Knicks Beat Celtics At Their Own Game, Take 2-0 Series Lead

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at New York Knicks

Knicks 87, Celtics 71

Once again the Celtics played outstanding in the first half against the Knicks, only to completely collapse down the stretch. They’ve lost the first two games of this series in demoralizing fashion, but don’t write their obituary quite yet.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Celtics are battle-tested. They’re hungry, they’re tough, they get inside the opponent’s skin in an effort to get them off their game. That’s been their calling card since Kevin Garnett arrived in Boston six years ago, and during the first half of Game 2 against the Knicks on Tuesday night they executed that strategy to perfection.

Garnett dominated a gimpy Tyson Chandler down low, the C’s got scored in transition, Jordan Crawford nailed his first shot, and Jason Terry hit three consecutive threes to put to rest any concerns about the lack of bench production in this series. Meanwhile, the Celtics limited Carmelo Anthony by loading up on the strong side defensively. Brandon Bass was surprisingly effective on the perimeter against the NBA’s leading scorer, and the help came quickly whenever Melo drove past his initial defender.

It was a classic bout for a while. The Knicks opened up a 15-11 lead before the Celts scored 9 straight. After that New York scored 12 points, including J.R. Smith’s deep three at the end of the first quarter, before the C’s went on an 11-0 run to take the lead.

This was the type of game the Celtics wanted to play, and in past years, they might have held on to their six-point halftime lead and evened the series.

Not this year though, as Garnett and Paul Pierce were virtually helpless to stop the Knicks 27-4 run that bridged the second and third quarters. Pierce was essentially the only Celtic attacking the basket, but he could not draw a whistle and ended up turning it over a game-high five times. The rest of the C’s were content to take long jump shots, or throw bad passes, and the Knicks capitalized off nearly every mistake.

Boston only managed 11 points in the third quarter. They’ve now been outscored 81-48 in the second half during this series, and their age seems to show as the games go on. The Knicks looked tougher, and more battle-tested as they pushed the Celtics out of their comfort zone and took control of the game down the stretch. At the end of the game Garnett was the one getting pushed off his spot, Pierce started to lose his cool, and the rest of the team lacked aggression when they needed to step up most.

Did the C’s give their best effort in Game 1, leaving them unable to perform at a high level for 48 minutes on Tuesday? Or are they simply an over the hill team that is dealing with too many injuries to win in the postseason? Only 14 teams have come back from a 2-0 start to win a playoff series since 1969, but this Celtics squad has been unpredictable and mercurial all season long.

Their return to the TD Garden for Game 3 should be an emotional one, and the crowd’s energy may help them turn this thing around. However, after two contests where Boston floundered down the stretch, it will take a monumental effort to regain the momentum in this best of seven series. They may still have the heart of a champion, but the body has to be willing as well.

The following two tabs change content below.

Nate Weitzer

I've always loved the Celtics. Growing up with only a whiff of the glory days of Bird, Parish, and McHale, I was wistful yet invested in the awful teams of the 17-year period (1991-2007) where the Celtics never really competed. When they won the finals in '08 I was ecstatic, my favorite memory was slapping a bar table so hard I spilled a pitcher after Pierce's four-point-play in Game 1.
  • eriksuperman

    I’m not saying it’s a total lost cause for the Celtics, but
    the second half is the more important of the two, and it sure looks like the
    Knicks know how to completely dismantle the Green Guys for the final 24
    minutes. Not to mention the relative lax attitude of the Celtics once the
    game started to get out of hand. I saw the first half on the TVs here at
    work, and thought it would be a better game than last time. When my shift
    at DISH was over I turned the game on live on my iPad, and watched it on my bus
    ride home. I have DISH Anywhere, the app that lets you take all your TV
    channels and DVR with you on-the-go. I’m glad I can always check the live
    action wherever I am, but this was a shocker. I couldn’t believe how different
    the Celtics played from the first to second half, and don’t see too many things
    to be optimistic about moving forward.