at Boston Celtics (2-0) at New York Knicks (0-2)
Friday, April 21
7:00 PM ET
Playoff Game #3, Road Game #1
TV: ESPN, CSN-NE, MSG
Madison Square GardenProbable Starters PG: Rajon Rondo..................................................SG Ray Allen C: Jermaine O'Neal SF: Paul Pierce ................................. ............PF Kevin Garnett Celtics Reserves
Shaquille O'Neal (calf, Achilles, Age ) out Probable Starters
PG: Toney Douglas ......................................................SF: Landry Fields
C: Ronny Turiaf
SF: Carmelo Anthony .................................................. PF: Amar'e Stoudemire Knicks Reserves
Amar'e Stoudemire (back) probable
Chauncey Billups (knee) questionable
Ronny Turiaf (knee) probable
For the first time in 7 years, the Knicks will host a playoff game at Madison Square Garden. They come into the game down 2-0 after 2 games that both were decided in the last seconds of the game. The Celtics weren't feeling very good about their 2-0 record after playing poorly in both games in spite of being at home with the crowd behind them. They will be facing what is sure to be a loud and very hostile crowd in MSG and probably some hostile officiating on the road as well.
Amar's Stoudemire, who missed the second half of game 2 with back spasms, didn't practice on Thursday but is expected to play in this game. Chauncey Billups had his sore knee drained and is listed as questionable for this one. If he can't go, expect Toney Douglas to once again get the start. Shaquille O'Neal traveled with the team to NY but is expected to miss this game. He may play on Sunday, but then again, he may not.
In the first game, Stoudemire starred for the Knicks with 28 points and 11 rebounds while Anthony struggled somewhat. In the second game, with Stoudemire and Billups out, Carmelo Anthony was outstanding with 42 points and 17 rebounds, practically carrying the team all by himself. Paul Pierce has said that he has to be better defensively on Anthony to prevent another performance like that in this game. For the Celtics, in game 1, Ray Allen stepped up with 24 points and 6 rebounds. In game 2, we finally saw the aggressive Rondo once again as he scored 30 points and dished out 7 assists.
The Celtics can expect the Knicks to come out swinging and if they don't put forth a better effort, they might not be so lucky to pull this one out at the end. The Celtics bench, although with more talent than the Knicks bench, has been out played in the first 2 games. The Celtics must get more from Big Baby, Jeff Green and Delonte especially. In both games, the starters have built a lead only to have it disappear when the starters go out for a rest. The bench must produce more in this game.
We know that the Celtics can play much better. The Knicks also can improve if they can get a good game from both of their stars on the same night. The Celtics have to improve their defense and their execution throughout the game and not just at the end. If the Celtics finally play a complete game, instead of turning it on and off throughout the game, they should get a win without the need for last second heroics. Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs Toney Douglas
Douglas is expected to start again, but it is possible that Billups could try to play as well. Regardless of the opponent, Rajon Rondo is a key to the Celtics fortunes. When he is aggressive and assertive in running the team, the Celtics play so much better. As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. They need him to play well.
Paul Pierce vs Carmelo Anthony
Pierce has said that he plans to play much better defense on Anthony in this game to avoid another explosion from him. Of course, if Pierce is expending large amounts of energy on defense, Ray, KG, JO and Rondo will need to step up on offense. Honorable Mention
Kevin Garnett vs Amar'e Stoudemire
Stoudemire is expected to play in this game but may not be 100%. If he is the least bit hesitant, KG must take advantage and look for his shot. Keys to the Game REBOUND REBOUND REBOUND!!!!
- The Celtics allowed the Knicks to pull down 20 offensive rebounds in game 2, which gave them 24 points on second chance baskets. The Celtics had just 6 second chance points. The Knicks pulled down 53 rebounds to just 37 for the Celtics. The Celtics must box out and every player must make an effort to crash the boards. Bench Play
- The Celtics bench has played very poorly in both games. In game 2, the Knicks bench had a 46-23 advantage over the Celtics bench in scoring and a 21-11 advantage in rebounds. Big Baby, Jeff Green and Delonte especially must step up and play better on both ends of the court for the Celtics to have a chance in this game. They have the talent, they just have to focus and execute. Ball Movement
- In the first two games, at times they moved the ball and made the extra pass and found the open man, and at other times, the ball stuck and they took quick shots and the offense got stagnant. They must make an effort to keep the ball moving and play unselfish ball. When they do that for 48 minutes, they are very tough to beat. They also need to be aggressive in going to the basket and not settle for jumpers.
Effort and Focus
- The Celtics need to bring an extra effort along with total focus on the game. Rebounding can be a sign of the amount of effort a team puts in. It takes effort to go to the ball and fight for the rebounds. They also have to put out the effort to get the 50-50 balls and go after every loose ball. The Knicks will be putting the effort out since to them, this is a must win. The Celtics have to match that effort. X-Factors
Officiating and Hostile Crowd
As we have seen many times already in these playoffs, the officials can make a difference in the outcome. So far the Celtics have gotten decent treatment from the refs, but they also have been at home. Officials will often be swayed by the crowd so the Celtics need to be ready for that and not allow bad calls to take them out of the game. They also need to be ready for a very hostile crowd and not allow that to affect their play.