After Slow Start, Knicks Cruise to 2-0 Lead over Boston
With their 87-71 victory over Boston Tuesday night, the Knicks took a 2-0 series lead and successfully defended home court. The Knicks are now halfway to a second round playoff berth and the first for their star forward Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks' defense stepped up big time, limiting Boston to only 23 points in the second half. The way the Knicks are playing so far, it would be fair to assume they'll advance at least past the first round.
The game played out as a tale of two halves. The Knicks took an early lead, behind the hot shooting of Anthony and J.R. Smith. Anthony finished the game with 34 points, leading the Knicks in scoring. Smith was deservedly named the NBA's sixth man of the year yesterday and received the award before the game. Smith has had arguably his best full season as a pro this year, and has been a huge key for the Knicks success. Smith finished the first with 9 points, off the bench of course.
In the first game of the series, the Celtics made a run before the end of the first half to take the lead. Similarly in Tuesday's game, the Celtics controlled the second quarter and got out to a 6 point lead by half. Paul Pierce and Jeff Green were the catalysts for Boston, finishing the game with 18 and 10 respectively.
Despite the lead, the Knicks' quick strike offense was just waiting to explode. The Knicks destroyed the Celtics in the third, outscoring them 32-11. Instead of running the isolation offense that they did earlier in the game, the Knicks focused on ball movement in the quarter. The entire team got involved and it seemed the Knicks woke up. The 15 point lead to end the quarter was the biggest in the game, and proved to be all New York needed. A low scoring fourth gave New York its second playoff victory.
An interesting note was that Knicks' Coach Mike Woodson decided to start PG Pablo Prigioni in this game instead of Chris Copeland who started the first game. The Knicks don't yet have a solidified starting five, but it's possible Woodson will stick with these five guys. The issue it creates for the Knicks is that Raymond Felton will be asked on occasion to guard bigger opposing guards. In a perfect world, the Knicks could start J.R. Smith and have him stay hot the whole game, but he's just not that type of player. We'll have to see how Woodson handles the starting lineup going forward.
Boston is struggling mightily due to a sever lack of scoring. Their leading scorer for the game, Pierce, only scored 18 points. He was inefficient in doing so, missing 11 shots, 4 of those from 3 point range. Kevin Garnett hasn't yet made his presence known for Boston, and they'll need his intensity to ignite the team if they hope to win a couple of games and the series. With Rajon Rondo, Boston looks and plays like a completely different team.
The Knicks will travel to Boston for a Friday night showdown, hoping to take a crippling 3-0 series lead. For Boston, a loss in the next game could be the final straw. As predicted, the Knicks are still on pace to defeat the Celtics in 6, though it could come in fewer games than that.