 10 Regular Season Games*

Wins / Losses

Assists per game -- 13.8 / 6.7

Assist ratio (per 100 possessions used) -- 42.9 / 31.5

Assist percentage (when the player is on the floor) -- 49.5 / 33.9

*He didn't play in the team's last game on April 13

Rondo Assist Categories 2010-11 Season

Wins / Losses

Assists -- 12.4 / 8.5

Assist ratio -- 47.1 / 36.6

Assist percentage -- 46.6 / 39.8

Rondo Shooting Distance Percentage Last 10 Games

Wins / Losses

Overall -- 48.1 / 42.4

5-14’ Field goals attempted per game -- 1.0 / 1.0

5-14’ Field goal percentage -- 75.0 / 0.0 (0-of-6)

15+’ Field goals attempted per game -- 5.3 / 3.5

15+’ Field goal percentage -- 42.9 / 38.1

True shooting percentage -- 52.3 / 44.5

Rondo Shooting Distance Percentage 2010-11 Season

Wins / Losses

Overall -- 51.1 / 40.6

5-14’ Field goals attempted per game -- 1.1 / 1.7

5-14’ Field goal percentage -- 39.2 / 5.6

15+’ Field goals attempted per game -- 3.8 / 4.1

15+’ Field goal percentage -- 41.6 / 34.5

True shooting percentage -- 52.9 / 43.0

2) This season, the Knicks tied with the Kings as the second-worst interior defensive team in the league, allowing 46.0 points in the paint per game. The Celtics averaged 41.5 points in the paint per game, but against the Knicks that number jumped to 53.3 (in their first three matchups). Even without the traded Perkins in their matchup on March 21, the Celtics simply dominated the paint game, outscoring the Knicks 44 to 28.

3) This season, the Celtics had the fifth-best team defense against the pick-and-roll ball handler, allowing just 0.8553 points per possession. They absolutely shut down the roll man in the pick-and-roll, giving up just 0.8978 points per possession against him. The Knicks, meanwhile, were the sixth-best offensive team in the pick-and-roll, averaging 0.9762 points per possession -- and against the Celtics, the Knicks' overall pick-and-roll offense didn't suffer, as they still managed to put 0.974 points per possession. But Boston had great success in shutting down the ball handler in the 'Bockers pick-and-roll, holding him to just 0.641 points per possession. While Chauncey Billups is playoff-tested, Toney Douglas will need to be on point -- literally -- and I don't mean just with his shooting.

Outside areas of improvement, here's a huge positive for the Knicks: their halfcourt defense against the Celtics (surprise, surprise!) -- and that's what playoff success is all about. While the Knicks struggled to stop teams in the half court during the regular season -- they ranked in the bottom of the league in opponent field goal percentage in the half court in each of Mike D'Antoni's three seasons as coach -- they played it close with the Celtics. The Cs only had a 249-246 edge in points scored in half-court sets.

Half-Court Offense Head-To-Head This Season

Celtics / Knicks

Field goal percentage -- 47.2 / 45.1

Efficient field goal percentage -- 49.1 / 49.8

Points per 100 plays -- 94.0 / 93.9

Score differential -- +3 / -3

Opponent Field Goal Percentage Vs. Knicks In Half Court Last 3 Seasons

Opponents / League Rank

2010-11 -- 46.0 / 28th

2009-10 -- 48.0 / 30th

2008-09 -- 46.5 / 28th

Source: ESPN Stats & Info

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