Knicks Can’t Close in Game 5, Still Lead Celtics 3-2
The Knicks had a perfect opportunity to close out their first round series against Boston at home. After taking Boston to overtime in game 4 without the services of suspended J.R. Smith, the Knicks appeared ready to close the series out. They wore black before the game, saying the game would be Boston's funeral. They had all hands on deck, with Smith returning for game 5. In the end, New York just couldn't hit shots when they needed them and are now facing a possible game 6 on the road.
When playing a 7 game series, momentum can shift at any moment. The Knicks were cruising in the first three contests, playing suffocating defense and shooting the ball well. Game 4 flipped the script as Boston turned it on. Boston used that momentum to gain the tough road victory in game 5 and survive to play another day.
The Knicks certainly didn't look like the same team that earned the 2nd seed in the East this season. The team didn't have the hot shooting hand from 3 point range that had led them to a record 3 pointers made in a single season. New York made only 5 threes, taking 22 in the game (J.R. Smith made one of those threes with a second left and the game out of reach). The Knicks will not win any games if they only make 5 threes. Not Wednesday night, and not during the rest of the playoffs.
New York seemed to be playing the second half with a lid on the rim. They actually managed to tie the Celtics in scoring in the half, but couldn't make a run due to their poor shooting. Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton were the top scorers for the Knicks, combining for 43 points. Anthony was extremely inefficient, going 8-24 in the game. Felton provided the lone spark for the Knicks, outplaying his teammates the whole night.
Boston got a full team effort trying to avoid elimination. They had 5 players scoring over 16 points each, due to their effective ball movement and unselfishness. Jason Terry, the OT hero for Boston in game 4, had 17 points with 5 threes. Kevin Garnett, playing in possibly his last game ever, had a strong game with 16 points and 18 rebounds.
The series now heads to Boston, giving the Celtics a home game to put even more pressure on the Knicks. New York is in a precarious position. Even though they still have home court, their inconsistent play could lead to their downfall in either or both of the next two games. The Knicks would be wise to go into Boston expecting to win, leaving even the possibility of heading back to New York out of their minds. If they can treat game 6 like a game 7, they should come out on top.
Even with the apparent shift in momentum, I still like the Knicks to win the series. With a good effort from Anthony in either of these games, he could carry the team to victory and second round matchup with either Indiana or Atlanta.