Celtics 101, Knicks 89
What went wrong ...
1 No win for the weary
Following the demoralizing loss in Game 3, Carmelo Anthony didn’t want to use injuries as an excuse. But it should be noted that when the Knicks were at full strength, they lost two tough games in Boston by a combined five points. Deep down the Knicks believe that had they stayed healthy this series definitely wouldn’t have been a sweep and the Knicks surely would’ve made the opening round a lot more interesting. But that’s all filed under the “what-if” category, considering that Chauncey Billups himself said that he’d have been “doubtful” for the remainder of the series even if it had gone to a Game 7.
2 Anyone but Anthony
That being said, no one produced in the series, Anthony not withstanding. Amar’e Stoudemire was a shell of himself following the back spasms he suffered from in the first half of Game 2. Since injuring his back, Stoudemire went from 28 field goal attempts in Game 1, to nine in Game 2, and eight in Game 3. By the time yesterday’s game was finished he struggled in the field, missing his first nine shots, and didn’t register his first points until there was 36 seconds remaining. Injury or not, Amar’e had great energy to start yesterday and was moving well. He just wasn’t knocking down open looks. No shame, though, in the way he gutted out the remainder of the series but the lack of depth behind him – mostly due to the Anthony trade – was what doomed the Knicks.
3 Deep in the Green
Conversely, it was Boston’s depth that hurt the Knicks. The Celtics got subpar games from Paul Pierce and Ray Allen but soldiered on thanks to the play of Glen Davis and Rajon Rondo. Davis picked up whatever slack that was left by Kevin Garnett, who had a pedestrian series, and Pierce, who really only had one breakout game in Game 3. Pierce had 13 points on 5-of-18 shooting in Game 4, including a 1-of-10 shooting performance in the first half, while Allen only had 14 points. But it was Davis, who had 14 points and five rebounds, and Rondo, who added 21 points and 12 assists, that were arguably the most consistent Celtics all series. Boston showed that team depth and cohesion can overcome maladies. Hopefully the Knicks will learn that this off-season when trying to fill in the pieces.
Maybe Glen “Big Baby” Davis was right when he boasted prior to the series that the Celtics wouldn’t need Shaquille O’Neal in this round, as the New York Knicks whimpered quietly into that postseason night following a 101-89 loss in the opening round of the playoffs.
New York got swept under the rug by the defending Eastern Conference champs, 4-0, showing it's not ready for elite status yet. And injuries excuse or not, the Knicks couldn’t buy a basket, as they shot 34 percent, including 23 percent in the opening half.
Carmelo Anthony was the only Knick to find any kind of a rhythm, pouring in 32 points and nine rebounds, including 19 points in the first half. Still, even he shot 5 of 20.
But what truly doomed the Knicks – besides a debilitating back injury to Amar’e Stoudemire and a knee injury to Chauncey Billups – was the their inability to make baskets. Billups’s stand-in, Toney Douglas, was awful for most of the series but his ineffectiveness was at its highest when the Knicks needed him most. The second-year guard had only six points on 3-of-11 shooting but started the game shooting 1-of-8 shooting. Stoudemire, as gritty a performance that New York could ask for, just wasn’t himself as he shot 1-of-10 in the opening half and didn’t register a point until the final 36 seconds of the half. Stoudemire finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
The Celtics had no such problems getting buckets, as they shot 49 percent and were led by Kevin Garnett’s 26 points and 10 rebounds. Not even a subpar shooting night from perennial all-star forward Paul Pierce could drag down the Celtics’ percentage, as they showed their overall team mettle and did what championship-caliber teams do – pick up the slack. Rajon Rondo had 21 points and 12 assists, while Davis contributed 14 points and five rebounds for a Celtic team that up by as many as 23 points.
New York made it interesting in the fourth, getting as close as four points, as Anthony Carter was inserted into the game and nearly willed the Knicks to a win. Carter inspired the Knicks to forced four Celtic turnovers in a two minute span to start the final stanza and also helped keep Boston from scoring a field goal in the first seven minutes. Alas, the comeback fell short as it was apparent the game-long uphill battle eventually caught up to the Knicks. Carter finished with 11 points, five rebounds, and four assists in only 23 minutes.
There aren’t any moral victories in the playoffs but the Knicks can head into the off-season with their heads held high, knowing they gave it all they had despite being undermanned physically and in post-season experience.
And at the end of the day, despite there being a dearth of bodies on the bench, the Anthony trade was something that had to be done – and something team president Donnie Walsh said he would do 10 times over. Now, it’s up to the Knicks’ brass to find a way to re-sign Walsh and then use his infinite wisdom to surround Stoudemire and Anthony with the appropriate supporting cast.